Reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic negotiated the troublesome Wimbledon Centre Court surface during a tricky second-round tie with Kevin Anderson to remain on course for a 20th grand slam.
The world No1 produced a clinical display against the South African in what was a repeat of the 2018 final at the All England Club.
A straight sets victory proved enough for Djokovic to claim the title three years ago and he again made light work of the big-serving Anderson to progress into round three with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 win.
But the Serbian was not spared from the issues that have plagued the first three days of the Championships as he slipped at least four times, having also experienced similar problems during Monday’s first-round victory over Britain’s Jack Draper.
“I seem to be having a really nice connection with the grass. I haven’t fallen this much in the first rounds of Wimbledon,” Djokovic said during his on-court interview.
Serena Williams was forced to withdraw from Wimbledon on Tuesday when she slipped and injured her right ankle, while Adrian Mannarino was also a notable casualty when he lost his footing and injured his knee while leading Roger Federer. The Centre Court roof, which has spent much of the tournament so far closed due to heavy and persistent rain in south-west London, has been blamed for the surface issues, with moisture building up on the grass surface.
Following Williams’ withdrawal, Britain’s Andy Murray said on Twitter: “Brutal for Serena Williams but Centre Court is extremely slippy [sic] out there. Not easy to move out there.”
Footing continued to be an issue on the third day of the tournament, as other players joined Djokovic in struggling to stay upright as did at least one ball kid.
“I didn’t slip just once; I slipped like six times,” Bianca Andreescu said after losing her first-round match to Alize Cornet. “The courts are super slippery. I have only played here once before, but they weren’t like this at all. I spoke to a couple other players, and they said it’s not that normal. But this is something we can’t really control.”
I was very pleased. Kevin is a very dangerous on fast courts, a terrific player. Straight sets victory today but only one break each set was enough. I thought I held me serve really comfortably, using the angles really well. With a serve like that [Anderson’s] it’s never easy.
I wanted to play solid but not too risky and I played better than I thought I would do. I believe in myself but it was almost a flawless performance today.
I had a great connection with the crowd and also with the grass. I don’t recall falling as often in the first two rounds of Wimbledon before.
Djokovic wins 6-3, 6-3, 6-3
A terrific victory from Djokovic, oozing class, demolishing the former world No5 in an hour and 40 minutes.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
A rare error from the No1 seed, leaning back when striking a forehand and hooking it miles out but he tangles Anderson up in a rally at 40-30 and waits for the error which duly comes.
A masterclass from Djokovic.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-3, 5-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
And so it goes, Anderson misses a forehand down the line and double faults to fall to love-30, then, as he has done during the majority of longer rallies, nets a forehand. Three break points …
He defends the first with an ace down the centre. Then comes the encore. 30-40. But He goes wide for the next at 130mph, Djokovic’s backhand return forces him wide in his deuce court and he just plops it back to the baseline. Djokovoc climbs into it and whips a forehand winner from the centre mark to the deepest part of Anderson’s forehand court.
Djokovic serves for the match.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 4-3 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Another ace for Novak and another rudimentary hold. Now is the moment in the previous sets that Djokovic turns it up and Anderson cracks.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-3, 3-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Not for the first time Anderson fails to challenge a call that would have gone his way had he done so which switched what should have been 40-love to 30-15 but he rallied convincingly, pouncing on a Djokovic error when he hit a drop shot from miles behind the baseline, giving his opponent too much time. Anderson, for the third successive set wins his first three service games. Danger here …
Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 3-2 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Terrific drop shot as Djokovic goes for a serve and volley tactic to move to 30-love. Anderson saw it coming but still could not do anything to stop it and, as has become the pattern, Djokovic holds with ease.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-3, 2-2 Anderson (denotes next server)
Excellent crosscourt forehand winner from Anderson, helped by the net cord, takes him to 30-love. Djokovic then challenges when a forehand is called out on the baseline when it landed on the line, rather than just kissed it. Anderson closes out the hold with a pair of vicious, kicking aces down the centre line.
Good job too as Djokovoc has won 75 per cent of points when he has managed to get a return over the net.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 2-1 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Another easy hold for Djokovic, nailing his first serves now, rattling through the points.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-3, 1-1 Anderson (denotes next server)
Excellent comeback from Anderson to hold after a series of blistering serves, setting a standard he will have to maintain to detain Djokovic any longer than another half hour.
