Top-seeded Novak Djokovic braved an injury scare and a highly skilled opponent Friday to advance to the fourth round at Wimbledon by virtue of a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Gilles Simon.
A shoulder injury suffered in the third set looking like it might derail Djokovic's Wimbledon ambition, but he shook it off and finished off his French competition in straight sets.
According to Sachin Nakrani of The Guardian, Djokovic feels as though he was able to avoid a serious problem regarding his shoulder:
Djokovic is well aware of what it takes to excel at Wimbledon as he took the title in 2011. There is no question that he is focused on winning the tournament for a second time, though, as playing at All England Club means a lot to him, per Wimbledon's official Twitter account:
Although Djokovic is considered the favorite to win this tournament by many as the No. 1 seed, he had to work hard in order to advance past the second round. Radek Stepanek gave Djoker everything he could handle in a four-set affair, but Djokovic felt as though being tested was actually a positive thing, according to ATPWorldTour.com.
"I'm just happy to have spent this amount of time on the court, to play a lot of rallies, to return and to serve," Djokovic said. "Physically I feel fine. This can just help me mentally for the (remainder) of the event."
Simon presented another interesting challenge as the talented Frenchman is quite capable of hanging with the top players in the world when he is at his best. Simon is particularly adept at retrieving difficult balls and extending rallies, which Djoker got his fill of Friday, per Craig O'Shannessy of The New York Times:
The first set was fairly even, but both players had some issues on serve. Simon was only able to get 53 percent of his first serves in, which led to Djokovic breaking him twice. Simon did score a break of his own, but it wasn't enough to prevent Djoker from taking the first set 6-4.
Despite losing the set, it was actually an encouraging performance for Simon as he hung with Djokovic in all of the major statistical categories, according to Tennis Panorama News:
After willing his way to a one-set lead, Djokovic seemed poised to roll through the remainder of the match. Simon was on his heels early in the second and surrendered a break to fall behind 3-1. Rather than folding and allowing Djokovic to run away with it, though, he struck back.
Simon surprised Djokovic with a break to make it 3-2 and Djoker was clearly frustrated with his inability to extend the lead, per Vikki Orvice of The Sun:
Most of the great players have short memories and are able to put failures behind them. That is precisely what Djokovic did as he answered Simon with another break and didn't lose a game for the remainder of the set. With Djoker coming on strong, Simon double faulted to hand the set to Djokovic and take another step toward elimination.
Djokovic fell behind an early break in the third set to go down 2-0, but after a hold of serve followed by a break and another hold, Djoker suddenly found himself up 3-2. With Simon on serve, an extremely scary moment occurred as Djokovic slipped and then fell on his shoulder.
Djoker had to be treated by the trainer in the middle of the game and there was an ominous feeling on Centre Court, according to SI Tennis:
As seen in this video courtesy of The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg via Wimbledon.com, Djokovic appeared to jam his arm and shoulder while bracing his fall:
After a few minutes of treatment and a supplement courtesy of the trainer, Djokovic was back on the court and ready to resume play, per SNY's Adam Zagoria:
Simon double faulted immediately after the injury time out for deuce, but he was able to recover and win the game, which made it 3-3. Despite how much pain Djokovic seemed to be in when he injured his shoulder, he didn't show any ill effects in answering right back with a hold of his own.
After a pair of holds, Simon served to extend the match with Djoker leading 5-4. Djokovic did all he could to end the match as soon as possible and was able to do precisely that with an emphatic break of Simon's serve.
Although Djokovic hasn't necessarily been dominant through the early part of the tournament thus far, he has gotten the job done and come away with victories. If he is going to go deeper in the event and perhaps even hoist the trophy, though, his play will have to improve in short order.
A match with No. 14 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga looms in the fourth round, which could prove to be a very difficult test. Tsonga reached the Wimbledon semifinals in 2011 and 2012, so he is perfectly capable of coming through with big performances on grass.
After that, Djokovic would potentially have to face former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals followed by defending Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the semis and either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer in the final. In other words, the road to a second career Wimbledon title doesn't get much tougher.
Djokovic is capable of running the gauntlet at full health, but there is definitely some concern regarding his shoulder. It didn't seem to bother him for the remainder of Friday's match, but it is possible that some issues could creep up in the coming days.
That is definitely something worth keeping an eye on as Djokovic's matches get progressively tougher. None of the other top players will show any mercy when push comes to shove, so Djoker's mettle will truly be tested moving forward.
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