Djokovic Stays Focused On His Game Not His Knee, Advances At Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 2, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Seven-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic looked relaxed and at home on Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court Tuesday afternoon. It didn’t matter that the roof was closed to keep the rain out.

The 37-year-old Serbian great showed no visible signs of discomfort from his recent surgery on his right knee to repair a torn medial meniscus suffered last month at Roland-Garros. Instead, sporting a protective knee brace, the World No. 2 Djokovic marched to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, one-hour, 58-minute first-round victory over 123rd-ranked Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic.

The second-seeded Djokovic broke his 27-year-old opponent’s serve twice in each of the three sets and outpointed him 98-56 to maintain a perfect 19-0 record in first-round matches at Wimbledon. He served 10 aces, dropped only four points on his first serve, hit 32 aces and faced no break points.

While Kopriva was making his main-draw debut at Wimbledon, the 24-time major champion Djokovic garnered an all-time record-extending 371st Grand Slam match win.

“I was very pleased with the way I moved on the court today,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “Obviously coming into Wimbledon this year, it was a little bit of a different circumstance for me because of the knee. I didn’t know how everything was going to unfold on the court really. Practice sessions are quite different to official match play, so I’m just extremely glad about the way I played and the way I felt today.”

Next, Djokovic (19-6) will play 277th-ranked British wild card Jacob Fearnley, who needed two hours and 47 minutes to earn a 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (12) win over 188th-ranked qualifier Alejandro Moro Canas of Spain.

Defending champion Vondrousova ousted in first round

Defending Ladies’ singles champion Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, a surprise titlist 12 months ago, became just the fourth Wimbledon titlist to lose in the first round of their title defense all-time and the second woman after Steffi Graf in 1994 after being ousted by unseeded 21-year-old Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain.

The 83rd-ranked Spaniard from Galicia defeated Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2, in just 67 minutes on Centre Court. Bouzas Maneiro hit 12 winners and converted five of five break points against the sixth-seeded Czech, who was undone by seven double faults – including three in her opening service game – and 28 unforced errors. She outpointed Vondrousova 61-43.

“I was happy to be back on Centre Court,” the left-handed Vondrousova, a 2019 French Open finalist and silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, said in her post-match news conference. “It just didn’t go as planned today.”

Vondrousova began her title defense with her physical health in question, after playing just 10 games of grass-court tennis leading up to Wimbledon. She slipped and fell in Berlin during her opening match while playing Anna Kalinskaya and was forced to retire.

Tuesday’s victory marked the first main-draw victory in a Grand Slam for Bouzas Maneiro in just her third major; a first tour-level win on grass and it was her first Top 10 triumph. Earlier this season, Bouzas Maneiro earned her first WTA main-draw win at the Mutua Madrid Open over former World No. 2 Paula Badosa and she won a WTA 125 title at Antalya in April.

Against Vondrousova, Bouzas Maneiro put away the victory with a seventh-shot backhand winner down-the-line. It was a huge moment for the Spaniard – arguably, the best day of her young tennis life.

“I’m really happy. I think this is one of the most important moments in my life, in my career, in my sport,” Bouzas Maneiro expressed in her on-court interview. “This is amazing. The atmosphere, the tournament is the most beautiful tournament I’ve ever played in my life. Thank you so much to everyone who came here to watch the match today.”

Was Bouzas Maneiro nervous playing on Centre Court?

“I’m surprised with myself. At the beginning I was a bit nervous,” she admitted, with a hint of laughter. “Since the first game. … The atmosphere was so nice and elegant, everything here. I was comfortable here playing. I was like at home. I don’t know why. On Centre Court for the first time, yeah!”

Murray withdraws from Wimbledon Gentlemen’s singles

Andy Murray deserved one last hurrah in singles on the famed Wimbledon Centre Court. It was a place, as esteemed tennis chronicler Christopher Clarey noted, that made him Sir Andy Murray. The two-time Wimbledon champion had established himself as Great Britain’s greatest player over the past two decades. Now time and his body have caught up to him.

