Monday 25 September 2017

Wimbledon champ Novak Djokovic rescued by the rain as he trails Sam Querrey by two sets

Novak Djokovic lunges for the ball against Sam Querrey on day Five of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Steve Paston/PA Wire
Novak Djokovic lunges for the ball against Sam Querrey on day Five of the Wimbledon Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon. Steve Paston/PA Wire

Wayne Gardiner

Defending champion Novak Djokovic stands on the brink of a shock Wimbledon exit, but a forgotten grand slam winner is making the most of his second coming at Wimbledon.

When Juan Martin del Potro scalped Roger Federer at his peak in the US Open final, he was considered one of the prominent challengers to the Federer-Rafael Nadal axis that was dominating the men's game at that time.

The intervening seven years have been horrible for him though, with injury after injury delaying his progress and allowing the likes of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray to challenge and then replace Federer and Nadal as the dominant duo.

But while rain came to the aid of Djokovic as he trailed Sam Querrey 7-6 (8/6) 6-1, Del Potro was able to roll back the years and play much like the man who stunned Federer in New York all those years ago.

Fourth seed Stan Wawrinka was his second-round victim, beaten 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7/2) 6-3, and as a word of warning for the rest of the field, Del Potro claims he may not be back to his best until 2017.

"I would like to be 100 per cent for the next season," said the world number 185 who on this form is a high-ranking seed in all but official status.

"As you can see, my backhand is not 100 per cent yet. I know how far I am from my high level. I've been working hard to be 100 per cent next season."

Del Potro was last on Centre Court in the 2013 semi-final against Djokovic - which had been his last outing at Wimbledon full stop.

"It was great to come again," he said of beating Wawrinka on the main court.

"The crowd was unbelievable with me. The atmosphere on there was amazing. They have a respect for me. It's very nice just to be on the Centre Court of this magnificent tournament.

"I missed it a lot. Now I'm feeling so glad just to be playing tennis again. Of course, when you beat these guys, everything changes in the good way.

"But I still need time to feel 100 per cent with my wrist. I'm excited to go far in this tournament."

Having been cooped up in the locker rooms for so long because of rain delays, some players were particularly keen to make the most of being on court.

Number 10 seed Tomas Berdych rattled through his second-round match with Benjamin Becker in an hour and 24 minutes, winning 6-4 6-1 6-2, with 13 aces and 43 winners.

"It's really extremely tough in these conditions and that's how it is," said the Czech.

"So really there is no sense of looking ahead too far or anything like that. There will be another opponent which might be very tough, very difficult. That's all I need to be focused on."

Also in a hurry were Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille.

The former, seeded 12th, beat Juan Monaco 6-1 6-4 6-3 in an hour and 23 minutes, while Pouille took five minutes longer to see off Donald Young 6-4 6-3 6-3.

John Isner got through to the third round too, going to tie-breaks in all three sets with Matthew Barton before securing his progress 7-6 (10/8) 7-6 (7/3) 7-6 (10/8).

Nick Kyrgios beat Dustin Brown in a thrill-a-minute five-setter and next faces Feliciano Lopez, who himself went the distance to beat Fabio Fognini.

When the rain came at 8pm, Djokovic and Querrey were not the only men stopped in their tracks. Alexander Zverev and Mikhail Youzhny were three games into a deciding set in the second round, while Marin Cilic was two sets up on Lukas Lacko.

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