Novak Djokovic has admitted that 2017 is now the toughest season of his career.
The once dominant Serb has slipped to No 4 in the world, and out of the top two for the first time since 2011 as he struggles for form.
In a break with tradition, the desperate Djokovic has arrived at Eastbourne to play in the AEGON International, the first time he has entered another grass tournament before Wimbledon since 2010.
“I’ve been struggling with the level of tennis,” he said.
“I’ve never experienced this particular situation since I started playing professional tennis. I was very fortunate to experience upwards direction in terms of results and improving the game.
“It’s the first time now in a stretch of seven or eight months that I haven’t won any big tournament.”
A year ago, Djokovic arrived in London as the holder of all four Grand Slam trophies. This year he has none, and is without a title since January.
"I'm aware I'm not at the level I've been at in previous years…" – Novak Djokovic pic.twitter.com/YDruxQ3vUZ
— Dan Quarrell (@Dan_Eurosport) June 26, 2017
Djokovic sacked long-time coach Marian Vajda last month in a decision he termed “shock therapy”, and replaced him with Andre Agassi in a decision that has yet to pay dividends.
Since becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four major titles simultaneously last summer, Djokovic’s form has slumped.
He heads into Eastbourne having lost seven of his 31 matches this season.
“I’m not playing at my best and I’m aware of that. But I’ve got to stay positive about myself and my game,” he said.
“It had to happen sooner or later and I’m really glad it did – it made me start asking myself certain questions.
“I know that things change: I’m 30, not 20 and I have to adjust to that. Things evolve each year and you have to adjust and get the best out of yourself.”