David Ferrer may be thinking he should avoid any opponent in future who holds off-court ambitions to be a rally driver. Not for nothing is Alexandr Dolgopolov’s style of play noted as somewhat mercurial.
In a third round match, which lurched all over the competitive road on No.1 Court, would-be racing driver “Dolgo” slewed the No.4 seed this way and that before the Spaniard finally took the chequered flag with a bumpy victory over the No.26 seed, winning 6-7(6), 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 in three hours and 12 minutes.
“It was a very hard match, very tough,” said 31-year-old Ferrer. “Dolgo is never easy to beat. I tried to fight a lot to be focused in the bad moments and finally I won. It was very nice to play on No.1 Court with the crowd supporting both players. I enjoyed it a lot. Wimbledon is special. It is the best tournament in tennis. It is a dream to play. The toe is ok. I had problems with my ankle [which he hurt when he fell in his first round match on Monday]. But I’m ok. I have time to rest.”
Perhaps mental tiredness was a factor for both players, as each man had played his rain-delayed second round just one day earlier. In Ferrer’s case, both his first and second rounds were four-setters, so whatever else he achieves this Wimbledon, he will not match his Roland Garros feat of reaching the final without dropping a set.
Going into this match Ferrer held a 5-1 career advantage over the Ukrainian, although they had never played on grass. Hence it all looked very unsurprising when the Spanish No.1 (as Ferrer is by dint of his superior world ranking over Rafael Nadal) broke for 3-1. At 5-2, Dolgopolov’s pick-up at the net from Ferrer’s return was all wrong, and brought up set point. But the Ukrainian held, and next game Ferrer’s punching groundstrokes failed him as Dolgopolov broke.
Suddenly the Ukrainian was all confidence, producing winners.
Into the tie-break, and Ferrer fended off one set point with a pass down the line, only to double-fault to hand over another chance. Dolgopolov converted easily with a volley, and at the changeover Ferrer sat chuntering to himself loudly in Spanish.
Dolgopolov held in a five-deuce game at the start of the second, and was clearly enjoying himself hugely, which was considerably more than could be said for his opponent.
Ferrer broke for 2-1, and at 5-3 spat out “Vamos!” with a venom suggesting he thought there was some terrible plot against him.
Somehow Dolgopolov levelled for 5-5, then lost his serve, at which moment Ferrer took a medical timeout for treatment on his right big toe. He wasn’t feeling good and sent a clutch of groundstrokes long to take the set into the breaker. Once there, however, he was easily in control and it was set all.
Clearly this was the cue for the match to return to its expected pattern – instead of which Dolgopolov broke twice and galloped off with the third set in 24 minutes.
The foolproof method of producing far more winners than errors was working for him, while Ferrer’s corresponding stats were in reverse.
Yet, typical of this see-saw match, this was actually the moment when the crisis passed for Ferrer. Errors crowded Dolgopolov’s game once more, and he took a medical timeout of his own at 1-5 for treatment to his right ankle. But his serve had collapsed and in the decider Ferrer broke through for 3-2, before making it a double break before the match was done.
Ferrer must beat Ivan Dodig in the last 16 if he is to match his best career Wimbledon, achieved just last year.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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