Djokovic 6-3, 6-3, 1-0 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Bafflingly unpopular with some, but not with one person:
Djokovic’s tactics and execution have been spot on, leaving a forehand off Anderson’s return deliberately short to be able to push him so wide on his ad court that all he could do was get it over the net, allowing Djokovoc to stroke a crosscourt winner with teasing spin and precision. He holds to 15.
Interesting point from Simon Reed: The public identify with Roger because of his heavenly shot-making and elegance, Rafa because of his piratical, fanatical style but Novak is ‘a player’s player’. McEnroe agrees, arguing his efficiency makes him underappreciated.
Djokovic* 6-3, 6-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Streets ahead now, dominant and exploiting every mistake, as if he is toying with his opponent, manipulating him around the court with his superb returns. Anderson is broken to 15 and if you can possibly get to a screen, you should. It’s a masterclass of touch with a does of sadism thrown in.
Djokovic 6-3, 5-3 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Routine hold for Djokovic, gorging on unforced errors to hold to love.
Djokovic* 6-3, 4-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Djokovic* 6-3, 4-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
It was after three holds in the first set, each of them more precarious than the latter, that Djokovic broke Anderson and he does so again here, earning three break points off unforced errors but Anderson defends the first with great elan, serve volleying and Novak shouts ‘great shot!’ But Djokovic then breaks to 15 with a glorious lob winner that kisses the line after drawing Anderson to the net but making him volley at his feet, spooning it back and setting up Djokovoc to, in the words of John McEnroe, ‘pull his pants down’.
Djokovic 6-3, 3-3 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Djokovic seems determine to leave Anderson with lumbago, slicing so may of his groundstrokes to make Anderson bend his back, turning his strength, that height, against him. Easy hold for the world No1.
Djokovic* 6-3, 2-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Anderson forced to dig deep to hold having been taken to deuce by Djokovic. Apologies for lack of description for this game, my feed went down for a minute. Now restored.
Djokovic 6-3, 2-2 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Some unbelievable recovery strokes at 30-love from Djokovic when he left the third stroke too short take it to 40-love but then Anderson smokes a winner down the line. After a double fault, Djokovic hits a glorious winner, chipping a backhand up the line that Anderson had no chance of reaching.
Djokovic* 6-3, 1-2 Anderson (denotes next server)
Djokovic’s left leg slips to the left as he tries to change direction and he falls awkwardly again. Going to do himself a mischief. or rather the court is. That took Anderson to 40-15 but then Djokovic gets two returns back he had no right to reach to demoralise Anderson and tie him up at deuce. Anderson defends his service with his service, winning points wide and then down the middle.
Djokovic 6-3, 1-1 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Djokovic bosses a rally by manipulating Anderson all over his baseline, making him to stoop to reach low balls as well as chase them down then closes the hold with a wide serve that Anderson scuds into the net.
Djokovic* 6-3, 0-1 Anderson (denotes next server)
First fist pump in a while from Anderson when he nails his first serve of the second set but Djokovic ties him up in a rally and wins the following point, enticing the error on his forehand. After another scorching serve to win the point, he double faults and Djokovic moves to break point when Anderson overhits another forehand off a superb Djokovic return.
Anderson fights back with an ace down the centreline and moves to advantage by winning a volley mini-rally at the net before closing out a battling hold with another booming serve straight down the middle.
Djokovic 6-3 Anderson* (denotes next server)
That fell apart quickly – Djokovic holds to love, winning the final point and first set with a forehand from way out wide on his deuce court that paints the line, low, flat and unreachable.
Djokovic* 5-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Given the surface Djokovic decides not to slide into a backhand but quickens and shortens his stride to get there anyway and hit a superb winner up the line. Anderson double faults then is discombobulated by a Djokovic return with slice that lands on the lie and forces him to stoop again. Three break points but Djokovoc needs only one when he mullers Anderson’s top-spun approach in a back-hand cross-court winner that Anderson can only reach with the frame of his racket as he dives to his left at the net.
Djokovic 4-3 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Another slip from Djokovic as he followed in his approach costs him a point at 30-love. Anderson sweeps a backhand too long and then fires another backhand into the net. Djokovic is prospering when making the 6ft 8in Anderson stoop to hit low balls at mid-calf height.
