Wimbledon 2014: Novak Djokovic battles to 40th win as David Ferrer falls

Wimbledon 2014: Novak Djokovic reaches round three but David Ferrer is beaten by Andrey Kuznetsov

novak djokovic
Novak Djokovic is the top seed at Wimbledon Photo: Jordan Mansfield/The Boodles

It was midway through a tight—indeed edgy—contest between Tomas Berdych and Bernard Tomic that a collective sigh of disbelief, and not a little disappointment, filled the packed circle of Court 1 late Wednesday afternoon.

Flashed up on the scoreboard was the news that the 118-ranked Andrey Kuznetsov had put out the No7 seed, David Ferrer, in a topsy-turvy contest of over three hours, 6-7, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

In a day where the rest of the top men and women had advanced with little bother—Andy Murray, Agnieszka Radwanska, Grigor Dimitrov and Petra Kvitova among them—this was the biggest upset of the tournament.

Though for those who looked closely, this always had the potential for an upset. Wimbledon is the only Major in Ferrer’s long career where he has failed to reach the semi-finals. More significant, he missed any grass warm-up event because he was hit by a stomach virus after the French Open.

The 23-year-old Russian Kusnetsov, however, is another of the junior Wimbledon champions in the draw, winning in 2009, and rather like the slow-maturing transition to the senior game of Dimitrov, it had taken him a while to develop.

But here he showed all the potential that won him that junior title, playing an attacking game to hit 77 winners for half the number of errors, while Ferrer—hustling fighter though he is—managed just 26.

Kuznetsov won the second set in just 23 minutes, and raced to a double-break in the fifth, serving out the final game to love. It marked the first time in his last 18 Grand Slams that Ferrer had failed to reach the third round.

His news conference was as brief and understated as always, for Ferrer is a player who puts every ounce of his famous effort onto the court, head down, no complaining. He admitted that he was short of grass practice but would not blame that for his loss: “I had stomach problems and I didn’t play nothing last week… after Roland Garros. [But] I lost because my opponent, he was better.

“I think I did a good game. But he surprised me and played very good. A lot of winners. In important moments, he was more aggressive than me.”

Asked how he felt, he admitted: “Well, now, of course, I am sad. Is a disappointment for me. What can I do? I tried to do my best. I lost. This is a game. It’s not the end of the world.”

For British interests, Ferrer’s loss may bode well, however, as he was the scheduled quarter-final opponent for Andy Murray.

But what of the contest between Tomic and Berdych? This was only their second meeting, the first since their only other match in the fourth round here last year.

That was just as tight a battle—going to Berdych 76(4) 67(5) 64 64—and this year’s proved to be the same, in the early stages at least. Indeed it had the makings of an upset as the No6 took on No86. While Berdych has been one of the most consistent players on the tour since he reached the final of Wimbledon in 2010, Tomic was a brilliant prospect as a teenager, reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2011 and topping out at 27 in the rankings the next year.

The 6ft 5in Australian’s progress floundered, rather through lack of application and durability than talent or confidence, but Wimbledon has always produced his best. And his flat, angled forehands and acute sliced backhand made big inroads on the Berdych power game, taking the first set 6-4.

He had Berdych under pressure in the second set, too, reaching a tie-break and holding firm all the way to 5-5, but a couple of errors and the set was Berdych’s.

By two hours on the clock, they had reached another tie-break, though Tomic along the way had slipped over and took treatment on his hip at the change of ends. He would rue the two missed break points he earned at 6-5, though Berdych came up with some clutch serving—four straight winners—and tied up the set with an ace, 7-2.

Tomic was now a spent force, and Berdych raced to a victory, 6-1, in 21 minutes. He will next play No26 seed, Marin Cilic, who came through in four sets against Andreas Haider-Maurer.

Berdych is ultimately lined up to meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals, but the Serb’s eighth has opened up considerably more than the Czech’s. Vasek Pospisil and Fernando Verdasco were followed out in Round 2 by Ernests Gulbis and, later on, No17 seed Mikhail Youzhny.

But Djokovic himself became part of a drama-packed match as afternoon turned into evening on Centre Court. He played veteran Radek Stepanek, who reached a career-high No8 ranking after reaching the Wimbledon quarters in 2006.

The 35-year-old Czech has the kind of serve-and-volley game to take time and rhythm away from his opponent, and ahead of Wimbledon, he had thrown down a gauntlet with a semi run at Queen’s, taking out Murray in the process. However, Djokovic had beaten him 10 times in 11 previous matches: Even getting a set against the impenetrable Serb would be a major achievement.

And Djokovic looked comfortable in the first two sets, making 27 winners to just seven errors. But the third set extended to over an hour, with Stepanek denying his years and racing to the net time and again, eventually earning a tie-break—which he won, 7-5. He had made 21 winners for seven errors in the set… and he was not done.

The fourth set, too, went to a tie-break, and Stepanek threw heart and soul into it, three times ending on the ground as he lunged for shots at the net. He was passed, in his final race to the net, by a cross-court winner that Hawkeye showed had just clipped the side line: Djokovic took the victory, but they embraced warmly—friends that they are—before leaving court side by side to rapturous applause.

This was Djokovic’s 40th match win at Wimbledon, and he stays on course for that second title here. His next challenge is Gilles Simon, who beat Robin Haase, 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-4.

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