Tennis-Wolf-man Djokovic downs Kudla to reach last 16

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·3 min read
Wimbledon
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By Toby Davis

LONDON (Reuters) -Novak Djokovic roared into the fourth round at Wimbledon, raising his game, and occasionally the decibel levels, on Court One to dispatch plucky American qualifier Denis Kudla 6-4 6-3 7-6(7) on Friday.

World number one Djokovic spent much of the third-round encounter cruising on auto-pilot but there were moments when the going got tough for the Serb against the 114th-ranked Kudla.

Djokovic, however, knows how to turn up the volume, literally at times, and accompanied by a few chest-thumping shouts, he dug deep to subdue the fiery Kudla and continue onwards in his quest for a sixth Wimbledon title.

Djokovic upped the ante at key moments in the first two sets to take the match away from Kudla and when his back was against the wall in the third, trailing 4-1 and then by the same score in the tiebreak, he showed a stubborn determination to hang tough.

Few can match Djokovic when it comes to his wilful refusal to buckle under pressure and the Serb has an inkling of why that stubborn streak is embedded deep in his sporting soul.

"Part of it is genes, my family, the way I have grown up during difficult times in the 90s for my country," he said referring to the NATO bombings of Belgrade during the Kosovo War.

"Failure was never an option for me or my family, we had to find a way to fund the basic needs to survive...

"I spent a lot of time in the mountains with wolves and this is wolf energy there. I am not kidding," he added after setting up a fourth round clash with Chile's 17th seed Cristian Garin

A lot is riding on this Wimbledon for Djokovic. He is halfway to the calendar-year sweep of all four majors and can also match Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal's men's record haul of 20 Grand Slam titles.

On current form, it will take a lot to knock him off course, but there were times when Kudla at least managed to rattle his cage.

Djokovic seemed to be playing with the handbrake on for much of the first set, but he tugged on the throttle when it mattered, breaking the American for the first time to take the opener and then again to open a 2-0 lead in the second.

Kudla, however, broke back, leading an optimistic fan to shout that he was "under the skin" of the Serb.

Djokovic, perhaps offended by the affront, was brutal in his retribution.

He immediately broke again and when Kudla threatened to strike back, Djokovic greeted each point won with bellowing roars of "come on" repeated over and over until the crowd got the message.

Kudla would not go down without a final stand and snatched an early break in the third, which he held on to until the seventh game and then he streaked into the lead in the tiebreak when Djokovic's first four serves were all off target.

He would not be dragged into a fourth set, however, and after a final 19-shot rally on Djokovic's second match point, Kudla finally succumbed before being applauded off court by the Serb.

(Reporting by Toby Davis, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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