Djokovic* 3-3 Anderson (denotes next server)
Anderson is wearing Dunlop sponsored togs which is a bit of a throwback. Thought they were now part of Mike Ashley’s supermarket sweep of once famous British sporting brands.
Aces number four and five make short work of taking Anderson to 40-15 but a weak backhand drops a point when he floats it into the net but he closes out the game with a second serve at 111mph (‘extra mustard’, says John McEnroe) that Djokovic chops into the net.
Djokovic 3-2 Anderson* (denotes next server)
In fact he’s more than OK, he’s perfectly dandy as far as his fitness goes but makes two backhand errors and one on his forehand when forced wide in his deuce court to take the game to … deuce. An ace earns him the advantage and another unreturnable serve that clips the frame of Anderson’s racket seals the hold.
Djokovic* 2-2 Anderson (denotes next server)
The angle and kick of Anderson’s serves are, when he hits the spot, unplayable. And he reels off three in four points, two of them aces, to move to 40-15 before Djokovic takes the next point with a gorgeous sliding drop.
Heavy fall from Djokovic when he slips trying to defend the second game point unsuccessfully but he seems OK.
Djokovic 2-1 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Impressively confident start from Anderson to fight to 30-all before Djokovic forces him ever deeper and draws the errors on his forehand to win the game to 30.
John McEnroe thinks Anderson’s only hope is to hit 50 aces today but says Djokovic’s serve, which has obviously been honed during lockdown is now the match of the other gilded components of his game.
Djokovic* 1-1 Anderson (denotes next server)
Anderson steers a forehand wide off his second serve to fall to love-15 but Djokovic can’t return his second serve on the next point or the big first serve in the third. Real kick and bounce to his serve and he manipulates Djokovic to the far left of the ad court where he almost does the splits when slipping in firing a backhand out. Anderson closes out the hold to 15.
Djokovic 1-0 Anderson* (denotes next server)
Djokovic successfully challenges an out call on a second serve ‘fault’ and seems irked that he isn’t given the point as Anderson can’t have heard the call before committing to the return. But he aces the retake anyway. He challenges again, this time unsuccessfully at 30-15 but his second serve sparks a good, long baseline rally eventually won by Anderson when Djokovic’s forehand is drilled too deep.
Djokovic moves to game point with a kicking serve and then wins it with his second ace.
The players are on the court
And knocking up. It’s a grey day in London, feels damp but there’s no rain so far and the roof is open.
Is currently focusing on Cam Norrie on the main service. Will have to switch to red button …
Novak Djokovic gets loose this morning
And welcome to live coverage of the second round match, a re-run of the 2018 final between the No1 seed and five-times champion Novak Djokovic and the South African 35-year-old trebuchet Kevin Anderson. Djokovic, overwhelming favourite for a sixth title which would take him past Bjorn Borg and to one behind Pete Sampras and two behind Roger Federer, came back from a set down in his opening match on Monday against Jack Draper to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in two hours. Anderson, who also needed four sets to get past Marcelo Barrios Vera 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 7-6, is confident he can overturn the 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 thrashing of the 2018 final because, for one thing, he did not have to endure a 6hr 36min semi-final to get here this time.
Anderson knows he must produce his best tennis to compete with Djokovic, who is unbeaten at the All England Club since the 2017 quarter-finals. “Of course, in the big moments and on the centre courts, he’s been there so many times. He has a lot of confidence and comfort in those situations,” Anderson said.
“And of course he’s a fighter. I’ve played some matches with him where it’s been really close and he is not giving anything [away]. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
Former world No5 Anderson has seen his ranking slip to 102 after struggling with injuries over the past couple of years, including two knee surgeries between September 2019 and February 2020.
Having failed to make an impact in the grasscourt warm-up events in Nottingham and Eastbourne, Anderson was relieved to find some rhythm in his opening round four-set victory at Wimbledon over Chilean youngster Barrios Vera.
Although Djokovic has lost only three of his 31 matches this season, the big-serving right-handed South African will walk out on Centre Court with renewed confidence.
“I think at the end of the day, [it’s about] approaching it like another tennis match. Just focusing on what you can do, what you can control,” Anderson said.