Defending champion Novak Djokovic survived a rocky third set to defeat American qualifier Denis Kudla to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon for the 13th time on Friday while former world No 1 Andy Murray’s dream return to the tournament ended in the third round.
Murray suffered his earliest Wimbledon exit in 16 years as he was defeated by world number 12 Denis Shapovalov. Murray, who has been battling a lengthy fight against hip and groin injuries and is now ranked at 118, went down 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 after two brilliant victories in the first couple of rounds.
Earlier, The current world number one triumphed over 114-ranked Kudla 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7) to book a place in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 55th time.
Djokovic, chasing a record-equalling 20th major, cruised through the first two sets but then had to fight back from 1-4 down and also 1/4 in the tiebreaker before he recorded a 75th win at the All England Club.
“It’s the trademark of every pro athlete that you never give up,” said Djokovic who is halfway to becoming only the third man in history – and first since Rod Laver in 1969 – to complete the calendar Slam.
“I am always trying to give my maximum out there especially when playing one of biggest tournaments.
“When I was a little kid, I dreamed of winning Wimbledon.”
Djokovic hailed his family roots for his on-court passion, which was evidence on Court One on Friday, as well as the struggles in growing up in Serbia in the 1990s (during the Balkans conflict).
“Part of it is genes. We grew up in difficult times for my country and failure was never an option,” he said.
“We had to find basic ways to survive, that strengthened my character.
“Also my upbringing in the mountains I spent a lot of time with wolves – this is wolf energy. I’m not kidding.”
Six-time champion Djokovic next takes on 17th seeded Christian Garin of Chile who defeated Spain’s Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
It was the first time Murray, the 2013 and 2016 champion, had lost in the third round since his debut as an 18-year-old in 2005.
Canadian 22-year-old Shapovalov will face Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I told Andy at the net that he is my hero,” said Shapovalov.
Former world number one Murray, taking part in the singles tournament for the first time since 2017, was playing just his eighth match on the main tour in 2021.
He had needed five sets to beat German qualifier Oscar Otte on Wednesday night under the Centre Court roof.
However, against Shapovalov, 12 years his junior, Murray’s famous steely competitive edge was not enough.
The Canadian left-hander stormed to a 5-1 lead in the first set before Murray gallantly clawed his way back to 5-4.
Shapovalov held his nerve to take the opener and was soon 4-0 up in the second set which he comfortably pocketed.
As darkness fell, the Centre Court roof was closed but Murray, desperately short of matches in just his second event since March, went down to defeat on Shapovalov’s 13th ace of the tie.
“Andy’s achievements aside, to come back from injury and to be able to play a first set like that, it was super intense,” said Shapovalov after firing 45 winners to Murray’s 16.
“It’s incredible for him to get to the third round and to see what he can do.”
Russian fifth seed Andrey Rublev booked a last-16 spot for the first time by seeing off mercurial Fabio Fognini 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
Karen Khachanov made it a double Russian celebration by putting out Frances Tiafoe – who had knocked out third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round – 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
Rublev next faces Marton Fucsovics who stunned Argentine ninth seed Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4 to become the first Hungarian man in the fourth round since Balazs Taroczy in 1980.
(With AFP inputs)
Men’s singles third round results
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Denis Kudla (USA) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9/7)
Christian Garín (CHI x17) bt Pedro Martinez (ESP) 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4
Marton Fucsovics (HUN) bt Diego Schwartzman (ARG x9) 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6/8), 6-4
Andrey Rublev (RUS x5) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA x26) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
Karen Khachanov (RUS x25) bt Frances Tiafoe (USA) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4
Sebastian Korda (USA) bt Daniel Evans (GBR x22) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Denis Shapovalov (CAN x10) bt Andy Murray (GBR) 6-4, 6-2, 6-2
Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP x8) bt Dominik Koepfer (GER) 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (7/4)
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