By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – On court Novak Djokovic is taking tennis to extraordinary new levels with his single-minded obsession with winning; off it the Serbian is more than happy to share power.
The 29-year-old will begin his attempt to win a fourth Wimbledon title on Monday when he plays British wildcard James Ward on Centre Court — 12 months after claiming a second successive title by beating Roger Federer.
While nothing will distract him from that goal, the dominant Serbian also knows that, however big the gap is between himself and his rivals — and it is a yawning chasm — no player is bigger than the sport.
At his pre-tournament news conference at Wimbledon on Sunday, the world number one confirmed he had re-joined the 12-man ATP Players’ Council, along with chief rival Andy Murray and Murray’s brother Jamie, the world’s top doubles player.
It is a responsibility Djokovic will apply himself to with the same devotion as his career for the next two years as tennis wrestles with the kind of doping and corruption scandals that have afflicted world sport.
“I’ve been very flattered and humbled to be elected by my colleagues,” Djokovic told reporters.
“The way I see it is that I managed to gain trust from players, which is very important to me. I have been part of the Player Council for three years earlier in my career. I’ve been familiar with the way the system works.
“I’m hoping I can contribute to the evolution and to the betterment of our sport in every aspect.”
There is little argument that he has taken tennis to new levels of perfection since losing to Murray in the 2013 final here.
Since then he has won six of the 11 grand slam titles on offer, taking his tally to 12 overall.
In beating Murray at Roland Garros earlier this month he became the first man in 47 years to hold all four majors.
He also won the ATP World Tour Finals in November and will have his eye on Olympic gold in August and probably the Davis Cup too.
His immediate focus though is on a smooth opening to his Wimbledon campaign having chosen again not to play any grasscourt tournaments in the run-up.
“This year is quite different from previous years because I’m coming in with a Roland Garros title,” he said.
“That gives me, obviously, a lot of confidence. I’ve played a lot of points in the practice sessions these four or five days, trying to be on the grass as much as I can. So I’m really keen on getting on the court.”
Djokovic, who beat Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals, could face a tough path to a hat-trick.
Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic is a potential quarter-final opponent with Federer possible in the semis.
Ward is unlikely to pose too many problems, although Djokovic is well aware that the crowd will be rooting for his opponent when play begins on Monday.
“It’s going to be the first match on the untouched grass,” he said. ” That’s probably one of the most special tennis matches that you get to experience as a tennis player.
“I’m looking forward to that. Obviously I know that he doesn’t have much to lose.”
(Editing by Clare Fallon)