Stan Wawrinka said he stood no chance of beating Novak Djokovic in their Wimbledon third-round clash on Friday and the Swiss’s prediction proved spot on as he was outplayed on Centre Court.
Walking out little more than two hours before Wimbledon’s 11pm curfew, seven-time champion Djokovic was in a hurry as he rattled through two sets and though he met more resistance after that he sealed a 6-3 6-1 7-6(5) win just before closing time.
His 31st consecutive match win at Wimbledon sent him into the last 16 of a Grand Slam for the 61st time in which he will face Poland’s 17th seed Hubert Hurkacz.
“He was two points away from extending the match for another day,” Djokovic said on court.
“We knew it was going to be really tight and it looked good for me the first two sets. He raised his level, the crowd got involved and hopefully you guys enjoyed it.”
Three-time Grand Slam champion Wawrinka, two years older than Djokovic at 38, was reduced to the roll of spectator early on as his opponent’s laser-guided ground strokes located lines with relentless accuracy in their first meeting on grass.
The opening four games were shared, offering the fans hope that a heavyweight battle might develop between two players who were meeting for the ninth time in Grand Slams, two of which were finals in which Wawrinka triumphed.
But Wawrinka was then left feeding on crumbs as Djokovic turned the screw with the precision hitting that makes scary viewing for anyone hoping to stall his bid to equal Margaret Court’s record 24 Grand Slams and Roger Federer’s record eight Wimbledon crowns.
With the Centre Court roof closed and the lights on, Djokovic took the second set in half an hour.
Wawrinka did not go out with a whimper and, with the crowd in his corner, he cranked up his power in the third set and finally began to punch a few holes in Djokovic’s armour.
With the clock ticking towards cut-off point, the same one that had snagged Andy Murray’s charge against Stefanos Tsitsipas the previous evening, Djokovic finally looked less invincible.
He was pushed into a tiebreak when he sliced a backhand volley wide and when Wawrinka led 5-3 in the breaker it looked as though the contest would spill over into Saturday.
But with impeccable timing, Djokovic hit back to earn himself the day off.
“At the end I’m quite happy with my performance. At least I gave a fight at the end,” Wawrinka said.