Djokovic Pushed By Popyrin, Reaches Wimbledon Second Week For 16th Time

Novak Djokovic photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 7, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

One of these days, Alexei Popyrin is going to figure out how to beat Novak Djokovic at a major. The last two times, at this year’s Australian Open and in the Wimbledon Championships on Centre Court Saturday night, the 24-year-old big-serving and hard-hitting Australian pushed the 24-time major champion to four sets before losing.

Somehow, the second-seeded, 37-year-old prevailed and advanced to the fourth-round of The Championships with a come-from-behind 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) victory in three hours and five minutes. The win improved Djokovic’s 2024 win-loss record to 21-6 and it was his 118th lifetime win on grass.

In a match that started with the Centre Court roof open but later was closed by threatening skies and diminishing daylight, Djokovic reached the fourth round at Wimbledon for the 16th time and equaled Jimmy Connors for second place on the Open Era list for most appearances in the men’s singles round of 16. Only Roger Federer, who attended Wimbledon on Saturday, is ahead of Djokovic with 18.

“It was another tough match. I didn’t expect anything less than what we experienced on the court today from Alexei,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview. “I knew he was going to come into the match with confidence, with a lot of self-belief. He was close to winning that match we played against each other in Australia earlier this year.

“With that serve and powerful forehand, he is dangerous on any surface. I watched him play the first couple of rounds and knew he was in form and he was going to come out on the court believing he could win. That’s how he started, he was the better player for the first set, and then I stepped it up. I think I played a really good second and third, and the fourth really was anybody’s game.”

Both the World No. 2 Djokovic and No. 47 Popyrin fired 19 aces and each were nearly equal in the total number of winners, with Djokovic recording 53 and Popyrin 52. However, Djokovic finished with just 18 unforced errors to 31 for Popyrin and outpointed him 135-111.

Rune rallies to beat Halys in a five-set thriller

In Monday’s fourth round, Djokovic will face No. 15 seed Holger Rune of Denmark, who recovered from two-sets-to-none down to pull out a 1-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-1 victory against 220th-ranked French qualifier Quentin Halys that began outside on Court 18 and was finished indoors on No. 1 Court due to rain.

It was the first time Rune had rallied from down 0-2 in a major. His five-set record improved to 4-3 (2-1 this season).

Rune overcame 29 aces and 62 overall winners from Halys by putting up good numbers himself: 16 aces and 52 winners. The biggest difference was in unforced errors, which saw Rune make 23 compared to 42 that Halys committed. Rune outpointed his opponent 149-146.

Fritz outlasts Tabilo to become third American man into round of 16

Meanwhile, No. 13 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States finished his third-round match against No. 24 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Chile with just enough daylight to spare. The third-round match on No. 3 Court — fourth largest on the All England Club grounds — ended with Fritz winning 7-6 (3), 6-3, 7-5, in an hour and 54 minutes. The match ended well after 9 p.m. London Time.

Fritz struck 20 aces and hit 55 total winners against Tabilo. He won 92 percent of his first-serve points, faced no break points and outpointed Tabilo 117-89.

The victory advanced Fritz to face No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany in Monday’s fourth round. Fritz became the third American man after Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. They join American women Coco Gauff, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys and Emma Navarro. With seven combined Americans into the fourth round, it’s the best year for the United States at Wimbledon since 2004.

Fils, Mpetshi Perricard leading a French #NextGenATP revolution

Lost in the shuffle of a wet and windy Saturday at Wimbledon were a couple a wins by a pair of rising #NextGenATP stars from France, Arthur Fils and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard. They’re both into the fourth round at a major for the first time.

The No. 34 Fils prevailed over 2023 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Roman Safiullin of Russia, ranked 44th, 4-6, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes on Court 15 to reach the second week at Wimbledon in just his second appearance. Next, he will face ninth seed Alex de Minaur of Australia after hitting 57 winners on Saturday.

“Really happy. It’s been a tough match with tough conditions. We stopped twice. There was a lot of wind,” Fils said after his victory, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “So I’m really happy about how I managed my emotions because after the third set I was very down, but I managed.”

The 58th-ranked Mpetshi Perricard, who entered the main draw as a lucky loser, gave himself an early 21st birthday present by earning a 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 6-4 victory against No. 87 Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland in two hours and 12 minutes on No. 3 Court. He fired 25 aces in his third-round win.

“I’m very proud of myself to get the win. It was a difficult match at the beginning. I was very nervous,” Mpetshi Perricard said. “But I improved a lot during the second and third sets. Yeah, just kept going on the fourth, and it worked. Just very happy with myself.”

Next, Mpetshi Perricard will face No. 25 seed Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who ended the run of No. 122 Francisco Comesana of Argentina, 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 29 minutes on Court 14.

Around the All England Club

The men’s round of 16, which begins Sunday, includes some familiar names and faces.

The women’s round of 16 includes just one former Wimbledon champion and plenty of new faces.

By the numbers

During his match against Alexei Popyrin Saturday evening, Novak Djokovic became just the sixth player to record 1,000 aces at Wimbledon. He finished the third-round match with 19.

“Quotable …”

“My knee went too straight. I overstretched it. I do have pain right now. I will check it. I will see what the MRI says. But I personally don’t think that it can be anything too serious because I still played. Of course, I was limited, I feel like, in some of the movements.

“If you’re breaking a ligament or breaking something else, the meniscus or something like that, I don’t think you can continue playing even the way I did, so … We’ll see what it is. Hopefully I’ll be fine in two days’ time.”

—No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany, during his post-match news conference as quoted by the ATP website. During Zverev’s third-round win over Cameron Norrie on Centre Court Saturday, he took a nasty tumble midway through the second set. The World No. 4 took a medical timeout and received attention to the injury, then continued. Zverev won 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (15).