LONDON (AP) Less than a month after casting doubt over his participation at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic is heading for the tournament as a genuine title contender.
Despite coming up just short in a 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-3 loss to Marin Cilic in the Queen’s Club final on Sunday, Djokovic produced one of his best performances since missing the second half of 2017 with an elbow injury.
Cilic saved a match point at 4-5 in the second set and then won six consecutive points from 4-1 down in the tiebreaker to level, before going on to win his second title at the Wimbledon warmup.
Djokovic was left in far more optimistic mood than when he came off the court after a French Open quarterfinal defeat to Marco Cecchinato on June 5.
“Well, I’m there,” said Djokovic, when asked if he’s back to top form, singling out his earlier win against Grigor Dimitrov “in straight sets, all straight sets until today … all in all, I think that the level of my tennis has been as good as it has been the last 12 months.”
Djokovic appeared untouchable when completing his career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open, but his only major final since then came at the U.S. Open later that season.
After struggling through the first half of 2017, with his only titles coming at smaller events in Doha and Eastbourne, the 12-time Grand Slam champion took six months off following Wimbledon due to a right elbow injury.
A fourth-round exit at the Australian Open on his return was followed by early defeats at Indian Wells and Miami. There were signs of improvement on clay as Djokovic reached the semifinals in Rome, but his ranking dropped to 22 following a crushing defeat to the unseeded Cecchinato in Paris.
Despite a tough draw on the grass courts of Queen’s Club, Djokovic reached the final without dropping a set.
“I think that most importantly for him he showed consistent level of play during all week, even against Dimitrov, even yesterday against Chardy. Today he was serving great,” Cilic said of Djokovic.
“So definitely he’s going to be one of the contenders to win (Wimbledon). Looking from the side and also playing him … I feel that he’s playing great tennis.”
But there’s one person who doesn’t appear so optimistic.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a contender … for a trophy or anything like that,” Djokovic said, basing that view on his results for the last 12 months. “I have to keep my expectations, you know, very low.”