A Wimbledon Cliffhanger Leaves Novak Djokovic Dangling


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Novak Djokovic, left, and Kevin Anderson after play was suspended because of darkness.

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Glyn Kirk/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WIMBLEDON, England — A bid for a shocking upset at Wimbledon, or perhaps a remarkable recovery, was interrupted Monday when darkness interceded to produce a tennis cliffhanger that should be decided on Tuesday.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, staggered after two sets of overpowering serves from Kevin Anderson, regained his balance to even the match just before dark. Then, a few minutes after 9 p.m. local time, the match was suspended at two sets each, to be resumed Tuesday at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. Eastern).

Anderson won the first two sets, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (6), thanks in large part to his aggressive serve. But Djokovic, the defending champion, took the next two, 6-1, 6-4, and the last image before the players walked off together after 3 hours 3 minutes was of Djokovic pumping his fists.

The first four sets were played on Court 1, which has no lights. Centre Court does, but Wimbledon usually does not want to change the conditions of a match midway through it.

When the chair umpire announced that the match would be suspended, the crowd grumbled and booed the decision. But it was just too dark to play on, and as the players walked out, the boos turned into an appreciative standing ovation for both.

It was difficult to say who might benefit more from the suspension. Djokovic had seized the momentum, but Anderson was still playing well in the fourth set.

Anderson, who is from South Africa and played at the University of Illinois, had 32 aces, including one on a second serve, and double-faulted six times. He won 81 percent of his first serves.

But like a pitcher in baseball, he could wake up Tuesday morning with a stiff shoulder after all those powerhouse serves, especially the ones up the middle that had Djokovic dancing out of the way and the ones out wide that had him flailing.

Djokovic entered the match with a 44-3 record on the year. His only losses were to another big server, Ivo Karlovic, in a quarterfinal at the Qatar tournament on Jan. 8; Roger Federer in Dubai on Feb. 28; and Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final last month.

Djokovic had won 29 matches in a row before losing to Wawrinka in Paris. He had beaten Anderson in four of their previous five meetings, and Anderson’s only victory came in their first encounter, in the Miami tournament seven years ago.

Even if Djokovic wins, his routine may be thrown off. At the French Open last month, Djokovic’s semifinal match against Andy Murray was suspended because of an approaching storm with Djokovic ahead by two sets to one and the fourth set tied at 3-3. Play resumed the next day, and Djokovic won in five sets.

But a day after that, he lost to Wawrinka in the final, although Djokovic did not complain about a lack of rest.

Still, Marin Cilic, the reigning United States Open champion, could be the beneficiary this time around: On Wednesday, he will face the winner of the Djokovic-Anderson match. Cilic, the No. 9 seed, beat Denis Kudla, the last American in the men’s draw, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

Kudla was in the fourth round of a Grand Slam event for the first time. He played in two lower-level events on grass leading up to Wimbledon, reaching the finals in one and winning the other.

“I pretty much couldn’t ask for really a better run except for obviously winning the tournament,” Kudla said, “but that would be a dream come true. It’s another story.”

In the other quarterfinal in the top half of the draw, Wawrinka will face Richard Gasquet. Wawrinka, the No. 4 seed, continued his dominant form by beating David Goffin of Belgium, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7), 6-4. The match was Wawrinka’s closest yet, but he still has not lost a set.

Should Anderson pull off the upset against Djokovic, everyone left in the draw will benefit, including second-seeded Roger Federer, who continued to steamroll through the bottom half of the draw by blasting Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3. The match was played on Centre Court, in deference to Federer’s seven Wimbledon titles. Had Djokovic been on Centre Court with Anderson, their match could have continued with the roof closed and the lights on.

In the quarterfinals, Federer will face 12th-seeded Gilles Simon, who ousted No. 6 Tomas Berdych, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

Third-seeded Andy Murray, who is also in Federer’s half of the draw, downed Karlovic, 7-6 (7), 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. He will next play unseeded Vasek Pospisil.

A 25-year-old Canadian, Pospisil rallied from two sets down to beat the No. 22 seed, Viktor Troicki, by 4-6, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal for the first time.

Two hours after that match ended, Pospisil and Jack Sock, the defending men’s doubles champions, took the court against John Peers and Jamie Murray, Andy’s brother.

That match also lasted five sets, with Pospisil’s team nearly pulling off another rally from two sets down. Peers and Murray prevailed, though, 6-3, 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 3-6, 8-6. In all, Pospisil was on court for 5 hours 58 minutes on Monday.



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