Novak Djokovic may have lost only one match this year. That doesn’t mean the Australian Open tennis champion won’t lose his cool.
Down a break of serve in the second set against Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus two days ago, the Serb smashed his racket on the grass of Wimbledon’s Centre Court. After the umpire’s warning for racket abuse, he dropped the set, then came back to win the next two to beat the 2006 semifinalist. The victory set up a meeting with French lefthander Michael Llodra today on Court No. 1 for a place in the quarterfinals.
“It was frustrating, I cannot lie,” Djokovic, a semifinalist last year and in 2007, told a news conference. “I did lose my temper a bit. But I came back. I thought, even though I haven’t returned the best, I still had a lot of chances. I was missing from the baseline a lot. So this is something that I was frustrated about.”
Unlike six-time winner Roger Federer of Switzerland and defending champion Rafael Nadal of Spain, who both rarely lose their cool in matches, Djokovic is emotional at times.
“In my case it helps sometimes, even though it doesn’t look great,” said Djokovic, 24. “Look, I’m not going to change who I am. I can work on some things, but my temper is my temper. My character is my character.”
After a day of rest yesterday on the “middle Sunday,” the entire men’s and women’s fourth rounds will be played on what’s dubbed Manic Monday.
On Centre Court, Andy Murray, the No. 4 seed from Britain, plays France’s Richard Gasquet, followed by five-time champion Venus Williams against Tsvetana Pironkova, a Bulgarian who beat the American at Wimbledon last year.
Men’s top seed Nadal plays former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina. On Court No. 1, defending champion Serena Williams faces former finalist Marion Bartoli, the No. 9 seed from France. No. 3 seed Federer plays Mikhail Youzhny, the No. 18 seed from Russia, in the last match of the day.
Two-time major winner Djokovic had entered the French Open last month with a chance of taking the No. 1 spot away from Nadal if he’d made the final. Instead, Federer beat him in the semifinals, ending the Serb’s start-of-season winning streak at 41 matches, one fewer than John McEnroe’s record set in 1984.
“After Paris, of course you can say: On the one hand, you didn’t lose 41 matches and then you lose one,” Marian Vajda, Djokovic’s coach since 2006, said in an interview shortly before the start of Wimbledon. “On the other hand, it was a difficult match. But he has to forget about this match as soon as possible. That was my goal. Try and help him concentrate on his next tournament, Wimbledon.”
Seeded second, Djokovic once again has a shot at becoming the top-ranked player on the ATP World Tour if he reaches his first final at the All England Club, or if Nadal doesn’t retain his title.
Djokovic isn’t underestimating his next opponent Llodra, the No. 19 seed whom he’s beaten twice in three matches.
“He’s dangerous for anybody if he serves well, he’s one of the few serve-and-volley players nowadays,” Djokovic said. “The fact that he’s a lefty gives him a little advantage because there aren’t many lefties around. He’s a very aggressive player. He likes to be on the net. He can be trouble. But I need to return well.”