Novak up and running on grass

Novak Djokovic hitting a forehand during his rain-interrupted opener at Eastbourne against Canadian Vasek Pospisil. He won 6-4, 6-3.
Novak Djokovic hitting a forehand during his rain-interrupted opener at Eastbourne against Canadian Vasek Pospisil. He won 6-4, 6-3.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Serb wins his first grass-court match of the year, hopes to be ready for Wimbledon

LONDON • Top seed Novak Djokovic passed his first grass-court test of the season yesterday, defeating Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals at Eastbourne.

The Serb is playing a pre-Wimbledon event for the first time since 2010 after taking a wildcard entry in a bid to ensure he is up to speed for the third Grand Slam of the year, which starts on Monday.

The three-time Wimbledon champion returned to court yesterday leading 1-0 after rain washed out most of Tuesday's play, leaving organisers with a backlog to get through.

He claimed his fifth victory without a defeat against Pospisil, who is now 4-22 in his career against top-10 opponents.

Djokovic, the world No. 4, is the second-highest-ranked men's player to ever compete at the Aegon International behind then-No. 2 Marcelo Rios in 1998, but he is taking nothing for granted.

"Don't underestimate. I'm glad that I came here to Eastbourne," the 30-year-old said.

"I have had a great couple of days of training with good players, different styles of game. Yesterday, we obviously started the match and it wasn't really enjoyable to see the rain falling all day.

"But today we kind of played a full match, so I'm glad for that. I felt good on the court, considering it was my first grass-court match. I played against an opponent that has a really good game for grass.

"He serves well, comes to the net and has good variety. It was a really, really solid win. I'm happy with it.

"I will keep going. Wimbledon is just around the corner but all my focus is now on this week."

Regardless of what happens at Eastbourne, the good news for Djokovic is that he will not face any of his fellow members of the "Big Four" - Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - until the semi-finals at the All England Club, following the announcement of the seedings yesterday.

It is the first time since Wimbledon in 2014 that the quartet have been the top four seeds at a Grand Slam event.

Djokovic and seven-time champion Federer both benefited from Wimbledon organisers' habit of not sticking blindly to the world rankings for players' seedings.

Djokovic was raised to second in the seedings despite being world No. 4 and the Swiss master was promoted to be the third seed from a global ranking of five, with second-ranked Nadal dropping down to be the fourth seed.

World No. 1 Murray will hope to bounce back from a shock first-round defeat at the hands of Australian Jordan Thompson at last week's Queen's tournament.

His fellow top seed at Wimbledon, women's world No.1 Angelique Kerber of Germany, was in second-round action at Eastbourne yesterday.

She defeated Czech Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 while Roland Garros finalist and world No. 2 Simona Halep rallied to beat China's Duan Yingying 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 29, 2017, with the headline 'Novak up and running on grass'. Print Edition | Subscribe