Djokovic grits his teeth against Fearnley at Wimbledon

The Balkan will face Popyrin in the third round

July 04, 2024

BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

By ATPTour.com/es Staff

Novak Djokovic continues to command palpable respect at the All England Club. On a circuit where the forces have been shared, with the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz as the reigning champion and the Italian Jannik Sinner dressed as world No. 1, the Balkan native returns to one of his most powerful strongholds: the grass of Wimbledon. The seven-time champion, with his right knee protected after a meniscus operation, has made a committed start to the tournament, marking his territory with two complete matches.

The second seed redoubled his concentration to settle in London, defeating British wild card Jacob Fearnley 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, a debutant in Grand Slam tournaments with few references for the Balkan favourite. With the precision of a surgeon, taking advantage of the first two break points generated in the first two sets, Djokovic did a clean job to make the difference in a balanced match. If the first impressions of the tournament are significant, Novak managed to underline one of his great virtues: turning the smallest gap into an irreparable wound.

On his first visit to Centre Court, however, Fearnley found hope in a match that looked like an impossible one. Although no one had ever won two sets against Djokovic at Wimbledon, a feat with only one Grand Slam precedent (Jurgen Melzer at Roland Garros 2010), the Briton opened up his range of shots to keep London in suspense. The debutant won a third set that was not for the faint of heart and was within a breath (3-2 15/40) of taking control in the fourth. Faced with danger, Djokovic pushed himself to the limit to get off the court unscathed.

“Jacob has made a great effort, he has played great,” Djokovic said. “I hadn’t had the chance to see him play until a couple of days ago. There is always an element of surprise and nothing to lose. I knew it would be tough to play him at Wimbledon. Most British players grow up on grass courts, on fast surfaces. They know how to play.”

“He served really well, it was difficult to break his serve. He made me work. I was a bit lucky not to be broken down in the fourth set. He could have won the match in three sets, but maybe the match deserved to go to a fifth because of the way he played in the fourth. I’m happy that didn’t happen.”

“I didn’t feel really comfortable in the third and fourth match. Sometimes you have tough days where you don’t feel the best,” Djokovic added. “Of course, it also depends on the opponents you have on the other side of the net. Jacob played at a great level today and made me sweat to get this win.”

After honing his strokes with two visits to the Centre Court, Djokovic will look to start testing his level against powerful profiles. The Serbian will play the third round of Wimbledon against the Australian Alexei Popyrin, who added an electric victory by 3-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 against the Argentine Tomás Martín Etcheverry in four hours of match. Djokovic, who leads the historical ATP Head2Head 2-0 against the aussiewho already needed four sets to beat him at the Australian Open earlier this year.

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Novak is trying to find a solid level of play in one of the most challenging seasons of his sporting career. The Balkan native, with a 20-6 record this season, has arrived in London without having managed to lift a single trophy in 2024, away from the champion’s suit with which he has built his legend. This is an unprecedented circumstance in the last 18 years of his professional career.

Djokovic’s effort in London is also a battle against the passage of time, trying to maintain his relevance among a generation of youngsters already perched at the top. The former world No. 1 wants to become the oldest Wimbledon champion ever and extend the record (4) of majors risen once he turns 35. His victory on Thursday in the British capital keeps that door open for one of the greatest competitors of all time.

With that reality in mind, Djokovic continues to make strides in a Wimbledon for the ages. The Serbian is aiming to lift his eighth gold trophy at the All England Club and equal Roger Federer’s all-time record in the men’s singles. The Balkan native would also tie (Federer, Helen Willis-Moody) for second all-time British singles trophies on the women’s and men’s circuit, behind only nine-time champion Martina Navratilova.

Extending his exploits beyond the major Londoner Djokovic is looking to claim his 25th Grand Slam singles crown and hold the historic record for the most big ones between men and women.

Did you know…?
Novak Djokovic has won 32 of the 33 matches he has played during his career against local players in Grand Slam tournaments. Far from being intimidated by a crowd that was in favour of his rival, the Serbian has overcome the situation against a ‘home’ player and was only beaten by Andy Murray in the 2013 Wimbledon final.

Source: https://www.atptour.com/es/news/wimbledon-2024-djokovic-fearnley-r2

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