Friday, 27 June 2014

Novak and Radek light up London

EIt took until the third day and the second round for Wimbledon 2014 to ignite, and it was veteran Radek Stepanek who played a major role.  His performance in presenting top seed Novak Djokovic with one of his more challenging second round matches at Grand Slam level was a joy for the grateful crowd.

As expected the attacking game of the Czech player could not prevent the Serbian capture of the opening two sets, but the standard of the match belied the scoreboard differential.  A competent serve volleyer battling the supreme returner in men's tennis had many people on their feet many times.  Seeking treatment for a sore knee after falling behind two sets, Stepanek signalled an early finish to proceedings, but the injury time out must have inspired rather than expired the Czech hopes.

The two traded service holds throughout an entertaining third set, with Stepanek holding under extreme pressure in the seventh and ninth games.  Djokovic was managing to hold fairly comfortably and when the tie break arrived most believed he had the goods to run it out, and with it the match.  At 5-4 with two serves to come the end was nigh.  Well not quite as nigh as we thought due to Stepanek out-rallying the superior rallyer, winning the final three points and the set 7-6.

The fourth set was even tighter, and Djokovic could not break through the Czech serve.  Another tie break was required, but before we reached it, another example of the wonderful Djokovic sportsmanship was exhibited.  At five games all and game point on the Djokovic serve Stepanek successfully challenged a call which normally would require the point to be replayed.  Djokovic conceded the point instead, pointing out that he would have had no chance of returning Stepanek's shot.

The tie break reached 5-2 and Novak again lost points in a row after having the match on his racquet.  At 5-5, Djokovic received a netted volley from Stepanek and then hit a return on the line, initially called out before a successful Serb challenge handed Novak Djokovic the match 6-4 6-3 6-7 7-6.

At 35 Stepanek gave as many spills as thrills in his endeavour to give Djokovic the match practice he didn't really want but perhaps in retrospect needed.

Other second round action saw 7th seed David Ferrer lose while the other top men's seeds cruised, Nadal once more taking four sets to complete his work.  Ernest's Gulbis could not reprise his Roland Garros form though and the 12th seed is out of the tournament, losing to Roger Federer's conquerer from last year Stakhovsky.
The top women did what was required of them, except for Vika Azarenka, 8th seed and Flavia Pennetta 12th seed.
Nick Kyrgios, the youngest left in the men's draw caused the greatest discussion, dispatching 13th seed Richard Gasquet, after dropping the opening two sets and saving nine match points in a long fifth set decider.  This incredibly was only the Austrlain's second main draw match ever at Wimbledon.

The other Aussie left in the singles is Lleyton Hewitt and his second round match was suspended at one set down and 4-4 in the second, against Janowicz, the semi finalist from last year from Poland.

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