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Djokovic backs bid to end the dash for grass

NOVAK DJOKOVIC and Rafael Nadal have both thrown their weight behind tentative plans to extend the gap between the French Open and Wimbledon to three weeks.

It is always a rush for players to get enough practice time on grass in the fortnight between the end of the clay season and Wimbledon, and the option of adding an extra week is being discussed.

Defending Wimbledon champion Djokovic, who later opened proceedings on Centre Court by beating Spanish veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-3 6-3 6-1, has not played a warm-up event on grass, instead choosing to play only an exhibition.

He said: "There have been talks. The bottom line is that we are all trying to work for the good of the sport. The players, the officials, tournaments, everybody who is involved in tennis, we all love this sport and all try to make it better for everybody.

"We've had this schedule forever, I think. My personal opinion is that it is too short. We need an extra week, because it would give especially the top players a little bit more time to get used to the surface."

Nadal believes grass deserves more of a place in the calendar, saying: "I always say it is great to play more and more on clay and grass because those surfaces are historic in the world of tennis."

The rivalry between Nadal and Djokovic is now the most compelling in tennis, usurping the Nadal-Federer duopoly that dominated the sport for so long.

The Spaniard feels privileged to have been a part of both, and believes his tennis has kept improving because of the intense competition.

Nadal said: "All the classic matches are because you played a lot of matches in very important circumstances between each other.

"That happens a lot of times with Roger, a lot of grand slam finals, a lot of Masters 1000s, competing for very important tournaments in our careers.

"But with Novak we start to have all of this, too. It's great. I feel very lucky to be part of these two rivalries.

"I think it is something that brings special motivation to the game, to keep improving my tennis.

"Because if you are not able to improve your level of tennis, you are dead in this very competitive world of tennis. That's what I've tried all my life."

Roger Federer was set to start his campaign today on Court One against Spain's Albert Ramos, while sixth seed and former finalist Tomas Berdych was due to meet unpredictable Latvian Ernests Gulbis on Centre Court.