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Ruthless Djokovic puts friendship to one side

by Helen Gilbert
Monday 2 July 2012

Novak Djokovic is a man who likes to do things differently. He is the world No.1 after all. And while late night finishes under the closed Centre Court roof have become somewhat of a tradition of late, the Serb decided to resist the trend on Monday night and complete his straightforward 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 victory over fellow countryman Viktor Troicki just shy of 8pm.

The defending champion confessed after the match that it was not easy playing against his good friend, Davis Cup team-mate and soon-to-be Olympics partner but his blistering form told a rather different story and sent a clear warning to his main rivals that he had no intention of being usurped from his Wimbledon throne.

“It's hard to kind of express the emotions, you know, to celebrate or to be angry,” he said on playing against his mate. “Really it's kind of difficult what to do and how to behave on the court when you're playing one of your best friends. The first match we played is one local tournament when I was eight and he was nine years old. So we go back a long time. We won Davis Cup together. We are very good friends in the private life.”

Even so, Djokovic showed no mercy against his 26-year-old buddy, a chap he has beaten on 11 previous occasions. He glided around the court in trademark Nole–style generating crisp, clean shots that pinned his opponent to the back of the court and when the moment arose he executed points – be it overheads, drop shots or sparkling groundstrokes with incredible precision.

Troicki came unstuck on serve in the fourth game of the opening set where he fired off loose forehands and a netted backhand gifted Djokovic the game. The errors appeared contagious. Next it was the top seed’s turn to hit a string of sloppy shots and one game later he had been broken straight back. It was a momentary blip as Djokovic went on to win the set and drop only four more games in the final two sets. “At the start I needed some time to get the rhythm and to kind of figure out where he's going to serve because he has a big first serve,” he said.

The title-holder also admitted that he had the advantage of playing previous matches under the roof, unlike his opponent who was experiencing the closed arena for the first time. “There is a difference I think in the speed of the ball that travels through the air. I think it's a bit slower than what it's played outdoors. And I talked with Viktor who had his debut under the roof here, and he said it's much slower than his previous matches. So for me I kind of got used to it. I played only the first match outdoors, and then all the three next ones were under the closed roof.''

Djokovic, who faces either Richard Gasquet or Florian Mayer in the quarter-finals, was delighted with his performance. “I returned really well; I served great. The baseline game, I was patient and waiting for a chance to be aggressive. Everything was quite compact, and I'm satisfied.” And so he should be. The five-time Grand Slam title holder fired off 31 winners compared to Troicki’s 15 during the swift 90-minute contest and hit only 11 unforced errors.

At the end, he embraced his compatriot and shared a few warm words. “All these things are playing around with your emotions a little bit but in the end we are professionals. Doesn't matter who is across the net, you want to win,” he added.


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