Tennis

Novak Djokovic battles past Hubert Hurkacz

Reuters, AP

When Novak Djokovic stood with hand on hip midway through the second-set tiebreak, glaring down at young Polish upstart Hubert Hurkacz, he could scarcely believe the drama unfolding before his eyes in his third-round Wimbledon showdown on Friday.

The world No. 1 was caught up by hurricane Hurkacz as he came off second best in all the razzle-dazzle shots the 22-year-old could throw at him and he was also banned from wearing his baseball cap by the umpire as it fell foul of Wimbledon’s all-white rules.

However, Djokovic is not known as Mr. Consistency for nothing and he survived all the hullabaloo to reach the last 16 for the 12th time at the grasscourt major with a 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-4 win.

“For the opposition, he is sickeningly consistent,” summed up American great John McEnroe.

“He isn’t flashy, he doesn’t play with the same intensity point in point out as (Rafa) Nadal does, his shots are not as beautiful as (Roger) Federer’s — but rock solid is an understatement. He is so efficient.”

That efficiency has earned Djokovic 74 titles, including 15 majors, and more than $130 million in prize money.

Hurkacz, on the other hand, can only dream of such riches or records as his trophy cabinet lies empty while his bank balance would be considered loose change in Djokovic’s pocket.

Playing the Serbian for the second time at a major in five weeks, the world No. 48 was expected to roll over in straight sets, just as he had done at Roland Garros.

But when the top seed was told by umpire Carlos Bernardes to remove his baseball cap midway through the first set, for a while it looked like he had been shorn of his super powers as he missed three break points in the sixth game.

“Last match on Centre Court, I played with the hat. The same hat I took out now, I was not able to play with it,” Djokovic, the only top-10 seed left in the top half of the draw, said with a shrug.

In other men’s action, No. 4 Kevin Anderson was knocked off by No. 26 Guido Pella 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4). Pella beat 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic last year at Wimbledon and now will face 2016 runner-up Raonic, who beat Reilly Opelka of the Unied States 7-6 (7-1), 6-2, 6-1.

No. 10 Karen Khachanov, No. 11 Daniil Medvedev and No. 19 Felix Auger-Aliassime all lost.

Meanwhile, 15-year-old sensation Coco Gauff’s magical Wimbledon journey continued on Friday when the American youngster saved two match points to reach the last 16.

Gauff, ranked 313th and who came through qualifying, battled back from 2-5 down in the second set and held her nerve when Slovenian opponent Polona Hercog clawed her way to 4-4 from 1-4 in the decider.

Her reward is a fourth round clash on “Manic Monday” against former world No. 1 and ex-French Open champion Simona Halep.

“I’m just super relieved that it’s over, it was a long match,” said Gauff.

“She was playing unbelievable. It was my first match on Centre Court, people say Court One is my court, maybe Centre can be too now.

She added of her second set recovery: “I knew I could come back so I just kept going for my shots.”

Other women’s contests on Monday will be No. 3 seed Karolina Pliskova against Karolina Muchova, No. 8 Elina Svitolina against No. 24 Petra Martic, and Dayana Yastremska against Zhang Shuai, who defeated former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2.