© Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Novak Djokovic defeats Denis Kudla on Friday to take a 3-0 lead in their ATP Head2Head series.

Djokovic Saves Set Point, Overcomes Kudla Challenge At Wimbledon

The World No. 1 will next play 17th seed Garin

It was far from straightforward, but Novak Djokovic successfully continued his pursuit of a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title on Friday at Wimbledon.

The World No. 1 weathered American Denis Kudla’s challenge 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) in two hours and 16 minutes to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon for the 13th time, breaking a tie with Boris Becker for third-most appearances in the Round of 16 here.

"I had to slow down the pace in the game because he was really handling the flat ball well from the back of the court. He has really good balance," Djokovic said. "I think his backhand and forehand as well are pretty flat. He moves around pretty well on the grass-court surface. He's a really good player."

This was the pair’s third Grand Slam meeting since the start of 2019, and their second clash at SW19. Djokovic has won all nine sets they have played, and his victory made him the first man to win at least 75 matches at all four majors.

But this time, Kudla tested Djokovic and was in position to take a set from the Serbian star. Ahead of the match, the American said, “I need to play my ‘A’ game to beat him and the only way I’m going to do that is if I let it go, play free and believe.” That is what he did, maintaining his ground on the baseline and playing without hesitation.

Listen To Radio Wimbledon | List Of Broadcasters (PDF)

At 6/5 in the third-set tie-break, Kudla even earned a set point. But Djokovic hit his spot on a serve to the American’s forehand and closed out the match two points later with incredible defence, which led to an error off the World No. 114’s racquet.

Throughout the match, Djokovic was not at his flying best. At points, he threw in uncharacteristic serve-and-volleys, and he also showed a lot of emotion, often roaring to the No. 1 Court crowd. And in the end, he struck 34 winners and overcame back-to-back double faults earlier in the third-set tie-break to avoid going to a fourth set.

"I can't say that I'm too pleased with the way I performed. I felt like today I was a bit off, especially with serving," Djokovic said. "Usually [my] serve worked really well in the first two matches, and generally my serve is a weapon. It wasn't today.

"Obviously in some parts of the match it was good, but generally it wasn't that great of a rhythm that I had with that part of my game. But it is what it is. I don't want to talk about negatives. I just won in straight sets."

You May Also Like: Will Djokovic Seize Control In Battle For Year-End No. 1?

Djokovic, the five-time Wimbledon champion who has won the grass-court major’s past two editions (2018-19), has not lost a set since the opening set of his first-round match against home favourite Jack Draper. He is now 21-0 against qualifiers at Grand Slams.

The top seed will next play 17th seed Cristian Garin, who eliminated Spaniard Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. The Chilean had never previously won a main draw match at The Championships, but with his three victories this week he is into the fourth round for the second consecutive Grand Slam.

“It feels amazing [to reach the second week for the first time]. I didn’t play a grass tournament before Wimbledon, so I was a bit out of rhythm and without any matches on grass. My last match [on this surface] was here at Wimbledon in 2019,” Garin said. “I didn’t expect to play the way that I’m playing, super solid and serving well, playing almost every game pretty solid. I’m so happy to be in the second week.”

Garin is the first Chilean to reach the fourth round at The Championships since Fernando Gonzalez made the quarterfinals in 2005. Djokovic has played the 25-year-old once, defeating him 6-3, 6-3 at last year’s ATP Cup.

More stories like this in: