Djokovic through but not without Korean turmoil – The Irish Times

A few slips and trips and falls and lunges on the lush backcourt of center court, an error count that increased in the second set against bubbly opposition with little to lose and the first day of the Championships had at least some twists and turns.

Other than that, defending champion Novak Djokovic looked as upright and princely as he normally does against Korea’s latest tennis export, Soon-Woo Kwon.

It wasn’t until the Italian Open that Djokovic came back at full speed after his Covid-enforced break around the Australian Open. Still, the 35-year-old was the pre-tournament favorite at Wimbledon despite the absence of a grass-court warm-up match.

As tradition dictates, the champion plays the first center court match of the following year and as such the unlucky player drawn against him faces a sort of ceremonial tumbril tower from the locker room. It’s not unusual for the top seed to face a few tough moments and Djokovic was no different as he sometimes looked to finish some points too quickly and ended up hitting the ball wide or long.

This frustration continued through the first and second sets where he trailed 3-1 in both and again in the fourth set, multiple times with the court open to hit him long forehand and slap the strings of his racket with annoyance.

“He has a lot of quality both forehand and backhand,” said the defending champion. “I didn’t start or play at my best. But I think when I needed to find the right shots, I did. I think [my] the service pulled me through in decisive moments. I know I can do better. But for the first game, I’m happy and I’ll continue.

But with an “oven-ready” match feeling and not playing his best, it was all done in two hours and 27 minutes. The fact that the top seed was advancing seemed to be part of the cake and while Kwon responded to Djokovic’s 6-3 first set with a spirited 6-3 second to tie the game 1-1, the feeling never left that it was Djokovic’s day, everything happened. in the background endearing members of Kwon’s family living and dying at every point in the player box.

As is always the case with the Serb, he was able to get to the big point and as if by the weight of personality forced his opponent to freeze on moments of swing. A step forward in the third set to break Kwon gave him a 2-1 lead and from there it was the champ who turned the knife to win 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Closing the match with an ace, Djokovic took his first shaky steps, unaware of the biblical afternoon rain scattering the entire pitch outside the covered center and number one courts.

But this year, Djokovic was one game away from a grand slam on the schedule. He was humiliatingly expelled from Australia for not being properly vaccinated and was beaten by Rafa Nadal at Roland Garros, who then overtook him in the world rankings. Did you feel ‘disappointed’, Djokovic was asked afterwards.

“I’ve never used that expression, so I’m not sure what it means. I can guess what that means,” he says, smiling.

“Yes and no. Yes, because I experienced something that I have never experienced in my life in Australia. So this post-Australian period of the following months was an emotional challenge for me due to many factors different.

“In terms of motivation on the pitch, doing my daily tasks, trying to win more titles and being one of the contenders for more Grand Slams, it hasn’t changed much, to be honest. But, of course, the feeling of coming back on the court with all that happened after Australia, especially the first tournaments, was different. It was a different feeling. Not very pleasant for me .

On court number one, a minor epic unfolded with one of the best teenagers in the game, Carlos Alcarez, the number five seed, taking over four hours to beat Germany’s Jan Lennard Struff. The 19-year-old Spaniard’s hopes were hanging by a thread, even though he held 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 to reach the second round of Wimbledon for the second time.

We expect a lot from Alcarez, who will have gained a lot of confidence by simply holding on and going through the game. Like most Spanish players, he was brought up playing on clay. Scheduled to play in the Queen’s tournament a few weeks ago, he pulled out with a sore elbow, which was seen wrapped in bandages.

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