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Sports

AFP
July 11, 2018

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Djokovic beats Federer in Centre Court row

LONDON: Novak Djokovic won his battle to be promoted to Centre Court billing for Wednesday’s quarter-finals, forcing eight-time champion Roger Federer off the sport’s most famous arena for the first time in three years.

Three-time champion Djokovic will open the Centre Court programme against Kei Nishikori followed by two-time winner and world number one Rafael Nadal facing Juan Martin del Potro.

Defending champion Federer, who has played all of his Wimbledon matches since the 2015 semi-finals on Centre Court, will instead open proceedings on Court One against Kevin Anderson. The other last-eight tie, between Milos Raonic and John Isner, finishes off the Court One schedule.

Djokovic has featured just once on Centre Court — against British home favourite Kyle Edmund in the last 32 — in the opening four rounds. By contrast, Federer and Nadal have played exclusively on the 15,000-seater Centre Court.

Djokovic had told reporters that he had been hopeful of playing his quarter-final match on Centre Court before telling Serbian media that he “deserved” the honour and intended to lobby the All England Club. Djokovic has played twice on the 11,000-capacity Court One this year but was shunted off to the 4,000-seater Court Two for his second round clash against Horacio Zeballos.

Three times he has been scheduled last on court, putting him at risk of falling victim to fading light with the burden of having to return the following day. He managed to finish off Russia’s Karen Khachanov in straight sets in the gathering gloom on Monday.

Twelve months ago, his last-16 match with Adrian Mannarino, also scheduled for Court One, was cancelled despite Centre Court with its retractable roof being available.

Djokovic had to play that fourth round match on the Tuesday and quarter-final on the Wednesday, when he was forced to retire against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury.

Djokovic, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 champion, will be favourite to see off Nishikori for a 14th time in 16 meetings.

Nishikori is playing in his first Wimbledon quarter-final.He is also the first Japanese man to reach the quarter-finals since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995.

“It’s always like a big war for me,” said Nishikori on facing Djokovic. Federer, who last went to Court One in 2015 for his quarter-final win over Gilles Simon, will be playing in his 16th Wimbledon quarter-final and 53rd at all Grand Slams.

His opponent on Wednesday is eighth-seeded Anderson, the first South African since Wayne Ferreira in 1994 to get to the last eight.

Top seed Federer, 36, has now won 32 consecutive sets at Wimbledon, just two behind his record run from the third round in 2005 to his title triumph in 2006. He also holds a 4-0 career lead over 2017 US Open runner-up Anderson who has yet to take a set off the Swiss. Federer hasn’t dropped serve at Wimbledon so far but is wary of the challenge posed by Anderson whose big serving style is flourishing on courts cooked by last week’s heatwave.Nadal has made the quarter-finals for the first time since finishing runner-up to Djokovic in 2011.

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