WIMBLEDON, England—While many of the top men failed to survive the minefield that was week one at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic thrived. He beat the highest-ranked unseeded player in the draw and didn’t lose a set, winning his last five by scores of 6-3 or better. Considering the fallen around him, Djokovic’s third-round disassembly of 28th-seeded Jeremy Chardy, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, was as convincing a result as we’ve seen this week.
Chardy had been unable to win a set from Djokovic in their six previous matches, and it was quickly apparent that he wasn’t going to end that run of futility today on Centre Court. It’s usually Djokovic’s return that does the most damage, but his serve inflicted the greatest pain today. He lost six points on serve in the entire match, breezing through practically every service game and putting the pressure on Chardy to answer. For a short while, he did—the beginning of this match resembled the start of Djokovic’s second-rounder against Bobby Reynolds, which saw the American muster a number of tough holds to force a first-set tiebreaker. Chardy wouldn’t get far; a triple-break-point deficit in the eighth game was too deep a hole to climb out of. Djokovic broke the Frenchman with the running backhand pass he’s known for, echoing a running backhand lob winner he struck six games earlier.
That would be the closest Chardy got to the world No. 1. Djokovic tallied service games and break points with scant interruption, establishing total control of the match as the sun began to set on a warm, summer day in southwest London. Chardy’s finest effort, even if it ended badly for him, came when he served down 3-1 in set two. He recovered from 0-40 thanks to the strength of his first serve, and saved two more break chances with two more unreturned darts. Chardy's serve was the only weapon he had against an in-form Djokovic on this day, despite frequent misfires.
But Chardy tempted fate once too many, for on Djokovic’s sixth break point of the game, his return landed in. It was not a hard or well-placed return, landing comfortably in front of Chardy and sitting up at the ideal hitting height. But with his revolver disarmed, Chardy fittingly dumped the easy shot into net. Djokovic never looked back, breaking to open the third set and consolidating at love before winning in 86 minutes.
Chardy was superior to Djokovic in one way today: He earned the loudest ovation of the match. Chardy received it when taking the balls down 5-1 in the third set, the crowd hoping against the odds that he'd extend the match. To their delight, he did, saving a match point in a multi-deuce game. They paid him back with that very French tradition, the wave. It was one of the kindest ways I’ve seen a crowd wave a loser good-bye at a sporting event.
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