Belfast Telegraph

Wimbledon: Djokovic avoids Nadal aftershock

By Kevin Garside

Novak Djokovic managed what Rafael Nadal could not. He pulled himself together after feeling the ground shift beneath his feet against a citizen of the Czech Republic on Centre Court.

The loss of the first set to Radek Stepanek had organisers checking the Richter Scale to determine the strength of the Rafa aftershocks. Stepanek had after all taken the No 1 seed to five sets at the US Open five years ago.

Djokovic restored the natural order of things with a gear change triggered by a break of serve early in the second set. In the end, only bewilderment at the closing of the roof on a sunny day gave him pause for thought. Once the 1,000-tonne structure is rolled out, the rules do not allow its withdrawal until the match is over. It is no easy business chasing Djokovic around court, even in efficient rather than exhilarating mode. The winning margin, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 told how straightforward this engagement was in the end.

So at home was he under the roof that Djokovic had time to contribute to the highlights package, launching his racket across the court in a vain attempt to intercept a Stepanek winner. It is in moments like this that "relationships" with the crowd are deepened. And thus did Djokovic make his move on the space left by Rafa. "It was very enjoyable. When you are playing this well you want to stay on court as long as possible. He played a terrific first set but I played the last three sets really well," Djokovic said.

"I was not too surprised how well he played in the opening set. I managed to make the break in the second and played well. Everybody knows that on any given day anyone in the top 100 can cause an upset. If it's their day and every serve goes in, they can win. It's a grand slam, Wimbledon. Players have nothing to lose and can go for everything. So I was pleased to play well and get the win."

Djokovic now turns his attention to golf. He has an empty weekend, save for practice, and intends to get the clubs out to help him relax. At least he won't have to contend with a roof. "I was a little surprised when I saw sunshine that the roof was closed. But those are the rules. It is exciting to play under the roof and I have done well the two times I have played under it but it is an outdoor tournament and I prefer to play outside."

The American Sam Querrey, a possible fourth-round opponent for Andy Murray, removed another seed from the bottom half of the draw, beating Milos Raonic 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.

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