Novak Djokovic continues in bid for record 8th Wimbledon title as he sweeps past Holger Rune

World Number 2 Novak Djokovic was in scintillating form as he swept past Dane Rolger Rune in straight sets to reach the quarter finals where he will face Nr 9 seed Alex de Minaur.

Young gun Rune came into their first grass court meeting with a decent record against the Serb – two wins from five jousts, and even the two recent defeats were really tight. Immediately before this fourth round encounter, Djokovic declared the Dane “ready for big things”.

Just not this time, it turned out.

With the Centre Court roof closed to fend off the early-evening rain, Rune saw 12 points go by before he cleared his throat. A mystery stomach issue had intermittent but not terminal impact on the Serb; and as for the knee, whatever post-operative treatment he’s receiving should be going down in medical history.

Djokovic won it 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. It was weirdly simple.

So that’s four rounds down, three to go, with the No.9 seed Alex de Minaur up next. If anything, in a year without so much as a final never mind a title, the whole knee saga seems to have refuelled Djokovic’s motivation. He cannot win an eighth Championship under these circumstances, so winning an eighth Championship is what he might just do.

“I’m very pleased,” Djokovic said. “I don’t think Holger played close to his best. Tough start for him. That got to him mentally. Waiting all day to come out on court is never easy, getting more and more tense and stressed.

“Alex [de Minaur] is one of the quickest, if not the quickest, player on Tour. But I’m enjoying my running still at 37. Looking forward to the match.”

Rune, seeded No.15 here, has drifted down from the standards he achieved a year ago. It’s a tall order to win a set of tennis via a second serve conversion rate of 11%, with unforced errors littering the court. Funnily enough that recipe didn’t work for Rune in the first set, so he ditched it.

Meanwhile, errors were peppering Djokovic’s play. They seemed particularly noticeable because at the end of set changeover he had requested a comfort break, only for umpire Nico Helwerth to declare it too early.

At these times we look for small clues. Unusually, Djokovic was wearing a T-shirt under his tennis shirt, and twice in the next couple of games he pressed his fingers to his stomach, just below his ribcage, wincing.

At 2-3, with Rune finding something like his range, the No.2 seed galloped off the court, returning within the permitted minute. What he could have achieved in that time was unknown.

It was all going on. Rune couldn’t convert his first serves into points, thanks to Djokovic’s old faithful, his return. But then six times – six! – with set point on Rune’s serve, the Serb was stymied. Once he slid into the full splits chasing a crosscourt strike, raising fears for the knee, but bounced right back up.

If anything the stomach seemed the hindrance, yet he still served out the set. The Centre Court crowd offered the Dane encouragement but when break points came, he could not make them stick. The writing was on the wall long before the end.

Later Rune said that Djokovic was mistaken to think the crowd was booing him.

“It all started in the US Open the first time we played each other in 2021,” he explained. “They were shouting my name ‘Ruuune’ and it sounded a bit like ‘boo’. If you don’t know what’s happening, it probably sounded like ‘boo’. But it was my name. But he’s played so many matches since it happened last time, he probably didn’t remember.”

So Djokovic is through.

Remember, this is the man who said he wouldn’t line up for his first round match if he didn’t believe he could win the title. It all makes perfect, utterly nutty sense. Madder things have happened, after all. It’s just that nobody here can think what.

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