TENNIS

Queen’s tennis: Djokovic wins 800th match, Kyrgios slams 32 aces to book Cilic clash

Djokovic became only the 10th man in the Open era to reach 800 match wins as the former world number one moved into the Queen’s Club semi-finals.

Novak Djokovic insists reaching the elite 800-win club is only the latest milestone in his quest to rewrite the record books, refusing even to rule out playing beyond his 40th birthday.

Djokovic became only the 10th man in the Open era to reach 800 match wins as the former world number one moved into the Queen’s Club semi-finals with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Adrian Mannarino on Friday.

The 31-year-old will play France’s Jeremy Chardy – a 6-4, 6-4 winner over American youngster Frances Tiafoe – on Saturday as he bids for a second Queen’s final appearance.

If Djokovic wins the semi-final and goes onto take the Queen’s title for the first time, he will pass Stefan Edberg into ninth place on the all-time wins list.

Jimmy Connors is on top with 1,256 wins ahead of second placed Roger Federer, who has 1,156.

With Federer still going strong at age 36, Djokovic sees no reason why he can’t enjoy similar longevity to the Swiss star, even joking that he could play into his 50s.

For now, the 31-year-old would be satisfied with keeping fit enough to have a shot at reaching the 900-win mark which only Connors, Federer, Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas and Rafael Nadal have surpassed.

Asked how long he can play for, Djokovic grinned, saying: “Who said 40? I said 50! So it’s 19 years (left in his career). I have plenty of time to make a couple more wins.

“50, 60, 70. I don’t know. And I don’t want to put any limit or any number to it.

“I will play as long as I feel like playing. So hopefully I can have many more years, because I truly enjoy playing this sport.

“I’m just grateful I’m able to do something that I really love and can be successful in.”

‘Doubtful moments’

Djokovic is through to only his second semi-final of a troubled campaign as he hunts his first title in 2018.

He is a lowly 22nd in the rankings after an embarrassing French Open quarter-final defeat against Italian journeyman Marco Cecchinato.

Hampered by an elbow injury last year, Djokovic hasn’t earned a major title since competing his career Grand Slam by winning the 2016 French Open.

Djokovic is slowly getting back in the groove at the Wimbledon warm-up event.

But the 12-time Grand Slam champion admits there were dark days when he was forced to consider whether he would ever recapture the form that made him the world’s best just two years ago.

“There were times when I was thinking and questioning everything when I was injured and going through surgery process, but, you know, everyone has those moments,” he said.

“Everyone has doubtful moments. So that’s life. Life comes in cycles and teaches you lessons. Whether you’re going to learn them or not, it solely depends on you.

“As I said, I don’t like to put any numbers on how long and when it’s going to end. I would rather say ‘hey, I’m playing great, back again’.

“I’m 31 on the paper, but I’m 19 in the real sense. I just love to keep on going and see where it takes me.”

Kyrgios knocks out defending champion Lopez

Nick Kyrgios blasted 32 aces for the second successive match as the brash Australian powered into the Queen’s Club semi-finals with a 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3) win over Feliciano Lopez on Friday.

Kyrgios ended Lopez’s reign as Queen’s champion with his latest astonishing display of big-serving at the Wimbledon warm-up event.

The 23-year-old also hit 32 aces in his second round victory against Kyle Edmund, setting a personal-best for a three-set match.

Kyrgios needed only two sets to reach that mark against Spanish veteran Lopez as he set up a semi-final showdown with top seed Marin Cilic.

It is the sixth time in his career that Kyrgios has served over 30 aces, with his highest total coming when he blasted 37 in his famous Wimbledon upset of Rafael Nadal in 2014.

The world number 21 now has a tournament-leading 82 aces in his three matches at Queen’s this week.

“I can’t really remember a specific time where I’ve served at this level back to back,” Kyrgios said.

“I didn’t expect to serve the way I did yesterday, but I just found my rhythm early again in this match.”

Asked for the secret of his serving success, Kyrgios revealed he rarely practises the shot, preferring to let the aces come naturally.

“I will never, ever go out on the practice court and hit serves just for the sake of hitting serves,” he said.

“I always play points out of the hand and maybe roll my arm over maybe five, ten times and that’s it.

“It’s always been like this for me. My serve has been like this ever since I was a little kid.

“It was my best shot. I always based my game around it. It was one shot where I didn’t really practice much at all.

“I would hit maybe 10 or 15 serves a day, you know, would just relax and hit it as hard.

“I guess just one day it started winning me easy points. I was, like, this is better than running!”

Cilic is no slouch when it comes to the power serves and the Croatian remains on course for a fourth Queen’s final after winning his battle of the former champions against Sam Querrey.

Chasing his second Queen’s title, Cilic eased into the semi-finals, needing only a relatively modest 10 aces for a 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 victory over 2010 winner Querrey.

The 29-year-old was beaten by Lopez in last year’s final, but against Querrey it was business as usual for Cilic.

Having buried Fernando Verdasco and Gilles Muller in a barrage of aces, the world number six dismissed fifth seed Querrey with the minimum fuss.

Cilic had won all five of his previous encounters with Querrey, including a semi-final success en route to the Queen’s title in 2012.

The Croatian also got the better of Querrey in the Wimbledon semi-finals last year and once again he was too powerful for the American.

Cilic, who finished as Australian Open runner-up in January, is running into form on grass just in time for Wimbledon, where he suffered an injury-plagued final defeat against Roger Federer last year.

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