Novak Djokovic joins Angelique Kerber as wildcard to Aegon International in Eastbourne
Novak Djokovic will play his first pre-Wimbledon event in seven years after accepting a wildcard at Eastbourne
The addition of women’s No1 Angelique Kerber via a wild card to the Premier Aegon International at Eastbourne takes the tournament’s impressive line-up to seven of the top 10 players in the world.
Kerber, a two-time runner-up at the last grass-court tournament on the WTA tour before Wimbledon, will be joined by Karolina Pliskova, 2016 champion Dominika Cibulkova, 2009 champion Caroline Wozniacki, and home-town Briton Johanna Konta.
Kerber, who was due to play at the Aegon Classic in Birmingham this week before pulling out with a hamstring injury, needs to find her feet on the grass after a confidence-sapping clay season that saw her win just two matches in four tournaments, up to and including the French Open.
The German does have some form on grass, however: she was runner-up at Wimbledon last year and won in Birmingham in 2015.
The ATP250 event in Eastbourne, which takes its place alongside the women’s tournament after being played in Nottingham last year, also had its early line-up boosted by world No16 Gael Monfils, who lost in his opening round match at the Gerry Weber Open this week.
Most of the top players opt for the prestigious ATP500s at Queen’s and Halle this week, though Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro pulled out of their planned appearances after Roland Garros. However, Novak Djokovic has usually bucked the trend by not playing a grass tournament in the run up to Wimbledon. This year comes a change.
Not Queen’s or Halle: three-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic has opted for the smaller Eastbourne event, which is played in the week immediately before the All England Club opens its gates.
The offer of the wild card for Eastbourne has been on the table since last week, and today the confirmation has come through that the Serb will indeed be the top seed at the tournament, with Monfils No2, John Isner No3 and Steve Johnson No4.
This will be first time he has played a grass tournament between the French Open and Wimbledon since 2010, when he played the last of three Aegon Championships at Queen’s. He was runner-up to Nadal there in 2008.
The former world No1, currently No4 after a challenging 12 months that began with his third-round exit at Wimbledon last year, has usually elected to play an exhibition event in the days before The Championships, most frequently The Boodles at Stoke Park just west of London. So this is a real departure for him, though he hinted that he may consider a different approach this year after his quarter-final loss at Roland Garros.
In a statement to the tournament, the 12-time Grand Slam champion said:
“This will be my first trip to Eastbourne. I have heard great things about the tournament. I am looking forward to fine-tuning my grass-court game there ahead of Wimbledon.”
Also in the Eastbourne field is two-time Eastbourne champion Feliciano Lopez, who survived a cull of big names at Queen’s this week that included five-time champion Andy Murray and world No3 Stan Wawrinka. The top two seeds have often played an exhibition event, too, either at The Boodes or Hurlingham but neither Murray nor Wawrinka has yet announced his plans.
NB Centre Court tickets are currently sold out from Wednesday 28 June to Saturday 1 July. Any returned tickets will be available via aegoninternational.co.uk. We strongly advise fans to purchase tickets in advance as it’s likely only Court 1 tickets and ground passes will be available for purchase on the day once the tournament begins.