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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Djokovic quells fighting qualifier

Photo Titled Greul puffing
Simon Greul was given a work out on No.1 Court against the forth seed Novak Djokovic.
There cannot have been many observers on No.1 Court expecting much of Simon Greul in his second-round match against fourth seed Novak Djokovic. But if winning was way too much for him, the German qualifier instead secured a lot of new friends with his entertaining attacking play, before Djokovic emerged the 7-5, 6-1, 6-4 winner.

Greul is a 28-year-old journeyman of the men’s Tour, currently ranked 106 with a career high of 75 three years ago. Even at junior level, he had never won a single match on grass before last week’s qualifying event at Roehampton.

His trio of victories there were the more remarkable because he had not played on grass in the past three years. Moreover, his first-round win over Michael Yani in the main draw on Monday was his first Grand Slam victory in six attempts. So when it came to facing the number four seed for a place in the third round, the odds were not exactly loaded in his favour.

But Greul was not interested in the odds. Loose shots from Djokovic, along with a double fault, handed a break to the German in the first game. Greul was developing a taste for grasscourt play, fooling his opponent with an approach to the net and a great dropshot on the half-volley.

But when he tried another dropshot from the baseline, it tipped back on the wrong side of the net to give Djokovic break point. Worse, Greul delivered his first double fault, and the match was back on level terms.

Djokovic was playing a little better, but still seemed to be spending a lot of time talking furiously to himself with his eyes to the skies, or bellowing in annoyance, or banging his racket irritably on the soles of his shoes. In short, he did not seem to be enjoying himself.

At 5-6 Greul saved a set point with an unreturnable serve but a complete mis-hit brought up another. When he sent a forehand wide the set was gone.

This time last year 22-year-old Djokovic provided the shock of the second round by going out to eventual semi-finalist Marat Safin. Nor has 2009 been a vintage year for the Serb. He surrendered his Australian Open title at the quarter-final stage and went out in the third round at Roland Garros last month to Philipp Kohlschreiber.

He must have wondered if he was in for another tough set when Gruel notched up a trio of break points in the opening game of the second set. Djokovic’s discomfort was evident from his ever-increasing bounces of the ball before serving. Greul got the break, and the Serb hurled his racket to the ground.

This time it was Djokovic who broke back at once, and only then did Greul begin to wilt mentally. Djokovic broke again for 3-1, and the momentum was with him. Greul’s decline continued, and by the time he lost the set 6-1 he had not won a single point on his first serve throughout it.
Djokovic won his eighth straight game in a row to get to 2-0 in the third. Greul refused to submit and levelled for 2-2, but Djokovic forced his way through again. Yet Greul still would not lie down and in a marathon effort took it to 3-3, and then 4-4. But the next game was decided by a Greul error, and Djokovic served out at 5-4 to win in a minute under two hours.

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