Novak Djokovic announces shock move ahead of Wimbledon defence

Novak Djokovic, pictured here celebrating after winning the French Open.
Novak Djokovic celebrates after winning the French Open. (Photo by Tnani Badreddine/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic has made the surprise decision to tune up for his Wimbledon title defence by playing doubles at next week's ATP grass-court event in Mallorca.

The Mallorca Championships was originally slated to make its debut in 2020, but was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The ATP 250 event will be the first in Spain to be played on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, which starts on June 28.

Organisers confirmed Djokovic's participation in the tournament on social media on Tuesday.

However they took everyone by surprise when they revealed the World No.1 will actually play doubles.

Fans were left stunned by the announcement, with many speculating that Djokovic might be trying to improve his game at the net ahead of the grass-court major.

Djokovic won his fifth Wimbledon title in 2019 but was unable to defend his crown last year when the grass-court grand slam was cancelled due to the pandemic.

He picked up his 19th major at the French Open on Sunday, keeping alive his quest to become just the second man after Rod Laver to achieve a calendar year grand slam twice.

A successful defence at Wimbledon would put him alongside Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal at the top of the list of men's grand slam title winners with 20.

Andy Murray wins first match on grass in three years

Meanwhile, Andy Murray has made a winning return to Queen's Club with victory over Benoit Paire at the cinch Championships.

The former World No.1, on the comeback trail again following yet another injury setback, was playing his first singles match on grass since 2018.

After completing a routine 6-3 6-2 victory at the scene of five of his title wins, Murray became tearful in his court-side interview.

"The body is old. But I did quite well today in terms of my movement and stuff," he began.

"It was my first match on grass in three years, I've only played three or four practice sets in the build-up so didn't know how I was going to play or feel, so for a first match it was good."

Andy Murray, pictured here in action against Benoit Paire at The Queen's Club.
Andy Murray in action against Benoit Paire at The Queen's Club. (Photo by Tony O'Brien/Getty Images)

Murray couldn't have hand-picked a more accommodating opponent in Paire, who had won only two of his previous 17 matches this year.

"I love playing tennis," Murray added, before starting to well up.

"Sorry," he continued. "Obviously competing is why you put in the hard work and in the last few years I haven't been able to do that as much as I'd like, so it's great to be out here and competing again."

The Scot had voiced concerns about his fitness before the match but a routine victory, albeit against a pretty unmotivated opponent, was another positive step forward.

The fragile groin which kept the Scot out of the French Open passed its initial test, not least on set point when he stretched for a forehand and arrowed the ball down the line to take the opener.

A pinpoint backhand return of serve chalked up a double break in the second and when Paire floated a return long, the two-time Wimbledon champion was able to celebrate a long-awaited win.

Murray will face top seed Matteo Berrettini - the World No.9 - in the next round.

with agencies

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