x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wimbledon round-up: Djokovic battles self-doubt to reach quarters

Straight-sets win over in-form Tommy Haas sets up meeting with Tomas Berdych who beat world No 1 in 2010 semi-finals.

Novak Djokovic beat the dangerous Tommy Haas in straight sets.
Novak Djokovic beat the dangerous Tommy Haas in straight sets.

LONDON // The scorecard suggests a routine win for top seed Novak Djokovic but his satisfaction at reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals without dropping a set was mixed with relief after some tricky moments against German veteran Tommy Haas on Monday.

Djokovic hardly broke sweat in the first set on Centre Court but he always knew it would not be that straightforward against the elegant stylist who had twice beaten him on grass.

The evergreen Haas, 35, matched Djokovic shot for shot thereafter but fell to a 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 defeat, ending his hopes of becoming the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Dutchman Tom Okker in 1979.

Haas, whose single-handed backhand remains a stroke of wonder, led 4-2 in the second set and then hit back from 5-2 down in the third to stretch Djokovic into a tiebreak.

For the army of Andy Murray fans hoping to cheer the Scot to the title, the occasional Djokovic lapse offers hope yet when it really mattered the six-times major winner showed the deadly precision that has taken him to world No 1.

The hurdles will get higher for Djokovic starting with Tomas Berdych, who beat him in 2010 semi-finals, but he says he is playing better than when he beat Rafael Nadal to win the title in 2011.

"I feel good about myself in this moment," he told reporters. "I think I actually play better tennis on grass than I played two years ago when I won this tournament.

"I had a minor setback in the third set and I allowed him an opportunity to come back to the match. But I played a great tiebreak and I'm really glad to finish in three."

With the light fading and the prospect of the match being finished under the roof lights, there was an added sense of urgency as Djokovic bossed the tiebreak.

"If I had lost the third set and maybe they go on and close the roof and go under the lights deep in the night, you can't predict the result after that," he said.

"That's why I really wanted to get the job done."

As the seeds have tumbled in both the men's and women's draws, Djokovic has been watertight and has arrived at the business end of the tournament looking as fresh as a daisy.

It is quite a difference to the crestfallen figure who saw victory slip through his fingers in an epic French Open semi-final defeat by Nadal last month.

"When you lose, that's when you really start thinking about what you should do next," he said. "A lot of tentative, maybe negative thoughts go through your mind.

"It's a big challenge mentally to overcome that and manage to understand what you need to do."

By that same token Djokovic points to his 2010 Wimbledon semi-final defeat by Berdych as the springboard that elevated his career into orbit.

"I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010 but the semi-finals of Wimbledon came in the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me," he said.

"From that moment on, everything started going uphill really."

Lukasz Kubot can-can

Lukasz Kubot may not win the Wimbledon title but he has taken the top prize for the tournament's wackiest victory celebration by dancing the can-can.

The 31-year-old Pole, who faces compatriot Jerzy Janowicz in Wednesday's quarter-finals, performs his version of the high-kicking dance every time he wins a match.

"It's something that came up a couple of years ago. My team told me, my coaches, that every time I'm gonna play on the big courts, the big tournaments, big events, I should do the can-can after win," said the world No 130.

"It's one of our exercise when we are practising. The coaches like it when I put my legs very high. So it stays until now."

Janowicz and Kubot will meet in the first all-Polish quarter-final at a major when they face-off on Wednesday.

Eight nationalities in women's last-eight

Eight women from eight different countries will walk through the gates of the All England Club on Tuesday harbouring genuine title hopes following a Wimbledon wipe-out of the headline attractions.

Czech eighth seed Petra Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011, and China's Li Na, French Open winner in the same year, are the only two who know how it feels to win a grand slam.

After defeat for Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka's injury-enforced withdrawal, Serena Williams was expected to stroll to a sixth Wimbledon title but her fourth-round defeat by German Sabine Lisicki on Monday left the draw wide open.

Kvitova takes on 20th seed Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, a quarter-final debutant at this level, while Li faces fourth- seeded Pole Agnieszka Radwanska who was runner-up here last year.

Lisicki's reward for downing Williams is a meeting with Estonia's unseeded Kaia Kanepi, the lowest-ranked survivor.

In the absence of Williams, 20-year-old Sloane Stephens is carrying the American flag.

She takes on former runner-up Marion Bartoli of France with the winner up against Kvitova or Flipkens.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE