(Wimbledon) World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka was one game away from the rout on Friday in the second round of Wimbledon where Novak Djokovic narrowly avoided the 11 p.m. curfew.
Djokovic is one of the few players to continue their tournament so far at the usual tempo (one match day-one rest day) after the rain severely disrupted the course of the first three days.
But his third-round match against Stan Wawrinka having been scheduled for fourth on center court, where usually only three matches are played a day, he started at 8:40 p.m. and came close to being caught by the 11 p.m. curfew.
“We knew it would be tough to finish today and one of us had to win in three straight sets. It was going well for me in the first two sets and then he raised his level while I went down a bit,” commented Djokovic, pointing out that Wawrinka was “two points away from extending the match” to Saturday.
But the Djoker got out in time and will face the Pole Hubert Hurkacz (18th) for a place in the quarterfinals.
Like Djokovic, world number 1 Iga Swiatek played her third-round match on time and had no great difficulty in dismissing Croatian Petra Martic (29th) 6-2, 7-5. She thus finds the round of 16, her best result at Wimbledon already achieved in 2021, where she will face the Swiss Belinda Bencic (14th).
Unsurprisingly so far, the competition came close to having its first earthquake when one of the favourites, Sabalenka, found herself trailing 6-2, 5-4 by Russian-born Frenchwoman Varvara Gracheva (41st ).
But as if by magic, the match then tipped in their favour: the Belarusian won seven points in a row to equalize at 5-5 and afford three break points on the Frenchwoman’s serve. She converted the second and served at 6-5 to bring the match into a third set where she quickly flew away.
“It was crazy… She played incredibly well and I’m very happy to have won,” said Sabalenka, a semi-finalist in 2021 and banned from the tournament last year due to her nationality and the war in Ukraine. .
At 25, she will face Russian Anna Blinkova (40th) on Saturday for a place in the round of 16.
In the men’s draw, world number 1 Carlos Alcaraz logically qualified for the third round by beating Frenchman Alexandre Müller (84th) 6-4, 7-6 (7/2), 6-3.
“I’m very, very happy. it was my second match on this court (the Central, editor’s note) where I had lost last year. I wanted to take advantage of it and I did,” said the 20-year-old Spaniard, who does not hide his ambitions to win the tournament. He will have to start by dismissing the Chilean Nicolas Jarry (28th) on Saturday.
For its second participation last year, Alcaraz was eliminated in the round of 16 by the Italian Jannik Sinner after a breathtaking match.
The latter lost his first set of the tournament before qualifying for the round of 16 by dismissing the French Quentin Halys (79th) 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.
“I didn’t start out in the best possible way and it’s never easy to play against someone for the first time. So the important thing is to be in the next round,” commented last year’s quarter-finalist.
In the next round, the eighth player in the world will face the Colombian Daniel Galan (85th) to try to find the quarters.
Qualification in two days but easy, on the other hand, for Daniil Medvedev (3rd) who defeated Frenchman Adrian Mannarino (35th) 6-3, 6-3, 7-6 (7/5).
The match was interrupted overnight on Thursday as the Russian led 6-3, 6-3, 4-4.
“The last time I played a match over two days was here two years ago and I lost to Hurkacz,” he recalled.
He will play Saturday against the Hungarian Marton Fucsovics (67th) for a place in the round of 16.