A pity all around. But he got the job done twice,” Clarey wrote on Twitter.

At 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, Murray’s Wimbledon singles career ended. He simply had run out of time to recover from a recent back operation to remove a cyst from his spine. His management team issued a statement:

“Unfortunately, despite working incredibly hard on his recovery since his operation just over a week ago, Andy has taken the very difficult decision not to play the singles this year,” the statement read. “As you can imagine, he is extremely disappointed but has confirmed that he will be playing in the doubles with Jamie and looks forward to competing at Wimbledon for the last time.”

Indeed, not even a former Wimbledon champion and former World No.1 could push back the clock. The 37-year-old Murray has compiled a 61-13 singles record at Wimbledon. He has lifted the trophy twice, in 2013 when he became the first British men’s singles champion at SW19 since Fred Perry in 1936, and in 2016. He also won a US Open title and two Olympic gold medals.

Murray was originally scheduled to play third on Centre Court Tuesday against Czech Tomas Machac. Instead, David Goffin of Belgium replaced Murray in the men’s singles draw as a lucky loser and the final slot on Centre Court was reassigned to current British No. 1 Jack Draper, who advanced with a 5-set win over qualifier Elias Ymer of Sweden.

Looking ahead, Murray will still compete in doubles teamed with his older brother Jamie. He will have a few extra days to train, practice and continue to rehabilitate his back. While the demands of doubles – serving less, covering only half the court and playing best-of-3 sets – are less, it’s still not the way Murray wanted to see his Wimbledon career end.

Zverev’s mindset about grass changes with winning

Winning first round matches at a major is never an easy thing, but World No. 4 Alexander Zverev of Germany showed why starting strong in the opening round of Wimbledon is important. Playing with the roof closed on No. 1 Court, the 27-year-old fourth seed dominated his opponent, No. 64 Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 53 minutes to advance.

Zverev, who was a finalist at Roland-Garros last month and followed it with a semifinal finish at Halle in his only grass-court preparation, fired 18 aces, won 86 percent of his first serve points, hit 46 winners to 27 unforced errors, saved all five break points he faced and converted five of 14 break points. He outpointed Carballes Baena 98-66.

“Obviously, first rounds are never easy, but I’m happy with how I started the tournament,” Zverev said in his on-court interview. “I want to compete; I want to do well here at Wimbledon. It’s the most historic tennis tournament that we have.

“I’ve struggled over the years here on these beautiful courts, unfortunately, but I feel different this year. I feel somehow very much more into it, very much more alive on these courts, and hopefully I can show that in the next few matches.”

Next, Zverev, who is 12-2 in Grand Slam matches this year, will face No. 46 Marcos Giron of the United States, who eliminated 539th-ranked British wild card Henry Searle, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.

Rybakina, Pegula advance easily

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, two years removed from her 2022 Wimbledon title, started her 2024 campaign with a 71-minute 6-3, 6-1 victory over 152nd-ranked Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse on No. 1 Court. The first-round match was played with the roof closed Tuesday afternoon.

Rybakina hit 16 winners, converted five of nine break points and outpointed Ruse 64-44. She improved to 15-2 in Wimbledon main-draw matches.

“I’m happy with my first match here. … It’s a really special place,” Rybakina said in her on-court interview. “It’s always nice to be back.”

Meanwhile, No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States beat the first rain delay by about half an hour as she needed only 49 minutes to advance over fellow American Ashlyn Krueger, 6-2, 6-0, on No. 2 Court.

Pegula, who returned to the WTA Tour last month by winning a grass-court tune-up in Berlin after skipping the entire spring clay-court swing in Europe due to injury, showed why every point counts. She won the last seven games of the match. Pegula won 10 of her 56 points on her second serve, hit five aces and 17 winners did not face any real points. She outpointed the 75th-ranked Krueger 56-28 to move into the second round against No. 42 Wang Xinyu of China, who defeated No. 48 Viktoriya Tomova of Bulgaria, 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-0, in an hour and 49 minutes on Court 11.

