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Djokovic, Sharapova breeze through

djoLONDON: Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova breezed through at a sweltering Wimbledon yesterday where temperatures soared to a record 35.7 degrees while injury-plagued Japanese star Kei Nishikori was forced to withdraw. Defending champion and top seed Djokovic reached the third round with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Jarkko Nieminen which brought down the curtain on the Finn’s All England Club career. Djokovic will take on Australian 27th seed Bernard Tomic for a place in the last 16 as the Serb continues his bid to win a third Wimbledon and ninth Grand Slam crown. It was Djokovic’s sixth career win in seven meetings against the 33-year-old Nieminen and the two men exchanged a warm embrace at the net once their 92- minute Centre Court duel had ended. “It was his last Wimbledon so I congratulated him on a great career,” said Djokovic after firing 36 winners. “He’s been around for many years and he’s one of the nicest guys off the court and a great fighter on it. It was a pleasure to play him.” Tomic made the third round by defeating Pierre- Hugues Herbert of France, 7-6 (7/3), 6-4, 7-6 (7/5).

Fourth seeded Sharapova, the 2004 champion, outclassed Dutch qualifier Richel Hogenkamp 6-3, 6-1 in just over an hour and next faces Romanian 29th seed Irina-Camelia Begu. Sharapova, 28, hit 23 winners as she booked her place in the third round. With temperatures at Wimbledon at a record high of 35.7 Celsius-beating the previous mark of 34.6C in 1976 — the tournament heat rule was being used in women’s matches. That allows a 10-minute break between the second and third sets although the rule does not apply to men. However, Djokovic, who has played in 40 degrees at the Australian Open, said: “It wasn’t as bad as I thought. People were talking about it and predicting really difficult conditions. But I didn’t find it as difficult as I thought it might be.” Fifth-seeded Nishikori had been scheduled to face Colombian world number 60 Santiago Giraldo on Centre Court for a place in the last 32. But the 25-year-old admitted that the left calf injury he suffered last month in Halle, which had forced him to retire in the semi-finals, was still a factor during his fiveset win over Simone Bolelli in the first round at Wimbledon on Monday. “It got worse in the fifth set of that match, it hurt so much,” said Nishikori. “It hurt to walk and run today so I decided not to play.” As Giraldo goes on to face either German teenager Alexander Zverev or American wildcard Denis Kudla for a third round spot, Nishikori was left contemplating another injury setback in his career.

Nishikori, the US Open runner-up last year, didn’t play from April 2009 until April 2010 after undergoing surgery on his right elbow. Last year, he was forced to quit his Madrid Masters final against Rafael Nadal with a back injury which was still affecting him by the time the French Open came around. Nick Kyrgios, the temperamental Australian who knocked out Rafael Nadal last year, ranted and raved at officials for the second match in succession as he beat Argentina’s Juan Monaco 7-6 (7/5), 6-3, 6-4. The 26th seed faces Canadian seventh seed Milos Raonic who hit the third fastest serve in tournament history of 145mph in his 6-0, 6-2, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/4) win over 37-year-old German Tommy Haas.

Raonic, a semifinalist in 2014, hit 29 aces and 61 winners. Late yesterday, fourth seed and French Open champion Stan Wawrinka takes on world number 48 Victor Estrella Burgos, only the second Dominican Republic player to take part in a Grand Slam. Wawrinka recorded his best Wimbledon performance by reaching the quarter-finals in 2014. Five-time women’s champion and top seed Serena Williams faces Hungary’s Timea Babos as she continues her bid to sweep a calendar Grand Slam and a 21st major. In other early second round matches, Bulgarian 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov defeated Steve Johnson of the United States 7-6 (10/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/2), Belgian 16th seed David Goffin saw off Britain’s Liam Broady 7-6 (7/3), 6-1, 6-1 and French 21st seed Richard Gasquet got the better of compatriot Kenny De Schepper 6-0, 6-3, 6-3. — AFP

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This article was published on 01/07/2015