Re­ju­ve­nated Djokovic re­lieved pas­sion’s back

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS -

LON­DON — Three-time cham­pion No­vak Djokovic ad­mit­ted on Satur­day that he has re­dis­cov­ered his pas­sion for ten­nis af­ter mak­ing Wim­ble­don’s fourth round for the 10th time.

The for­mer world No 1 eased to a 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2) win over Ernests Gul­bis of Latvia to set up a last-16 clash with un­seeded Adrian Man­nar­ino of France.

It’s a far cry from 12 months ago when Djokovic was bun­dled out in the third round by Sam Quer­rey.

That de­feat trig­gered a sharp de­cline which saw the Serb re­lieved of all four of the ma­jors he had held at the same time.

On Satur­day, his for­mer coach Boris Becker said he had wit­nessed enough in the first week of Wim­ble­don to con­firm that Djokovic is back in love with the sport.

“Boris knows me very well. So he’s right when he says that the pas­sion is back,” said Djokovic.

“I’ve been feel­ing bet­ter on the court in the last cou­ple of months.

“But es­pe­cially on the grass court this sea­son so far, ev­ery match that I’ve played, I felt very com­fort­able.

“When you’re play­ing well, then you’re feel­ing well, then you’re even more mo­ti­vated and pas­sion­ate to see how far it can take you.”

Se­cond seed Djokovic will take a 1-0 ca­reer lead over left­handed Man­nar­ino into Mon­day’s last-16 clash.

Twelve months ago he de­feated the French­man in the se­cond round.

“I’m de­lighted with the per­for­mance. I thought I raised the level of ten­nis,” said Djokovic af­ter mak­ing the se­cond week with­out drop­ping a set.

“Com­par­ing to the first cou­ple of matches and the last cou­ple of weeks, I think this was the most fo­cused I was on the court.”

Gul­bis, now ranked at a lowly 589 af­ter once reach­ing No 10 in the world in 2014 when he de­feated Roger Fed­erer on his way to the French Open semi­fi­nals, fired 37 un­forced er­rors to Djokovic’s mea­ger 12.

“It’s not easy ob­vi­ously play­ing on grass against a big server like that,” said Djokovic of his child­hood friend Gul­bis, who he has now de­feated six times in seven meet­ings.

“I’m very pleased with the way I’ve felt, the way I’ve played.”

AN­DREW COULDRIDGE / REUTERS

Ser­bia’s No­vak Djokovic cel­e­brates beat­ing Latvia’s Ernests Gul­bis at Wim­ble­don on Satur­day.

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