Djokovic Wins At Wimbledon Despite Not Playing His Best Tennis

Novak Djokovic (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 4, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

Seven-time Wimbledon men’s champion Novak Djokovic, seeded second at this year’s Championships, didn’t play his best tennis Thursday afternoon – but it was still good enough to win.

Before a capacity crowd that filled Centre Court, Djokovic advanced to the third round after holding off 277th-ranked British wild card Jacob Fearnley, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, in three hours. It moved him a step closer to winning his 25th major title.

Djokovic broke the 22-year-old Briton’s serve in the 11th game of the fourth set, then hit a third-shot forehand winner on match point in the next game for the victory.

“It was a great effort from Jacob, he played great,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “I had not had a chance to see him play before until two days ago. There is always an element of surprise and nothing to lose. Playing him at Wimbledon was always going to be tough. Most of the British players grow up being exposed to grass courts, quick surfaces, so they know how to play.

“I thought he served very well. It was very difficult to break his serve. He made me work. I was probably a bit lucky in the fourth not to go a break down. I could have won the match in three but this match potentially deserved to go into a fifth, with the way he played in the fourth. But I am very glad it didn’t.”

The 37-year-old Serbian great served 14 aces, won 80 percent of his first-serve points, hit 34 winners to 27 unforced errors and converted four of seven break points against the former Texas Christian University collegiate star, who was appearing in his first a Wimbledon main draw. Although Fearnley compiled 42 winners, he also committed 49 unforced errors. Djokovic outpointed his opponent 130-115.

“I was not really comfortable in my own skin in the third and fourth sets. Sometimes you have rough days where you are maybe not feeling your best,” Djokovic added. “Of course it depends on your opponents across the net. Today Jacob played at a high level and he made me earn this victory.”

Next, Djokovic will play No. 47 Alexei Popyrin of Australia, who upset No. 30 seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry of Argentina, 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, in three hours and 58 minutes on Court 11 behind 17 aces and 65 winners.

Dart earns breathtaking victory over British No. 1 Boulter

There were hugs exchanged at the net between British friends and foes Katie Boulter and Harriet Dart, the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked players in Great Britain, at the conclusion of their two-hour, 57-minute tussle on No. 1 Court Thursday afternoon.

Before there could be congratulations exchanged, though, the two rivals — both 27 — did battle through three tough and emotional sets and it was won by the 100th-ranked Dart from Hampstead, London, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (8), over the No. 32 seed Boulter of Leicester in their eighth career meeting and third at Tour level. It was Dart’s 11th Top-50 win and third this season.

Added up, it proved to be Dart’s day after she outpointed Boulter 124-111 despite serving 12 double faults and committing 35 unforced errors. She equaled her best result at SW19 by reaching the third round for the second time – and first since 2019 – in her sixth Wimbledon appearance.

“I always knew it was going to be a really, really tough battle,” Dart said. “I’m so happy to get through. I wasn’t expecting too much but at the same time I was trying my best out there. In the tie-break, I gave it all I had. No regrets.”

Looking back, Boulter hit more winners, 39-17, but also was undone by 75 unforced errors. She let slip a 6-4 lead in the match tie-break and Dart took advantage of her opportunity to win the second-round match and advance to the third round against No. 42 Wang Xinyu of China, who upset No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 6-1, for her first Top 10 victory. The American Pegula is the highest seed to lose in the first two rounds of the women’s draw.

Dart’s win ensured Great Britain’s best third-round ladies’ singles performance in 40 years, joining former US Open champion Emma Raducanu and qualifier Sonay Kartal in the round of 32.

Fils reaches major third round for first time

An extraordinary end to the second-round match between No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz and unseeded #NexGenATP Arthur Fils left everyone on No. 2 Court giving the Polish star a standing ovation after he was forced to retire during a grueling fourth set tie-break, trailing 9-8.

The 34th-ranked Fils of France advanced to the third round with a 7-6 (2), 6-4, 2-6, 6-6 (8) win by retirement over the World No. 7 Hurkacz. The match ended after three hours and 30 minutes with both players exchanging hugs after their first meeting.

At 7-all, Hurkacz acrobatically dove to save a volley return by Fils – a point he won – while also injuring his right knee. After the point, Hurkacz grabbed for the back of his leg. He received treatment on court to stabilize the affected area and hobbled back to his bench, then took a medical time out for further treatment.

However, Hurkacz had limited mobility, and it became apparent after Fils tied the score in the tie-break at 8-all, that he would be unable to continue the match. Hurkacz succumbed after one more point.

“It’s very tough to win a match like this against a friend,” Fils said in his on-court interview. “We were playing super good in the fourth set. We had some great points, and he was jumping everywhere. I’m really sorry for him. I hope he will recover very quickly. Me, I will focus on the next round.

By winning, Fils at 20-years-old and 22 days became the youngest player to defeat a Top-10 player in the gentlemen’s singles at Wimbledon since Nick Kyrgios beat Rafael Nadal in 2014.

Fils acknowledged that reaching the third round of a major for the first time was a significant moment in his young career, which he captured on his smartphone. “First of all, I don’t really like the grass,” he said, which drew laughter from the crowd, “but I feel like I’m playing pretty good. So, I’m really happy to be in the third round, and I will try my best to be in the second week. Let’s see tomorrow.”

Next, Fils will play No. 44 Roman Safiullin of Russia, who defeated No. 39 Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, in just his 10th grass-court match. Two weeks ago, Fils advanced to his first grass-court quarterfinal, in Halle.

