‘He’s a wall’: Novak Djokovic shuts out Thanasi Kokkinakis at Wimbledon | Wimbledon 2022

“Come on, Than,” someone in the crowd shouted as Novak Djokovic was two points clear of victory on center court here on Wednesday. “Make him work for it.” Thanasi Kokkinakis, who had done his best to make the six-time champion sweat for the past two hours, could only smile, shrug and shake his head in regret.

To stand a chance against the No. 1 seed, Kokkinakis needed to land his big first serve from the start. Instead, he started off with a double fault and went on to lose the match, and by the time he found some consistency on the first serve, his opponent had already started to return quite a few with interest.

Game six of the game summed up Kokkinakis’ problem. He saved a break point with an ace and struck at 129mph and then 130mph immediately after, but brilliant returns were both put in play and Djokovic went on to take the points and the game for a 5 lead -1.

A better service game to open the second set was followed by another break in his next, Djokovic coming back on another booming first serve to set up an easy volley. Djokovic’s serve, meanwhile, seemed unassailable, and on the rare occasions when the door seemed slightly ajar, it immediately closed. A rare double fault for 30 all in game six was followed by a very hittable second serve, but Kokkinakis inflated it long and moments later it was 4-2 for the champion.

After closing the second 6-4, Djokovic wasted no time in earning a break in the opening game of the third. The best exchange of the match saw the ball grazed the net time and time again before a lob from Djokovic left his opponent blocked, creating a break point which was converted after another miraculous comeback.

By then, Kokkinakis’ 6ft 4in frame was visibly sagging and there were frequent looks of bewilderment as well as frustration as his opponent continued to take points from the fire.

Thanasi Kokkinakis
Thanasi Kokkinakis struggled on center court. Photo: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images

Even at two breaks in the third, Djokovic still gave up and rushed for every point, and when he chased a drop shot to hold serve and make it 5-1, it was like watching a goalkeeper looking for always desperate to stay clean. sheet when his team leads 5-0. He faced a break point after a double fault in the last game, but three excellent first serves helped him close the game.

“It’s a wall,” Kokkinakis said afterwards, when asked how it felt to face Djokovic in essentially unplayable form. “Playing a wall is what it does. It was as if he had done everything right. He had a high first serve percentage, he came back very well. He flew well. He just made things uncomfortable. He does everything right. It was more of a one-way traffic. Yeah, I was chopped today.

On that form, Kokkinakis won’t be the only player to be chopped over the coming week and a half. “I hope not if he plays like that,” he said, when asked if he could see anyone stopping the champ, “because if somebody beats him when he play like that, it means I’m even further than I thought.”

After surprisingly losing a set to Kwon Soon-woo on Monday, Djokovic could also feel the improvement in his game in just two days.

“I think the quality of tennis was really high on my side,” he said. “It was better than the performance in the first game and I knew I had to start well today because I was up against a really tricky opponent, someone who serves well and has a big forehand, so I don’t didn’t want to give him too much time.

“I played with not too many unforced errors from the back of the pitch, whenever I needed to come back I did, so overall it’s just a really satisfying performance.”

Djokovic will now face fellow Serbian No.25 seed Miomir Kecmanovic in the third round.

Elsewhere in men’s singles on Wednesday, No. 3 seed Casper Ruud, a runner-up beaten at Roland Garros last month, went out in four sets against Ugo Humbert, while Frances Tiafoe progressed to the third round, beating Maximilian Marterer in two sets. The No. 23 seed, who is in Cameron Norrie’s quarterback draw, will face Alexander Bublik for a place in the last 16. Fifth seed Carlos Alcaraz defeated Tallon Griekspoor in straight sets.

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