Tennis: Djokovic eyes 75th Wimbledon win

AFP , Friday 2 Jul 2021

The five-time champion, who is chasing a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, will be wary of Kudla despite his modest ranking of 114

Novak Djokovic

World number one Novak Djokovic can win his 75th career match at Wimbledon on Friday when he takes on American qualifier Denis Kudla for a place in the last 16.

The five-time champion, who is chasing a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam title, will be wary of Kudla despite his modest ranking of 114.

Kudla made the fourth round in 2015 where it took former US Open champion Marin Cilic to stop him while he also has four quarter-finals at grass court events to his name.

Djokovic will also be aware that the last time he fell to an American in the third round was in 2016 when Sam Querrey shattered his bid to win the third leg of a calendar Grand Slam.

Kudla, who was born in the Ukraine but moved to the United States with his parents on his first birthday, defeated Spanish 30th seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the first round.

He then accounted for Italian veteran Andreas Seppi.

Djokovic made the third round for the 15th time at Wimbledon with a straight sets win over Kevin Anderson.

He didn't face a single break point and committed just six unforced errors.

"I'm striking the ball really well in general," said Djokovic who is again halfway to becoming only the third man in history -- and first since Rod Laver in 1969 -- to complete the calendar Slam.

Djokovic has a 2-0 career lead over Kudla, including a straight sets win in the Wimbledon second round in 2019.

Victory on Friday will put him into the last 16 of a Slam for the 55th time.

- 'Physically weaker' -

Former two-time champion Andy Murray, who put in a spectacular performance to beat qualifier Oscar Otte from two sets to one down on Wednesday, has a tough assignment against 10th seeded Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

Murray, now down at 118 in the world, is playing the singles event for the first time since 2017 having battled hip and groin injuries.

Friday's encounter will be his first meeting with a top 20 player at Wimbledon since winning the title for the second time in 2016.

Shapovalov, 22, who has never played on Centre Court, admits he enjoyed watching Murray's comeback against Otte.

"A fan of Andy's, you know, to see him back and moving so well, especially those last two sets, how he turned it around," said the Canadian as he eyes a last-16 place for the first time.

"It felt like he was the player that he was a few years back."

Poland's Iga Swiatek, the seventh seed, was the first player into the last 16 on Friday with a 55-minute 6-1, 6-0 demolition of Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu.

Seventh seed Swiatek, the 2018 junior champion, had only won one match on grass on the main tour prior to Wimbledon.

The 20-year-old Pole next faces either Ons Jabeur, the first Tunisian to get to the third round at the All England Club, or 2017 champion Garbine Muguruza.

"It's hard to compare my previous years on grass, because in 2019 I was physically weaker," said Swiatek, beaten in the Wimbledon first round in 2019.

"I didn't actually have an idea on how to play on grass. This time it's much, much better, so I just developed overall."

In a wide open women's draw, Swiatek is just one of three top 10 seeds still standing along with top-ranked Ashleigh Barty and second seeded Aryna Sabalenka.

Sabalenka, who has yet to make a Grand Slam quarter-final, faces a tricky third round match-up with teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.

The 19-year-old Colombian came through qualifying to make her Wimbledon debut and knocked out 32nd seed Ekaterina Alexandrova in the second round.

Osorio, who left her Colombian home to live and train in Florida when she was just 11, won her first career title in Bogota this year.

Former world number one Karolina Pliskova made the last 16 for the third time on Friday with a 6-3, 6-3 win over fellow Czech Tereza Martincova.

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