Defending champion Novak Djokovic was temporarily knocked off course by big-serving Pole Hubert Hurkacz but quickly got back in the groove on Monday to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Having edged two tight tiebreaks late on Sunday before being beaten by the tournament’s strict 11pm curfew, the 36-year-old returned hoping for a quick completion of the match.
Instead, he dropped his first set of the tournament before recalibrating and sealing a 7-6(6), 7-6(6), 5-7, 6-4 victory.
His 100th match at Wimbledon was not vintage Djokovic but as he almost always does the second seed found a way through the storm to preserve his 10-year unbeaten record on Centre Court.
He has now moved equal in second place with Jimmy Connors for Wimbledon quarterfinals reached and will face Russia’s seventh seed Andrey Rublev in his 14th on Wednesday.
Remarkably the Serbian has now reached 56 Grand Slam quartersfinals, second behind only Roger Federer.
It was Hurkacz who brought down the curtain on record eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer’s career when he beat the Swiss in the last eight two years ago.
The 26-year-old’s destructive game could easily have done for Djokovic too as he bombed down eight more aces to go with the 23 he belted past the Serb on Sunday night, one of them clocked at 141mph.
“He put up a great performance,” a relieved Djokovic said on court after keeping his bid for a fifth successive Wimbledon title and eighth in all, said on court.
“Honestly, I don’t recall the last time I felt this miserable on returning games to be honest, because of his incredibly accurate and powerful serve.
“I mean he’s got one of the best serves in the world and it’s so difficult to read it.”
Djokovic had saved three set points in the opening set tiebreak on Sunday and then sneaked through the second set breaker to put himself in a commanding position.
But with the wind swirling and Hurkacz showing no intention of going away quietly, Djokovic briefly looked in trouble when he dropped serve for the first time since the opening round, netting a forehand when serving at 5-6 down in the third.
With his timing off and the first signs of agitation bubbling to the surface, Djokovic was knocked literally off balance at the start of the fourth set as he lunged for a return and ended up in a heap on the ground.
Hurkacz’s confidence was soaring and he managed to do what is almost a sporting impossibility, knocking Djokovic off balance, sending the Serbian tumbling to the grass in a heap with another first serve piledriver.
Djokovic picked himself up, brushed himself down and waited for his moment and it came at 3-3.
Another two break points came and went to take his conversion rate to 0-7 but Djokovic’s patience eventually paid off and he engineered another chance. This time he got the long baseline exchange he desired and forced the error.
The rest was straightforward as he marched on towards a record-extending men’s 24th Grand Slam title.
“It was not really an enjoyable match for me but I guess in the important moments, like the three set points last night when I was fortunate to win the first set, I managed to hold my nerve when it mattered.”
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