“My goal was to get the biggest lead as possible so I had a little bit to fall back on,” Pegula said in her on-court interview. “On grass, there’s a lot of momentum with a bad bounce, with a good service game … I think it’s important to play every single point no matter what. I didn’t care what the score was in the game, in the set, in the match. I just wanted to stay on [Ashlyn] as much as possible.”

Around the All England Club

• Women’s top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland advanced to second round with a straight-forward 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 49 Sofia Kenin of the United States in 79 minutes on Centre Court, in a match-up of major champions.

After winning her fourth Roland-Garros title, Swiatek in her 2024 grass-court debut extended her current winning streak to 20 with her 44th victory of the season. She won 84 percent of her first-serve points, hit 17 winners and converted four of seven break points. Swiatek outpointed Kenin 65-48.

“It was a solid start and not an easy draw,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview. “I’m happy I have another chance to play another match here. Nowadays, in WTA it’s pretty easy to play against a Grand Slam champion even in first rounds. You have to be ready for everything. These are experienced players; there’s no time to get into the tournament slowly. You need to be ready straight away. I’m happy I did that today.”

Francisco Comesana, a 23-year-old unheralded and 122nd-ranked Argentine making his Grand Slam debut – and playing just his second match on grass – garnered his first win on the ATP Tour. It was a big one. Comesana took out World No. 6 and sixth seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, 6-4 5-7 6-2 7-6 (5), in two hours and 58 minutes.

Comesana fired 21 aces and hit 46 winners overall. He saved eight of 10 break points he faced and broke Rublev’s serve four times in five tries. Comesana outpointed Rublev 138-129.

“I’m extremely happy, it’s my first time playing Wimbledon. I dreamed to play here. I’m so happy. I don’t know what to say,” a smiling Comesana expressed in his on-court interview.

Comesana, 1-3 in tour-level matches, will play 101st-ranked Australian Adam Walton in the second round. Walton scored his own first major triumph by defeating No. 72 Federico Coria of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, 7-5.

• Lucky loser Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard of France exploded for 51 aces in his 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (4), 6-3 victory over No. 20 seed Sebastian Korda of the United States. The 58th-ranked Frenchman from Lyon recorded his first Grand Slam victory and it was his third Top 20 win of 2024.

• Among the other seeds advancing: Men – No. 7 Hubert Hukacz, No. 9 Alex de Minaur, No. 11 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 13 Taylor Fritz, No. 14 Ben Shelton, No. 15 Holger Rune, No. 25 Lorenzo Musetti, No. 28 Jack Draper, No. 30 Tomas Martin Etcheverry. Women – No. 10 Ons Jabeur, No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 15 Liudmila Samsonova, No. 17 Anna Kalinskaya, No. 30 Leylah Fernandez, No. 32 Katie Boulter.

Tuesday’s Wimbledon results

Wednesday’s Wimbledon order of play 

Two different rain interruptions forced the cancellation of eight matches that were scheduled for Tuesday. They have been added to Wednesday’s order of play. Eight other matches were suspended and will be finished on Wednesday.

By the numbers

Should Alexander Zverev win his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, in his 34th appearance at a Grand Slam event, he will go tie for third on the Open Era list for most attempts before winning a first Grand Slam men’s singles title.

“Quotable …”

“I was thinking to just enjoy the moment. Marketa is one of the best players in the world. She won last year here. I was like ‘I have no pressure. Enjoy the moment and enjoy the tournament.’ Just trying to be free playing. I did it. I’m happy for that.”

Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain, from her on-court interview, after upsetting defending champion Marketa Vondrousova Tuesday afternoon on Centre Court.