Novak Djokovic will open Centre Court on Wednesday afternoon, satisfying some of the previous gripes he had with court placement compared to the other top men in the draw. Djokovic plays Kei Nishikori for a spot in what would be his first slam semi final since US Open 2016. A mix of injury and loss of form has ruined most of the past 18 months for the Serbian, who looks much improved from even a few months back.
Djokovic overwhelmed Karen Khachanov on Manic Monday, breaking the Russian 7 times on the way to a 6-2 6-2 6-4 win. Like his previous opponent Kyle Edmund, Khachanov was one of the highly touted young crop but he failed to trouble Djokovic at all despite an opening game break. With time running out, he managed to avoid his match carrying over to Tuesday but will not have been happy at a 7pm start. Despite that, he was pleased with his evenings work. “I’m really happy the way I played tonight. I managed to win in straight sets against a player in form. I was really pleased with my second and third set. Really, really pleased. I made him play a lot. I served accurately, picking my spots, not really forcing the serve too much, trying to get easier first shot in the rally.” he said.
Nishikori was pushed hard by an inspired Ernests Gulbis for much of his 4-6 7-6 7-6 6-1 win over the Latvian. The Japanese had to twice save set point on return in the third set, breaking much of Gulbis’ resistance by going 2-1 up. He then picked up his only two breaks of the day in the fourth, a far cry from the opening two sets where he did not have a single break opportunity.
A 12 match losing streak is a bad omen for Nishikori, who has twice suffered losses to the 2018 incarnation of Djokovic. “He’s a big-match player. He doesn’t get affected too much by the big occasions. In contrary, he actually delivers his best. So that’s what I expect him to do. Hopefully we can have a good match.” Djokovic said on his opponent. With the former champion looking much closer to his previous elite status, it’s likely to be an unlucky 13 in a row.
Prediction – Novak Djokovic in four sets