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Djokovic v Safin as it happened

Men's singles second round result:

N DJOKOVIC (Ser) 3 * v M Safin (Rus)

4-6 6-7 2-6

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By Tom Fordyce at Wimbledon

Djokovic 2-6 Safin
Dreadful start for Djok - his eighth double-fault, and the crowd gasp in horror. He then comes up with his best shot of the day - a pick-up off his toes on the half-volley that leaves Saf stranded - but drives a cross-courter out, and is then dismantled by a brutal Safin backhand drive. Two match points - the first saved with a pinger serve down the middle, the second nervelessly dispatched with a lasher left and raker right. And then - what was that? - another backhand finds the net, and he needs a big second serve to save another. A ninth double follows - fourth match point - and a tenth sends him spiralling out.

What a performance from Safin - most of us thought he was a flush that had been busted, but that was vintage. There's a standing ovation as he jogs to the net and waves to the four corners - Djok can't get off the court quick enough...

Djokovic 2-5 Safin
How can Djok rattle the Safin serve? He goes 40-0 down in fast-forward but then opts for a change of tactics, blocking the ball back and making Safin hit the winners rather than going for broke himself. It starts to work, Marat tightening up as the tape approaches and lurching back to deuce - but that clattering serve blows Djok backwards, and Safin is one game away from a stunning shock.

Djokovic 2-4 Safin
Djok races to 40-0 but then stumbles again, steering a forehand wide and dribbling a second serve way long. He stays strong at the death to keep the Noval nose above water. Four aces, seven doubles from Djok. Read it and weep, Djokfans.

"The tenner I bet on Djok to get to the final is not looking like money well spent at the moment. Of course, had I opted for a flutter on the underdog instead, Novak would no doubt be well on the way to a straight sets victory." Stenner in Exeter via text.

Djokovic 1-4 Safin
Desperation from Djok - at 0-40 and heading nowhere, he flips a forehand long and makes a pointless appeal to the stony-faced Hawk-Eye. Safin strides back to his chair, glugs down some reddish juice and stares moodily at the sky. Two clouds faint.

Djokovic 1-3 Safin
Just what the Djok doctor ordered - a cantering hold to love on the back of blistering boomers. In the stands, a middle-aged woman with arms the colour of marble rubs sun-block energetically into her pinking skin.

Djokovic 0-3 Safin
For once Djok finds his rhythm to sneak to 0-30 on the Safin smashers, but two eye-waterers turn the game around. Djok then wafts on a second serve to blow a good chance of working a break, and despite two more attackable second serves cannot bite back. Animated buzz around the sun-kissed arena.

Djokovic 0-2 Safin
Safin looks as focused as Bill Oddie's binoculars out there. Djokovic, by contrast, is all over the place like Kate Humble's hair. He nets a backhand to give away two break points and then comes up with a double-fault so lame that even Alex Bogdanovic would be embarassed by it.

Djokovic 0-1 Safin
Try this stat for size - Djokovic has only ever won a match from two sets down on one occasion. Although that was at Wimbledon. Safin wobbles at 15-30 but goes boom-boom like the Outhere Brothers to extend his lead.

"Djokovic's rattled right now. Midway through the second set he found his service motion and he started to serve better. Safin has served well in this match but I get the feeling that Safin senses confusion in Djokovic and that has given him confidence. The crowd to me is pulling for Safin - they know his history." John McEnroe in the BBC commentary box.

SECOND SET

Djokovic 6-7 Safin
Angry yell from Djok as he drives a backhand into the tape. Safin then smears two sensational forehands cross-court and forces Djok to hurry a forehand long to move 3-1 up. What a chance. A wonderful stretch to ping back a Djok slider out wide forces another error, and he goes a double mini-break up at 4-1. Djokovic then rages as a line-judge has a very public stinker on a big point and is shamed by Hawk-Eye, Safin times one like Laver down the line and then hurtles down an unstoppable missile to take the set as the crowd roar.

No-one expected this, but what a match it's turning out to be. Caroline Cheese is in danger of melting.

Djokovic 6-6 Safin
At 30-30 he's cruising, but he leans back on a forehand to put it long and then gets careless again to slip to 30-30. A turf-searing first serve pulls his clear and another seals the deal - shoot-out time...

Djokovic 6-5 Safin
As you were - Djok holds with whippy ease, and Safin has to hold to stay in the set.

Djokovic 5-5 Safin
Hold to love - it was the tie-break I could smell. Novak's tie-break record this season is 11-5 in his favour, while Safin's is 11-5 against. Uncomfortable symmetry for the outsider.

"Tom. Hi it's the man in front of you - just had to read your latest comments on the match. Uh-oh - the snipers are moving in - I have t...." Anon via text

Djokovic 5-4 Safin
There's a distinct smell of tie-break in the air, unless it's the chargrilled vegetable panini my colleague has just brought back from the Aorangi food court.

Djokovic 4-4 Safin
Gusty old wind rustling newspapers and loosening hats out there, and Safin looks ready to rail against the gods when his ball-toss is wonkied. The weather wisely backs off and he holds to love with more crunchers.

Djokovic 4-3 Safin
Definite signs that the Djokserve is starting to grind into gear. He holds to 15, and that's seven games with serve in this set. Safin goes to his chair and takes a small pill bottle out of his voluminous bag, unscrews the lid and glugs a mysterious liquid down.

Djokovic 3-3 Safin
Cries of anguish from the crowd as Safin tries a drop-shot with all the ease of a man retrieving his car-keys from a stinking drain, the ball falling lamely into the net. Big serves see him through again.

