If Novak Djokovic is to lift a fourth title at The Championships, he has to come through a minefield of potential grenades. If he does so, and potentially returns to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, then his return to peak form will perhaps be his finest achievement.
The sea air of Eastbourne, where Djokovic captured his 68th tour-level title at the Aegon International last week, appears to have worked wonders and in the early stages of his 13th Wimbledon campaign, the Serbian is beginning to thrive.
Although Djokovic wasn’t at the top of his game in the early stages of his second-round win over Czech Adam Pavlasek on Wednesday, the three-time champion began to purr in the second and third sets of a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 victory over one hour and 34 minutes.
Without a Grand Slam crown since last year’s Roland Garros, Djokovic was at his aggressive best in a serve-dominated performance – winning 33 of his 41 first service points – that would have delighted 1992 champion Andre Agassi and the latest addition to his team, 2004 semi-finalist Mario Ancic, who watched on from the No. 1 Court players’ box.
“It’s perfect. Exactly what I want. I don’t want to have any five-set matches. I had enough match play in Eastbourne,” Djokovic said. “I felt very good today in terms of my game and where it was from the beginning till the end. So it just keeps going in the right direction.”
Djokovic will next play the upredictable Ernests Gulbis, now at No. 589 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after a series of injuries and poor form. Gulbis, who came into The Championships without a tour-level win since 2016 Roland Garros, upset No. 29 seed and former semi-finalist Juan Martin del Potro.
Should Djokovic beat Gulbis, he may then come up against No. 15 seed Gael Monfils, followed by a quarter-final against eighth seed Dominic Thiem or No. 11 seed and 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych. Third seed and seven-time former winner Roger Federer or sixth seed and last year’s runner-up Milos Raonic could be potential semi-final opponents.
Tomas Berdych, the Czech No. 11 seed, who reached his lone Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 2010 (l. to Nadal), beat American Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(10), 6-3 in two hours and 37 minutes. He now faces Spain’s David Ferrer, unseeded at a major for the first time since the 2005 US Open.