London, July 6 (IANS) Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round of Wimbledon with a tougher-than-expected 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4 victory over Hubert Hurkacz.
On Friday, the 48th-ranked Polish underdog got the defending champion’s attention with an outstanding performance in the second set, although Djokovic’s ability to play at a consistently high level throughout proved to be the difference in a No. 1 Court match that lasted exactly three hours, Efe news reports.
After taking the opening set thanks a late service break, in the second set Djokovic suffered an awkward fall after one rally and struggled to deal with the all-around game of the 1.96-meter (6-foot-5) Hurkacz, a player with a potent forehand and solid two-handed backhand who also moves well despite his height.
The Pole more than held his own in the baseline rallies and won a pair of points with spectacular diving volley winners en route to tying the match at a set apiece.
But a lapse at the start of the third set proved costly for Hurkacz, as the top seed handily took a two-set-to-one lead and then won the fourth set on the strength of a service break in the third game.
With the win, the Serbian four-time champion booked a spot in the round of 16 of Wimbledon, tennis’ grass-court Grand Slam event, for the 12th time in his illustrious career.
That ties the 32-year-old Djokovic with former German great Boris Becker, one of his former coaches.
Next up for the Serbian in the round of 16 will be France’s Ugo Humbert, who upset Canadian 18-year-old rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 19 seed, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.
In other men’s singles third-round results, Argentina’s Guido Pella upset 2018 men’s singles runner-up Kevin Anderson of South Africa, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), while 21st-seeded Belgian David Goffin eliminated Russian No. 11 seed Daniil Medvedev 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 and 23rd-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista-Agut surprised 10th-seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.
In women’s singles, American 15-year-old sensation Cori “Coco” Gauff staved off two match points in the second set before pulling out a narrow 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-5 third-round victory over Slovenia’s Polona Hercog.
The 60th-ranked Hercog appeared to have the match under control after winning the first set and taking a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Gauff, who upset American five-time champion Venus Williams in the first round, showed tremendous fight in saving one match point on her own serve in the eighth game and another on Hercog’s serve in the following game.
She eventually broke serve and then went on to take the second set in a thrilling 16-point tiebreaker.
The drama was far from over though, as Hercog rallied from 4-1 down in the third set to make the score 4-4.
But in a match filled with long baseline rallies in which both players used lots of slice on both the forehand and backhand sides, the 313th-ranked Gauff showed maturity and toughness that belie her years to pull out the win in two hours and 47 minutes.
Next up for the tennis phenom will be Romanian No. 7 seed Simona Halep, who cruised into the third round with an emphatic 6-3, 6-1 victory over Belarusian Victoria Azarenka.
Also advancing to the fourth round with three-set victories were eight-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina and third-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova. Svitolina topped Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-2 and Pliskova edged Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Su-wei 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
China’s Zhang Shuai also moved into the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 upset of Danish No. 14 seed Caroline Wozniacki.