Djokovic 3-2 Safin
Better serving from Djok at last, and he holds without beading his brow. Patrons dash for the facilities as the players take a breather.

Djokovic 2-2 Safin
There's a man in front of me trying to use his BlackBerry - does he not realise that the AELTC snipers will have him in their sights in seconds? Safin's sixth ace brings him level. Bright sunshine bathing Centre again.

Djokovic 2-1 Safin
Toe-to-toe blows from the baseline, and it's Djok who cracks first again - netting a thrashed forehand to give Safin a priceless sniff of another break. When Djok misses his first serve the entire Centre Court crowd shifts to the edge of their seats, but Safin wafts a backhand long. Djok makes his 13th unforced error with an off-message forehand into the tram-tracks but then lands two big crunchers on his next two serves to escape the vice.

Djokovic 1-1 Safin
Rapid-fire hold from The Glowerer. A little nugget for trivia fans - nine months ago, Safin spent 10 days climbing part of Cho Oyu in the Himlayas, the world's sixth-highest mountain. That tells me his ambition's gone - why not aim higher, quite literally?

"Safin is an incredible player. He has won two Slams and been in the finals of two others and been at the top of the game. If you look at his last couple of years it's not the right direction. He has deservedly won this first set." John McEnroe in the BBC commentary box.

Djokovic 1-0 Safin
Angry bellow from Safin as he blasts into the net at 30-30 and 30-40. In the VIP box, Mama and Papa Djokovic (Dijana and Srdjan, of course) plus little brother put palm to anxious palm..

FIRST SET

Djokovic 4-6 Safin
The sun sneaks behind a party-pooping cloud as Marat's forehand goes wonky at exactly the wrong time, blasting long unforced to teeter at 0-30. A lucky net-cord and a 133mph first serve take him level, before a bold move forward and punchy volley give him set point. Djok forces him wide to draw the error - deuce - but a lucky Marat mis-hit and wrist-shattering first serve seal the set. Cheers from the neutrals; Safin can barely sit still in his chair, twisting his racquet menacingly like Genghis Khan loosening up for a spot of afternoon pillage.

Djokovic 4-5 Safin
At last Djok holds, Marat putting too much mustard on his cross-court pass and the ball flying wide. Safin squeezes his racquet strings at the changeover, takes three balls off the ball-boy, examines them and tosses one away dismissively.

Djokovic 3-5 Safin
Super forehand again from Safin after his serve takes him to 40-15, and he's within one game of the first set. I saw the Federer-Safin match here last year, and Marat looks 20 times happier against Djok - he's not being brought in to the net, he's being given time at the back of the court and his serve is barely coming back to him.

Djokovic 3-4 Safin
Dominant from Safin - ropey Djok serving opens a gap at 0-30 before two sizzling forehands take him to three break points and then the game. He's all over the Novak serve. The crowd, 50-50 at the start, and now 70-30 in favour of Caroline Cheese's all-time favourite.

Djokovic 3-3 Safin
The hint has gone, if it ever existed. He blasts successive double-handed backhnds wide and then makes the same error after a scampering duel to set up Djok's first break point. The first serve misses and Djok steps up to the second to barrel a winner past Safin's backhand side. That's the break back, and this match is developing delightfully.

Djokovic 2-3 Safin
Good work again from Safin - a drop-shot so well disguised it's virtually wearing a wig. Break point again. Djok goes wide with his first serve and then crashes the second into the net at 117mph - a crazy gamble, his fourth double and the break to Marat. Is that a hint of a smile from Safin?

Djokovic 2-2 Safin
Super Safin serving - howitzer first serves clocking around the 125mph mark and a brutish kicker of a second in the 100mph slot. Looks up for this, the big lad.

Djokovic 2-1 Safin
Another glimpse for Safin at 15-30, only for a baseline slugfest to end with a Marat mower down the line to slide just wide. As the Djoko serve mis-fires again, Safin has another chance on the forehand - but again he puts it long. When another one booms wide, steam sizzles out of the Safin ears. Djoko sighs heavily at the changeover and begins to nibble on an energy bar. A woman in a peach trouser-suit and pearls titters to the aged friend on her right.

"Marat can be unbeatable on his day, raw power and the best exponent of the jumping double handed backhand. I've shanked many a ball off court trying to imitate that one." Anon via text

Djokovic 1-1 Safin
Lovely movement from Safin to chase down a short Djok slice, but his forehand is as wayward as a Hilton daughter and he gets pegged back to deuce. A slammer of an ace brings him level.

Djokovic 1-0 Safin
Dreadful start for Djoko - two double-faults to slip to 15-40. Safin goes wide with a backhand pass before Djoko winds up a brace of big boomers to squeeze through. Missed chance for Marat - that's not going to help his mood.

1305: Djoko, meanwhile, is rattling through a few shoulder-loosening serves. None of that bouncing-the-ball madness that he goes for during play - he was up to 14 bounces per serve at times against Berrer the other day.

1302: Here come the players - Marat already looking angry. My colleague Caroline Cheese swoons as he strides onto court with Ruskular grace.

1253: They've met before these two - met on court, I mean, three years ago at the Aussie Open. Very different scenes then - Marat was close to his bludgeoning best and on his way to his second Grand Slam title, while Djok was a mere fresh-faced babber.

1245: Afternoon - and welcome to a match of glowering stares and moody poses. Marat's not the man he was, but then again, which of us is? Djokovic, meanwhile, is so angular to look at that it's like he's been drawn by Georges Braque.

I'm rather looking forward to it.


see also
Safin stuns lacklustre Djokovic
25 Jun 08 |  Tennis
Live - Wimbledon day three
25 Jun 08 |  Tennis


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