Raonic, Pella, Djokovic Punch Ticket To The Second Week At Wimbledon

LONDON, July 5, 2019 (by Sharada Rajagopalan)

Fifteenth seed Milos Raonic was the first to reach the second week of the 2019 Championships at Wimbledon. In the third-round battle of two big servers, the Canadian brushed aside United States’ Reilly Opelka 7-6(1), 6-2, 6-1 in an hour and 42 minutes.

Of the two players, on the day, the 2016 finalist’s serve kept ticking throughout the course of the match. Opelka went toe-to-toe in the first set but thereafter he just could not match up with the consistency proffered by the World No. 17. In terms of points won off the first serve, the 21-year-old’s trajectory tapered off as each set unwound giving a glimpse of why the score-line looked so one-sided in Raonic’s favour towards the end.

In the first set, Opelka won 66 per cent points off his first serves (putting in 75 per cent first serves). In the second set, this came down to 54 per cent off 57 per cent of first serves in. The third set was way worse with the World No. 63 winning merely 33 per cent points off 64 per cent first serves in. In comparison, Raonic won 96 per cent, 85 per cent and 100 per cent points off across the three sets respectively.

The 28-year-old Canadian will take on the 26th seed from Argentina Guido Pella in the fourth round on Manic Monday. Playing on Centre Court against the fourth-seeded South African and last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson, Pella made the most of the occasion to cause yet another upset in the tournament. The 29-year-old won 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(4) in two hours and 34 minutes to reach the fourth round of a Major for the first time in his career.

Anderson, who is making a comeback after an elbow injury that forced him to miss the clay season, never looked comfortable in the match. After Pella won the first two sets, an upset seemed certain but the World No. 8 had not given up yet. Anderson held serve long enough to push the set into the tie break. Pella quickly built a 3-0 lead in the tie break but Anderson reduced the deficit to 2-3 but two more erroneous shots helped the Argentine widen the lead to 5-2. On his own serve, the two-time Major finalist once again narrowed the game but it was far too late as Pella pocketed the match with a couple of winning volleys.

In his post-match interview immediately after the match, the World No. 26 said, “My mind is in the right place. I’m playing much more aggressive than previous years. Groundstrokes much better and confidence – if you win matches on the ATP tour every day it gets better… Now, to be in the second week is an unbelievable feeling.”

Unbelievable is, then, only way to describe Pella’s Wimbledon trajectory for the last couple of years. In 2018, the Buenos Aires resident knocked out the then defending finalist Marin Cilic in the second round. And now, he has followed this up with an upset of Anderson prompting jovial queries as to whether the pattern would be repeated the following year as well.

Novak Djokovic makes ‘Manic Monday’ return

Novak Djokovic remained in track of his quest to defend his title and claim a fifth at the All England Club. The 32-year-old was tested by Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz but won 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-4 in three hours’ time.

The first two sets were especially tricky for Djokovic as the 22-year-old matched him point for point. In the first set, the World No. 1 had to extricate himself from down a break point in the fourth game. An opening came the four-time champion’s way in the 11th game of the set courtesy of Hurkacz double faulting on two back-to-back points.

Nonetheless, the World No. 48 rallied back to pull the game to deuce but a couple of ill-timed errors put Djokovic ahead in the match. The second set was just as exhilarating as the first and the Pole’s efforts as he took the second set were thoroughly applauded. But the set’s result was a sign of things to come as Djokovic unfurled his A-game to leave Hurkacz with his heroics in the opening two sets.

“He was fighting. He was playing well, serving well and hitting clean and accurate shots,” Djokovic told the BBC.

“It was a great fight the first couple of sets. He deserved to win the second one.

“I tried to focus on one point at a time, I just wanted to hold my serve and make him play. I played the perfect third set and also my fourth set was solid. I’m really pleased with the performance.”

Djokovic will next take on French young gun Ugo Humbert. The 21-year-old edged out Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime, winning 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 in two hours and nine minutes.

Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain will have a chance to reach his second Grand Slam quarterfinal of the year after upsetting No. 10 seeded Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-1 in the third round. The 31-year-old Spaniard will face Frenchman Benoit Paire, who defeated Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely  5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-6(2) in two hours and 45 minutes on Court 18.

David Goffin secured a 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev after three hours and 30 minutes to reach the Round of 16. The Belgian will next face Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who dismantled Stefanos Tsitsipas’ conqueror, Italian Thomas Fabbiano, 6-4, 7-6(1), 6-4 after two hours and 19 minutes.