Back on grass, and back in business.
From the pale, ashen-faced figure who slunk out of Roland Garros last month, Novak Djokovic suddenly has colour back in his cheeks.
Having been accused of tanking by tennis icon John McEnroe, an ugly sporting slur comparable in nature to giving up, in his 7-6, 6-3, 6-0 drubbing by Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarter-finals in gruelling Paris, the lithe Serbian is again a force of nature in sunny Eastbourne.
ATP Eastbourne
Djokovic is all smiles after winning Eastbourne title
01/07/2017 AT 15:08

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No longer is a period of rest away from the game mooted by the sport’s golden retriever. Not when you have the scent of victory back in your nostrils.
Just days before he begins his quest for a fourth Wimbledon title and a 13th Grand Slam, the Serbian has found that a week by the seaside has restorative powers that stretches far beyond a timely deckchair and a few licks of ice cream.

Djokovic downs Monfils to win Eastbourne title

Even the rain over Eastbourne earlier in the week could not dampen Djokovic’s mood as he smiled his way to the title, concluding with a merited 6-3 6-4 victory over a game and willing sparring partner Gael Monfils in 76 minutes.
The movement has returned, his ability to remain in points from seemingly impossible positions is well and truly alive, potency on serves is solid and winning the pressure key points was again evident. The Djokovic technique is functioning properly.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy after victory over France's Gael Monfils during the men's final tennis match at the ATP Aegon International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England, on July 1, 2017.

Image credit: Eurosport

He saved three break points against the Frenchman, winning 76 percent of his points on first serve. Much more like the Wimbledon champion of 2011, 2014 and 2015 rather than a character groping for some form of certainty. Much more like Wimbledon's second seed.
More crucially, the correct attitude was the most potent part of Djokovic’s armoury in Eastbourne. Not only did he win, he won with a smile on his face. The local divebombing seagulls provided as much of a test as his opponents, but even they failed to peck him off.

Monfils: 'I've played Novak 14 times and it is 14-0 to him'

When you are victorious, playing tennis must feel like a lovely habit. And Djokovic has reacquainted himself with a winning one.
Suddenly playing a tournament prior to Wimbledon for the first time since 2010 all makes sense. He was a wildcard yet this was no walk on the wild side.
In Paris, Djokovic's duty had appeared to become part of the daily grind. Yet it is not as if he had fallen off a cliff. It is just when your cliff is so much higher than everyone’s else, higher than nearby Beachy Head, you fall longer and harder.
After realising his ambition of the career Grand Slam and holding all four majors at the same time in claiming the French Open 13 months ago, Djokovic somehow lost his way and his number one ranking in December.
This was astonishingly only his third title in 13 months adding to his successes in Toronto and Doha. He also reached the World Tour final and the final in Rome, but must feel a tad famished. You can excuse his evident sense of elation in Eastbourne amid the unruly tides that roll in and out so violently in professional sport.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy after victory over France's Gael Monfils during the men's final tennis match at the ATP Aegon International tennis tournament in Eastbourne, southern England, on July 1, 2017.

Image credit: Eurosport

It would be vastly premature to suggest rehab is complete, but at least he will wash up at Wimbledon carrying more than just rackets. He suddenly boasts a feeling of self-belief that only form can bring. Make no mistake, Djokovic is looking and feeling much more like his old self.
With Andy Murray attempting to shake off injury having lost to world number 90 Jordan Thompson in his first match at Queen's and Rafael Nadal shying away from tournament tennis prior to Monday, Djokovic and Roger Federer have a healthy sheen before the first ball is thrown in the air.
The sea breeze has given Djokovic back his sea legs after some turbulent times.

Djokovic: I love seagulls and I wrote my son a song about them

His old coach Boris Becker and coaching team have all departed the scene at his behest over the past seven months. He will work with former Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi and his close friend Mario Ancic, accounced earlier on Saturday afternoon, at Wimbledon. Not that he looks like a man desperately in need of help.
He is bidding to become the first man to win a tour title and a Grand Slam in successive weeks since Aussie Pat Rafter made off with Long Island and the US Open 19 years ago.
Eastbourne is a few steps short of the English channel, but the sinking feeling has gone from Djokovic’s shoulders.
It could yet represent a turning point. And perhaps a lot more.
Desmond Kane
ATP Eastbourne
Monfils: 'I've played Novak 14 times and it is 14-0 to him'
01/07/2017 AT 15:02