Novak Djokovic stepped up his Wimbledon preparations by sweeping into the Queen’s Club quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-1 demolition of Grigor Dimitrov on Thursday.
Djokovic may have won Wimbledon three times, but the former world number one insists he isn’t one of the favourites to land the All England Club crown this year.
The 31-year-old needed only 65 minutes to crush world number five Dimitrov and he will face Adrian Mannarino in the last eight after recording the 799th win of his career.
It was Djokovic’s first success against a top 10 player in just over a year and the impressive display suggested he made the right decision to play at Queen’s for the first time since 2010.
But even so, Djokovic doesn’t believe he should be expected to dethrone defending champion Roger Federer at Wimbledon next month.
“Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves too early. I’m definitely not one of the favourites for Wimbledon,” he said.
“Roger is the clear favourite without a doubt. (Rafael) Nadal maybe hasn’t played well at Wimbledon by his standards, but he’s won it several times. He’s definitely one of the candidates to win the title.
“Andy (Murray) and myself if we play well (can be contenders). We dropped in the rankings, but Andy played really well against Nick Kyrgios here.
“He has home support, things can go in a good direction if he plays well at Wimbledon.”
Djokovic’s caution comes as he sits a lowly 22nd in the ATP rankings.
An embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat against Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato extended his wretched run in 2018.
Hampered by an elbow injury last year, he has failed to reach the semi-finals in any of his last five Grand Slam appearances.
Djokovic hasn’t earned a major title since competing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.
Dogged by rumours that he no longer has the motivation to return to the top, the 12-time Grand Slam winner decided to start his bid for a fourth Wimbledon crown by accepting a Queen’s wild card.
He claimed his confidence is slowly coming back, as he showed by polishing off Dimitrov with ease.
“It was an important match for me. Obviously I didn’t win too many big matches in the last 12 months,” he said.
“I’m still finding my form. This was a great test against one of the top players in the world who prefers this surface.
“I was looking forward to the challenge. I was very focused to give my best performance and I managed to deliver.
“I haven’t had that consistency in my game. Mentally I’ve been trying to put things together in the last three or four months.
“These two matches have been exactly what I needed. I’m enjoying the grass.”
Kyrgios being Kyrgios
Nick Kyrgios refused to apologise after the controversial Australian’s foul-mouthed rant overshadowed his Queen’s Club win against Kyle Edmund.
Kyrgios smashed 32 aces in a 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 second round victory at the Wimbledon warm-up on Thursday.
But it was the 23-year-old’s verbal volleys that marred his progress to a first Queen’s quarter-final.
The notoriously volatile Kyrgios said sorry to the crowd on one occasion after swearing in frustration, then aimed an x-rated outburst towards his coaching team in the courtside players’ box.
Although Kyrgios escaped a code violation, the BBC, broadcasting the match live, were forced to apologise after his expletives were picked up by their microphones.
But Kyrgios, who has found himself in hot water for his petulant on-court behaviour on numerous occasions, was unrepentant when quizzed about the swearing.
“Fine. I don’t care,” he said at a press conference when informed the BBC had issued an apology for his language.
When a reporter asked if he felt he needed to keep his emotions more under control, Kyrgios gave a surly reply.
“Do you swear? Yes or no? Yes or no? Do you swear? Do you swear?,” he said.
When the reporter replied that he had been known to, Kyrgios dismissively responded: “Okay, great. Good question.”
Kyrgios’s latest outburst took the spotlight away from an impressive win against Edmund.
He had already spoiled Andy Murray’s first appearance after 11 months on the sidelines with a hip injury when he beat the five-time Queen’s winner in the first round on Tuesday.
With Wimbledon starting in just over a week, the unpredictable Kyrgios is beginning to get in the groove on grass.
Edmund had no answer to 11 aces in the first set, 13 in the second and eight in the third.
“I thought it was a pretty high-level match from both players. Obviously I served really, really well. I found my rhythm quite early,” Kyrgios said.
“I feel pretty good. I haven’t played a lot of matches in the last couple of months.
“So, I mean, when I’m serving out a match – you know, we have been playing for a couple hours and level has been pretty good.
“I got pretty tight. Yeah, apart from that, I’m always pretty relaxed. 32 aces helps.”
Asked how much of a threat he could be at Wimbledon, Kyrgios kept it simple – “Big one,” he said.
Kyrgios will play reigning Queen’s champion Feliciano Lopez for a place in the semi-finals.
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) bt Milos Raonic (CAN) - walkover
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) bt Kyle Edmund (GBR x7) 7-6 (7/3), 6-7 (5/7), 6-3
Novak Djokovic (SRB) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x2) 6-4, 6-1
Adrian Mannarino bt Julien Benneteau 7-6, 6-3.