Novak Djokovic passes stiff Fearnley test to reach third round at Wimbledon

Life comes at you fast sometimes. Nine months ago, 22-year-old Jacob Fearnley was ranked outside the world’s top 1,000 players. On Day Four at Wimbledon 2024, in just the third Tour-level match of his career, the Scot walked out on to Centre Court to take on seven-time champion Novak Djokovic.

Fearnley earned a wild card here after winning the Nottingham Challenger out of the blue last month, yet Djokovic found him a considerably tougher test than Vit Kopriva, the qualifier ranked 154 places higher whom the great man dismissed in the first round for the loss of five games.

Always aggressive in the battle, Fearnley’s resourcefulness on the return brought him back from a break down in the third set to force a fourth. Still just a month since his knee surgery, Djokovic appeared at times not to race about the court freely, and to move with care between points.

Ultimately it was too much to imagine that the Scot might become the first man ranked outside the top 200 ever to inflict a tour-level defeat upon Djokovic. The No.2 seed prevailed 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5, with the Serb relieved to avoid a fifth set.

“I hope as the tournament progresses I’ll feel better,” Djokovic said. “I don’t know if I was comfortable in my own skin in the third and fourth. You have rough days when you’re not feeling your best.

“The muscles around my knee are getting sore more than usual because they’re compensating and protecting the knee, which is normal. They’re also not really giving me the dynamic speed and power that I need. Kind of late on the balls that I’m normally not late on. 

“I should have done some things better in the third when I was a break up, and a bit lucky in the fourth not to go a break down. Potentially the match deserved to go into a fifth set the way Jacob played – but I’m very glad it didn’t.”

So it remains the case that only one British man has ever defeated Djokovic at a Slam – apparently another Scot has managed it twice, one of which wins was here at Wimbledon 11 years ago. Anyone know anything about that?

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