LONDON: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson during their men’s singles second round match on the third day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London yesterday. – AFP

LONDON: Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a series of falls on Centre Court to reach the Wimbledon third round yesterday with a straight sets win over Kevin Anderson. World number one Djokovic, chasing a sixth Wimbledon and record-equaling 20th Grand Slam title, won 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 over the 102nd-ranked South African. However, he slipped and fell on at least five occasions on Centre Court, the day after Serena Williams suffered a tearful, tournament-ending injury on Tuesday due to similar slips.

Each time, 34-year-old Djokovic dusted himself down to set up a clash against either Italian veteran Andreas Seppi or American qualifier Denis Kudla. Despite the tumbles, the Serb cruised to victory over the man he defeated in the 2018 final without facing a single break point and committing just six unforced errors. “I have a nice connection with the crowd,” said Djokovic. “I also seem to be having a really nice connection with the grass. I don’t recall falling so much in the first two matches at Wimbledon previously.”

Serena hobbles out
American legend Serena Williams’s dreams of winning an eighth Wimbledon singles title and equaling Margaret Court’s Grand Slam record of 24 ended in tears on Tuesday. The 39-year-old was leading 3-1 in the first set of her first round match against Aliaksandra Sasnovich of Belarus when she slipped and had to have off court medical attention.

She returned but called it quits at 3-3 and walked off Centre Court in tears. “I was heartbroken to have to withdraw today after injuring my right leg,” she said in a statement posted late evening on her Instagram account. It is the first time in 20 appearances that Williams has bowed out in the first round of Wimbledon.

“Brutal for @serenawilliams but center court is extremely slippy out there. Not easy to move out there,” tweeted British star Andy Murray. Williams, who also had strapping on her right thigh, hasn’t won a Slam since the 2017 Australian Open. Earlier, Swiss legend Roger Federer and Australia’s world number one Ashleigh Barty both progressed but only after overcoming scares.

They at least were able to play to their schedule due to the roof on Centre Court but those on the outside courts had to kick their heels for several hours because of rain. As a result 27 singles matches had to be deferred to Wednesday and men’s doubles matches will be the best of three sets in the first and second rounds as organizers try to get the schedule back on track.

Federer survives scare
Federer arrived on the back of a disappointing second round exit at Halle, a tournament he all but owns having won it 10 times but said he was pumped up for Wimbledon. The 39-year-old eight-time champion looked to be more deflated than pumped up when he trailed Frenchman Adrian Mannarino by two sets to one.

However, already a break up in the fourth and looking more like the Federer of old the match turned when Mannarino tumbled towards the end of the fourth set. His fall was at the same end of Centre Court which was also to claim Williams.
His 33rd birthday turned into a nightmare as he had to retire at 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 3-6, 6-2. “He was the better player, he could have won, I got a bit lucky,” said Federer. “That’s how it goes sometimes, you don’t get many walkovers and try not to have it happen to yourself.”

Barty came through 6-1, 6-7 (1/7), 6-1 against Carla Suarez Navarro in a match filled with emotion on Centre Court. Barty’s Spanish opponent made sure her 11th and final appearance at The Championships went the distance just months after returning from a winning fight against cancer.

Barty joined in the standing ovation for Suarez Navarro as the 32-year-old left the court with the Spaniard’s mother Maria wiping away a tear. “She is a fighter, an incredible competitor and lovely person and I cannot find one bad word to say about her,” said Barty of her opponent.

‘Stop wasting our time’
Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev went through with a 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 7-6 (7/3) win over Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. “I was a bit surprised by the first two sets that I managed to win so easy, that’s why Grand Slams are funny,” said Medvedev. Fourth seed Alexander Zverev of Germany had lost to qualifiers in 2018 (Ernests Gulbis in the third round) and 2019 (Jiri Vesely 1st rd) but he breezed past Dutch qualifier Tallon Griekspoor 6-3, 6-4, 6-1 in just 89 minutes.

Australian men’s number one Alex de Minaur lost in four sets to Sebastian Korda, two days after the victor’s sister Nelly won her first golf major. Whether Barty’s fiery and entertaining compatriot Nick Kyrgios also moves into the second round hangs in the balance.

Facing Frenchman Ugo Humbert, the match was tied at two sets all and 3-3 in the deciding set when time was called due to a local curfew. Humbert’s compatriot Benoit Paire did not escape the ire of the match umpire in his 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 defeat by Diego Schwartzman. He received a warning for not trying as two sets down overnight he lost the third 6-0 in just 15 minutes. One spectator was moved to shout at the disinterested Frenchman: “Stop wasting our time.” – AFP