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Djokovic survives injury scare to keep his title dream alive

By Kevin Garside

The increased frequency with which Novak Djokovic comes to the net is one example of the influence exerted by new coach Boris Becker – 36 times in this third round match against Gilles Simon. There is work to be done, however, on the exotic dive and roll.

Becker was a master of the art, his improbable, grass-stained lunges at the net defined his relationship with Centre Court.

Through the air he would fly, reaching out for glory. The crowd responded with swoons and claps and cheers, their hearts lost to the teenaged flame-thrower from Heidelberg.

Djokovic has a few moves of his own. The power slide and stretch along the baseline is a feature of his game, but not yet the heroic leap into legend.

Indeed at the point of his collapse attempting just such a dance step midway through the third set there were plenty in the Centre Court audience who thought they had seen the last of the number one seed.

The scream as he fell to the ground and the inert mass he presented thereafter spoke of an injury beyond repair.

In the pre-gluten-free years before 2010 Djokovic was not unfamiliar with the early bath, quitting on his stool four times in grand slams.

A fifth appeared the most likely outcome when he eventually resumed his feet clutching his left arm, the movement suggesting dislocation at least.

Simon was on the end of a routine hiding, already two sets and 3-2 down.

He wouldn't have wanted to win this way, but equally, a fourth round French derby with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga would be quite the bonus for persevering.

An injury time-out was called while the physio went to work, first with Djokovic sitting and then lying on a towel beneath the umpire's chair.

It became clear soon enough that Simon would have to earn his stripes given the brutal range of movements the man in pain was asked to make with his shoulder and arm.

And so it transpired, tentatively at first and then authoritatively as Djokovic put the match to bed 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.

"It was a scary fall. I talked with Boris," he said. "We need to work on my diving volleys and learn how to fall.

"I'm not very skilled on that. I fell on my shoulder. When I stood up I felt a click or pop and feared it my dislocation or joint problem. Luckily it only had a minor impact on the muscles and joint.

"There is no major damage and I'm confident it will not affect my physical condition. I might be sore over the next two days but I'm confident it will be okay."

Other than his improved powers of recovery we learned little that we did not already know about Djokovic, or Simon for that matter.

This was a routine win punctuated by the odd flourish from the Frenchman and commensurate lapses from the number one seed.

Simon has a retro look about him, a sub David Ginola in 80s casuals who might look good in Fila or Sergio Tacchini, the de rigueuer clobber of the McEnroe/Borg era.

He plays with an economy of movement associated with austerity of the early Thatcher period, thrifty, everything under control, prepared for any eventuality.

And he is adept in a crisis, demonstrated by his response to losing serve in the sixth game of the opening set.

Buoyed by the breakthrough Djokovic assumed the posture of the prizefighter ready to fly at his opponent after enforcing the count.

Djokovic is not wanting of fitness or focus, and it was this as much as his stroke-making that ground Simon into submission, unable to fend off the Serbian's thrusts in his final service game of the set.

When Simon lost his serve in the fourth game of the second set a 'well, that is that' attitude settled on Centre Court.

Belfast Telegraph

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