LONDON (REUTERS) – Novak Djokovic might have needed a sat-nav to find his way to Court Two at Wimbledon but once he reached his outback destination it was all one-way traffic as he zoomed into round three with a 6-1 6-2 6-3 win over Horacio Zeballos on Thursday (July 5).
The last time Djokovic was serenaded by excited fans as he made his way from the locker room to an outside court at the All England Club was in 2009, when he played a fourth-round match against Dudi Sela on Court 3.
Since then he has become accustomed to playing in the biggest arenas the sport has to offer while amassing a Grand Slam trophy haul of 12 – including three at Wimbledon – and collecting more than US$100 million (S$130 million) in prize money.
While the audience numbers were more limited on Court Two compared with his usual playing fields of Centre and Court One, Djokovic made it a day to remember for the 4,000 fans who had crammed into the more intimate arena.
“I was enjoying it. I’ve never played on this new Court Two (which opened in 2009). I played on the old Court Two ... Yeah, long time ago,” said a grinning Djokovic.
“What was different is the walk to the court. Obviously the crowd, everybody cheering you on, wishing you luck, (and) after the match congratulating you. That was quite special, quite different.
“I haven’t experienced that in a while in Wimbledon,” added the Serbian, who usually uses the club’s private underground network of tunnels to navigate his way around the grounds.
Djokovic coasted towards his 60th win at Wimbledon by breaking his 126th-ranked Argentine opponent six times and fired down 15 aces.
The only cause for concern was when Djokovic suddenly started wincing while running along the baseline in the seventh game of the third set and called on the trainer to get his left thigh massaged.
That interruption only delayed the inevitable for Zeballos, who lost both games after the resumption to bow out.
Twelve months after Djokovic’s 2017 season came to an abrupt end at Wimbledon, when he retired in the quarter-finals with an elbow injury, the Serbian served notice that he should be considered one of the title contenders despite being ranked only 21st in the world.
He has dropped only 12 games in two matches and appeared in top form on Thursday – until the sight of a trainer massaging his thigh raised a few question marks.
Djokovic, however, was confident the “twitch” would sort itself out over the next 24 hours.
“It seems like it’s nothing major. It’s most likely a twitch in the muscle... that has affected the knee a little bit,” he said.
“Hopefully it’s nothing that will concern me.” The 12th seed will next take on either home hope Kyle Edmund or American Bradley Klahn.