Novak Djokovic defeats Alexei Popyrin at Wimbledon

Match Report

Djokovic pulls past Popyrin to reach Wimbledon R4

Seven-time champion will play 15th seed Rune next

Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images Novak Djokovic in action against Alexei Popyrin on Saturday at Wimbledon. By ATP Staff

Novak Djokovic was made by Alexei Popyrin to dig deep at a major for the second time this year on Saturday evening at Wimbledon.

Popyrin tested Djokovic with his big-serving, big-hitting game on Centre Court, but the seven-time champion raised his level at key moments to secure a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) third-round triumph and set a meeting against 15th seed Holger Rune.

Djokovic, who also needed four sets to shake off Popyrin at January’s Australian Open, reacted well to dropping the opener in the pair’s third Lexus ATP Head2Head clash. The No. 2 in the PIF ATP Rankings dialled in on serve and during the match became just the sixth player to record 1000+ aces at Wimbledon, while his consistency from the baseline was also key to wearing his opponent down.

He’s done it again 🔥

Djokovic takes the win over Popyrin 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3)@Wimbledon | #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/eOi016ZZnQ — ATP Tour (@atptour) July 6, 2024

“It was another tough match. I didn’t expect anything less than what we experienced on the court today from Alexei,” said Djokovic in his on-court interview. “I knew he was going to come into the match with confidence, with a lot of self-belief. He was close to winning that match we played against each other in Australia earlier this year.

“With that serve and powerful forehand, he is dangerous on any surface. I watched him play the first couple of rounds and knew he was in form and he was going to come out on the court believing he could win. That’s how he started, he was the better player for the first set, and then I stepped it up. I think I played a really good second and third, and the fourth really was anybody’s game.”

The match included an amusing moment as Popyrin served at 1-4, 30/30 in the second set. A huge cheer went up around the All England Club, where many were simultaneously following the England men’s national football team in a Euro 2024 quarter-final penalty shootout against Switzerland. As the crowd suddenly cheered an England win, Djokovic mimicked shooting a penalty across the net, while Popyrin jokingly pretended he was the goalie.

“I assumed that it was a penalty shootout between England and Switzerland. It felt like for a set and a half that the crowd really wanted to understand what the score was,” joked Djokovic. “I tried to shoot a penalty. I’m left-footed, but Alexei defended it well.”

There was to be no saving the second set, or indeed the match, for Popyrin. The record 24-time major champion Djokovic quickly levelled proceedings and then rode a break in the opening game to the third set. Although Popyrin rejuvenated his hopes of forcing a decider by holding from 5-5, 0/40 to force a fourth-set tie-break, Djokovic dominated from then on to secure a three-hour, five-minute win.

By reaching the fourth round for the 16th time, Djokovic has tied Jimmy Connors in second place on the Open Era list of most last-16 appearances at Wimbledon. Only record eight-time champion Roger Federer has more (18).

Rune set the Djokovic clash with a 1-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-1 victory against Frenchman Quentin Halys.

The 15th seed was in deep trouble against his big-serving opponent, who was seemingly in control on Court 18. Later in the match due to rain, the clash was moved to No. 1 Court, where the Dane was able to tilt the encounter in his favour.

Rune rallied from two sets down to win for the first time in his career. His five-set record is now 4-3, and 2-1 this year.

The 21-year-old has earned two of the biggest wins of his career against Djokovic, who leads their Lexus ATP Head2Head series 3-2. Rune notably upset the Serbian in the 2022 Rolex Paris Masters final.

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