Seven-time champion Roger Federer reached the Wimbledon fourth round for the 15th time on Saturday with a 7-6 (3), 6-4, 6-4 win over Germany’s Mischa Zverev, despite suffering from a head cold.
Federer will face Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
“I’m feeling better. I’m definitely feeling better. Today I feel 50 per cent better than I did two days ago. I’m happy things are progressing well, and I hope that on Monday I’m back to 100 per cent,” said Federer, referring to the cold.
“I thought it was a fun match to play against a serve-and-volley player. You’ll always see some lobs, passing shots and drop shots,” added the Swiss after a fifth win over Zverev, three of which have come this year.
The victory was Federer’s 317th at a Grand Slam as he continues his bid to become the oldest ever Wimbledon champion.
“We go one round at a time and I must say it’s always the first goal to get to the second week at some stage,” he said. “I’m very happy now to sit back, relax a day and come back strong, hopefully on Monday.”
Federer has never lost to Dimitrov in five meetings.
However, just like the Swiss, 13th seeded Dimitrov has yet to drop a set at this year’s Wimbledon and was a semi-finalist in 2014.
“Every time I play against him he’s stronger than the time before. He’s in the perfect age right now where he starts to understand his game best,” Federer said.
“He’s physically strong, he’s mentally taken the next step again. That’s what you expect from a player of his calibre. I’m ready for a tough one but sure again, another exciting match because he’s a great shotmaker.”
Meanwhile, three-time champion Novak Djokovic admitted on Saturday that he has rediscovered his passion for tennis after making the Wimbledon fourth round for the 10th time.
The former world number one 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, a defeat which precipitated a decline which saw him relieved of all the four 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 the Serb has rediscovered his love of 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 left-handed Mannarino into Monday’s last-16 clash. Twelve months ago he defeated the Frenchman in the second round.
Gulbis, now ranked at a lowly 589 after once reaching 10 in the world in 2014 when he defeated Roger Federer on his way to the French Open semi-finals, fired 37 unforced errors to Djokovic’s meagre 12.
Ernests Gulbis says he is mentally ready for the grind of the Challenger tour and ATP qualifying tournaments as he attempts to return to the top 100 following his surprise run to the third round at Wimbledon.
The Latvian former top-10 player fell to Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-1, 7-6 (2) on Centre Court at the All England Club on Saturday, in what Gulbis describes as a “surreal experience”.
Gulbis, who was out of action from June 2016 to February 2017 due to a wrist injury, has been struggling with his fitness since his return and came to Wimbledon with little expectation and having barely practiced in the build-up due to an abdominal tear.
Ranked No589 in the world and playing Wimbledon with a protected ranking, he beat Victor Estrella Burgos and No29 seed Juan Martin del Potro in the first two rounds before losing to Djokovic in the last 32.
Gulbis led Djokovic by a break in the opening set before the three-time champion reeled him in, and finished him off in two hours and 13 minutes.
“I felt actually really good, because I started really good as you saw, I broke him and I wasn’t nervous at all, I was extremely calm, it was a good feeling,” explained Gulbis, whose first round win over Estrella Burgos was his first tour-level main draw victory in 13 months.
“I gave away the second set much too easy, and the third set I started to play longer rallies and probably I started a little bit too well because then I had it in my head that I had to finish every rally as soon as possible and that was the mistake in the second set.
“In the third set I just switched it a little bit, I tried to play longer rallies and I just saw that I can play those rallies with him. I had to do it already in the second set.”
Gulbis says he walks away from Wimbledon with some confidence but he needs to prove to himself that he can keep up that level.
His ranking will move up to inside the top-350 and he plans on playing qualies in Montreal, Cincinnati, Winston Salem and US Open with his protected ranking. Outside those events, he will need to receive wildcards to get into qualifying at tournaments.
He was denied wildcards for Bastad and Umag and is trying to put together the best schedule possible given his ranking.
“I was hoping some tournaments were going to give me wildcards for qualies at least but I don’t think that’s going to be the case,” he explained.
Does he think his run at Wimbledon might encourage some tournament directors to give him wildcards?
“I don’t think so because it’s tough for them also, they have a small qualies draw, they have only two wildcards, they need to give them to some local juniors, it’s tough, you can understand that, I cannot blame them. If you’re lucky you get it,” said Gulbis.
The 28-year-old is not discouraged by the tough battle he has ahead of him.
“I’m ready for it, mentally I’m up for it, hopefully the body’s fine,” he said.
“Maybe I’ll play a Challenger right before Gstaad, because in Gstaad I’ll use my protected ranking, I’m third out, so normally third out, there’s two special exempt places so I think I have a good chance to get in.
“So I’ll play a small Challenger before, then go to Gstaad then hopefully I’ll get a special exempt in Kitzbuhel and then I’ll be on my way to the States. I have a plan,” he added with a laugh. “But it’s a risky plan.”
Gulbis had the Centre Court crowd behind him towards the end of the match, as they roared when he held for 6-5 late in the third.
“That I felt yes, and I enjoyed it,” admitted Gulbis. “Probably it’s motivation yes. There are a lot of positive things I can take from this tournament.”
On his part, Djokovic was happy to close out the match in three sets and now looks head to a fourth round against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.
“Ernests Gulbis is someone that is very unpredictable and has a huge serve, with that kind of game, very powerful, fast game from back of the court. It’s not easy to play against him on this surface,” said the No2 seed, who had suffered a shock .
“I’m really pleased that I managed to win in straight sets against him, especially in the third set where he started serving better, higher percentage of first serves. He kind of gave it a last shot. I thought he played a good quality tennis. But I managed to hang on with him and play a very good tiebreak. I think that only can boost my confidence level for whatever is coming up next.”
Gulbis was asked to make an assessment of Djokovic’s level but found it difficult to analyse.
“Tough to say really. I haven’t been playing at the top level recently, and for me it felt a little bit surreal at some point, so I wasn’t really in the match as I wanted to be,” explained Gulbis, who spent time with Djokovic at the Niki Pilic academy when they were young teenagers.
“I wasn’t feeling nervous in the beginning of the match but in the second set I gave it up too easily and mentally I wasn’t there, so it’s tough for me to say where Novak’s game is. Because I wasn’t there to analyse his game. It’s a different story, when you’ve been around for 20, 30 matches at this level, you analyse your opponent, try to play in his weaknesses or something like that and today that wasn’t the case.
“I was too much in my own world and trying to figure out my own things than to analyse somebody else.”
Gulbis is yet to hire a full-time coach – his friend Pjotr Nechaev has been helping him on a temporary basis – and is still searching for someone suitable. He says he’s keeping an open mind about it but that ideally it would be someone who is technically strong.
When a reporter suggest that Marat Safin is looking to coach someone, Gulbis laughed and said: “I’ll call him but I’ll talk about something else.”
Wimbledon No4 seed Elina Svitolina faces reigning French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the fourth round on Monday.
The Ukrainian is into the second week at Wimbledon for the first time and has been having a stellar 2017, which has landed her at No3 in the Porsche Race to Singapore leaderboard.
Sport360 caught up with Svitolina at the WTA Pre-Wimbledon Party to find out more about the 22-year-old.