Around the All England Club

• World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek rolled past No. 85 Petra Martic of Croatia, 6-4, 6-3, in an hour and 23 minutes on Centre Court on Thursday afternoon. The victory by the Polish superstar extended her active win streak to 21 and advanced her into the third round. It was her WTA-leading 45th win of the season.

Swiatek last lost a match on the WTA Tour in mid-April in Stuttgart. With her first-round win earlier in the week, Swiatek became the first player to win more than 20 consecutive matches as World No. 1 since Serena Williams between the WTA Finals 2014 and Madrid 2015.

“It’s not easy to have that kind of baggage on your shoulders. This year it feels different,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview, addressing the subject of her winning streak. “I don’t feel like everyone is focusing on it.”

Next, Swiatek will face No. 35 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan on Saturday. She is undefeated (4-0) against Putintseva and has never dropped a set against her.

• Ninth seed Alex de Minaur of Australia had little trouble in getting past ranked Spaniard Jaume Munar, 6-2, 6-2, 7-5, in two hours and five minutes on No. 3 Court to earn his 35th tour-level victory of 2024.

De Minaur, who has not dropped a set through two rounds, hit 23 winners and converted eight of 17 break points to move a step closer to his second fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon. He outpointed Munar 99-70.

“I’m very happy to get the win today,” de Minaur said in his on-court interview. “It’s never easy playing in these conditions and closing a match out. I played some great tennis and I’m happy to be through to the third round. I’m very happy the sun is out in London.”

Next, de Minaur will take on 212th-ranked French qualifier Lucas Pouille, who defeated No. 93 Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia by retirement, ahead 2-6, 7-5, 5-2.

• For the second straight match at Wimbledon, No. 14 seed Ben Shelton of the United States has survived through a five-set win. On Thursday, the 21-year-old Shelton battled past 118th-ranked South African qualifier Lloyd Harris, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (7) in a riveting three-hour, 14-minute second-round battle on Court 18.

Shelton responded to the pressure of playing in his second straight five-setter to advance to the third at Wimbledon for the first time. He fired 14 aces, hit 68 winners and outpointed Harris 180-173. The South African countered with 31 aces and 67 winners of his own.

“It feels unbelievable, you know,” Shelton told ESPN during a court-side interview after winning. “I had so much support out here. A lot of my boys here in the crowd chanting ‘USA!’ It’s Fourth of July. This was really cool to be a part of out here.”

Shelton will next face 121st-ranked Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who also won a five-setter by advancing past No. 80 Daniel Altmaier of Germany, 7-6 (3), 6-3, 1-6, 6-7 (3), 6-4. Shapovalov has reached the third round at The Championships in three of the past four years.

• First-round Cinderellas Francisco Comesana of Argentina and Jessica Bouzas Maneiro of Spain continued their winning ways on Thursday and both have reached the third round of a major for the first time.

The 122nd-ranked Comesana, who upset No. 6 Andrey Rublev in the first round, went the distance against No. 101 Adam Walton of Australia and prevailed after four hours and eight minutes on Court 16 with a 7-5, 1-6, 6-7 (23), 6-1, 7-6 (8) victory behind 19 aces and 68 winners. Next, he will play No. 25 seed Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who beat fellow Italian No. 37 Luciano Darderi, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, in three hours and 47 minutes.

Meanwhile, the 83rd-ranked Bouzas Maneiro defeated fellow Spaniard No. 64 Cristina Bucsa, ranked 64th, 7-6 (1), 6-3, in one hour and 50 minutes on Court 4. Her win came two days after she upset defending champion Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 6-2 in 67 minutes on Centre Court. Next, she will face No. 31 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who advanced over No. 69 Katie Volynets of the United States, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5).

Among the seeds advancing: Men – No. 4 Alexander Zverev, No. 10 Grigor Dimitrov, No. 13 Taylor Fritz, No. 15 Holger Rune, No. 24 Alejandro Tabilo, No. 25 Lorenzo Musetti. Women – No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 10 Ons Jabeur, No. 11 Danielle Collins, No. 12 Madison Keys, No. 13 Jelena Ostapenko, No. 14 Daria Kasatkina, No. 15 Liudmila Samsonova, No. 17 Anna Kalinskaya, No. 18 Marta Kostyuk, No. 20 Beatriz Haddad Maia, No. 21 Elina Svitolina, No. 31 Barbora Krejcikova.

Among the seeds upset: Men – No. 11 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 21 Karen Khachanov, No. 28 Jack Draper. Women – No. 5 Jessica Pegula, No. 23 Caroline Garcia, No. 27 Katerina Siniakova, No. 30 Leylah Fernandez.

Thursday’s Wimbledon results

Friday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

According to the Wimbledon Library – and reported by Russell Fuller of the BBC – before Thursday’s first-round men’s doubles match between Andy Murray and Jamie Murray of Great Britain versus Rinky Hijikata and John Peers of Australia, the last time a first-round men’s doubles match had been scheduled on Centre Court was June 28, 1995, when Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge of Australia defeated Ken Flach and Robert Seguso of the United States.

Hijikata and Peers beat the Murray brothers, 7-6 (6), 6-4, in one hour and 28 minutes. Afterward, Andy Murray was honored in a Centre Court ceremony that was emceed by retired BBC presenter Sue Barker.

“Quotable …”

“My doubles record isn’t exactly the longest or most vast, but I couldn’t say no. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, it’s a dream of mine since I was a little girl, since watching the Olympics. Andy’s a hero to all of us. So to me it’s a real gift and real honor that he asked me, and it’s a moment that I could never say no to, and I’m just super excited to be on the mixed doubles court and hopefully learn a thing or two  about coming to the net or something.”

— Great Britain’s Emma Raducanu, from Wednesday, on playing mixed doubles with Andy Murray.