Home Sport British wild card Fearnley’s spirited challenge makes Djokovic dig deep

British wild card Fearnley’s spirited challenge makes Djokovic dig deep

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Jacob Fearnley will cherish the memory of being applauded by one of the sport’s all-time greats when he produced a screaming crosscourt winner that went flying past Novak Djokovic to earn him a break point.

Winner Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (left) shakes hands with Britain’s Jacob Fearnley at the end of their men’s singles tennis match on the fourth day of the 2024 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 4, 2024. Picture: Ben Stansall, AFP

EVEN though Novak Djokovic was nursing a dodgy right knee, toppling him at Wimbledon was never going to be easy for a Briton ranked 277th and so it proved as the Serb huffed and puffed into the third round with a 6-3 6-4 5-7 7-5 win over Jacob Fearnley.

The wild card, who was ranked outside the world’s top 500 just a month ago before shooting up almost 250 spots after winning a second-tier Challenger event in Nottingham, will take away many memorable moments from his Centre Court debut.

He is unlikely to forget the ground-shaking, ear-splitting roar Djokovic let out after the Serb broke him for a 3-2 lead in the third set.

Fearnley will also cherish the memory of being applauded by one of the sport’s all-time greats when he produced a screaming crosscourt winner that went flying past Djokovic to earn him a break point in the next game.

No doubt he will remember the thrill of breaking the 24-time Grand Slam champion for the first time, when the Serb dumped a backhand into the net, and the rapturous standing ovation that followed.

Fearnley will also mentally keep replaying the high-risk, high-reward strategy he employed in the final game of the third set, which ended with Djokovic hacking a forehand wide to surrender his serve and the set – to the delight of the hollering crowd.

He had Djokovic on the ropes again after a double fault from the seven-time Wimbledon champion handed Fearnley two break points at 3-2 up in the fourth set.

Once the 37-year-old dodged that danger, it was clear that Djokovic’s unheralded opponent had got under his skin as he agitatedly held up his right forefinger to his lips in an attempt to shush the crowd.

Unsurprisingly, the noisy partisan fans packed into the 15,000-capacity arena turned a deaf ear to that request as the decibel levels kept ratcheting up with every Fearnley winner.

But for all the heroics from the journeyman Scot, who until this week had never won a main tour match or even competed at a Grand Slam, he was simply not enough to tame a player who was chasing a record-extending 372nd match win in a Grand Slam arena.

A forehand winner sealed Djokovic’s passage into round three and ensured he kept up his 100% winning record at the majors against British players not named Andy Murray.

Reuters

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