A straight-sets victory has never been more welcome. After a record seven consecutive five-set Grand Slam matches, Viktor Troicki on Friday claimed a 7-5, 7-5, 6-4 win over Juan Monaco at Wimbledon, setting up an all-Serbian fourth-round clash against defending champion Novak Djokovic.
The 26-year-old is relishing the opportunity.
“He’s the big favourite but I have two days of rest which will help me a lot to recover and I have to give it a go, play my best game,” Troicki said. “He’s also human. We saw yesterday Rosol playing unbelievable against Rafa beating him so everything is possible. This is tennis and I’ll try to play my best.”
Ending one of the most curious streaks in tennis will help. Troicki’s run of seven consecutive five-setters began at the 2011 US Open, and until his meeting with Monaco, had encompassed two more losses and four wins, including his first and second round Wimbledon victories over Marcel Granollers and Martin Klizan.
The 34th-ranked Serbian was understandably determined to get the job done far more efficiently this time around. “I really needed a three-set win,“ he conceded. “I don’t know if it went to a fourth or a fifth if I would have the energy for that.”
Troicki would need all his tenacity for that to occur, the No.2 Court match interrupted by rain after the first game, then played in windy conditions thereafter. There were also other frustrations for Troicki, who, in the second game of the match, became unsettled after challenging a call mid-rally only to have the Hawkeye system malfunction and the point awarded against him. Monaco broke serve next game and as the world No. 14 combined some inspired net play with deft placement from the back of the court, the Argentine was soon serving for the first set.
However an error-riddled game from Monaco, who until 2012 had never won a match at Wimbledon in four previous attempts, allowed Troicki to gain the crucial break back. Two games later, the Serbian broke serve again and with a beautiful running forehand into the corner of the court, claimed the first set in 58 minutes.
The second set was a near reversal of the first, Troicki breaking serve in the third game and with Monaco’s unforced error count growing, the Serbian served for the set in the sixth game. But after opening that game with a pair of double faults, Monaco broke back, just as Troicki had done in the first set. The difference this time was the recovery, Troicki remaining patient until another break of serve allowed him the 7-5 victory.
Finally Troicki was on track for a straightforward progression at a major, even if Monaco kept pushing. After trading consecutive breaks of serves in the fifth and sixth games, Troicki broke again in the eighth game and this time served confidently as he closed out the straight-sets victory in 2hr and 38mins.
With a relatively even 38 winners to Monaco’s 33, the statistics showed a critical difference in Troicki’s 13 aces, compared to none from his higher-ranked opponent. But Troicki believes he’s capable of better, and hopes his serve can be a factor against Djokovic, whom he has beaten only once in 12 meetings.
“We know each other well, there is not going to be any new things,” said the 34th-ranked Troicki, who is determined to extend his best Wimbledon run.
“My goal was to reach the second week and I made it. I hope I don’t stop here. I will for sure not think about my next opponent, I will just think about myself and try to play my best. It means a lot to me to be in the fourth round.”