AFTER the wonders of Wednesday, day four at Wimbledon was decidedly undramatic. Which is exactly how Novak Djokovic wanted it to be.
Virtually everything was as predicted, including the arrival of the rain in mid-afternoon. Britain’s Laura Robson was waiting to get on to Court Two for her second-round match with Mariana Duque-Marino as the covers came on, and she is still waiting this morning.
All play was called off for the day around 7pm – except for Centre Court, where, under the roof, Djokovic was playing his second-round contest against Bobby Reynolds of the US.
The bottom half of the men’s singles draw was where all the upsets occurred two days ago. The upper half, in which Djokovic, as the No 1 seed, sits at the very top, has been a haven of calm by comparison.
The Serb won his first-round match against Florian Mayer in straight sets on Tuesday and was equally in command against Reynolds. He had to exercise a fair degree of patience in the first set, failing to break his opponent in regulation games. Any prospect of a minor shock in the tiebreak was soon dismissed as Djokovic raised his standard of play and, from that point on, Reynolds was stretched to the limit just to stay in the contest.
Djokovic eased through the second set, then broke Reynolds early in the third before completing a 7-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory in an hour and 54 minutes.
The 2011 champion – the only former winner left in the men’s singles following the elimination of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt – was impassive at the end, walking off for all the world like someone leaving the office after a routine day. He did break into a smile a few seconds later as he acknowledged the applause of the crowd, but this was a businesslike display – exactly as he wanted.
“It is a bit strange that so many top players lost in one or two days but it’s a Grand Slam and all the lower-ranked players have nothing to lose when they go on centre stage,” Djokovic said. “So I needed to be extra careful today. It was a bit strange with the conditions under the roof but I played well in the second and third and I’m glad I’m through. I was serving well throughout the match. I still haven’t dropped my serve. I’m not one of the biggest servers around but I try to use my serve efficiently. My game is there. I just need to try to capitalise on my opportunities and today I was very poor on the break points. It was a nice match to play, I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Asked if he was looking forward to a final against Andy Murray, he emphasised that last point. “I don’t think about that because it’s still a very long way,” he said. “We’ve got to take it step by step. It’s something you should always be cautious about. There is always huge expectation for the top players to reach the final stages but we cannot forget all the other players. This makes it more interesting, I think, that so many top players lost.”
Reynolds, a 30-year-old from Cape Cod, is ranked 156th in the world. He was the last American left in the competition – a scarcely believable statistic for anyone who remembers the eras of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Just to show how unusual such a poor performance is, this is the first year since 1912 that no American man has reached the third round.
Reynolds suggested that two or three up-and-coming countrymen of his could be in the top 100 before long, and also pointed out that circumstances had conspired against John Isner and Sam Querrey, two players who are usually capable of competing well on grass. “You know, Isner has a freak accident,” he said, referring to one of the many injuries from earlier in the week. He could have gone a long way. Querrey, tough trial with [Bernard] Tomic. But a lot of guys are coming up. They’re knocking on the door of the top 100.”
With no shocks, one of the biggest talking points was a possible match between Murray and Serena Williams in Las Vegas. Asked if he would be interested in a similar venture, Djokovic replied with a jocular enthusiasm. “I’ll play [Maria] Sharapova,” he said. “Anywhere she likes.”
Djokovic’s next opponent will be either Jeremy Chardy, the French No 28 seed, or Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff. Chardy took the first set in relative comfort on Court 14, winning it 6-2. But Struff hit back to win the second 7-5, and was 2-1 up in the third when play was interrupted.