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Relief as fall guy Djokovic survives major injury scare

HE hit the ground with an outraged yelp that persuaded some observers to believe Novak Djokovic had just been told his entourage had ordered strawberries and cream at premium prices.

Djokovic looks to be in serious pain but was able to play on after treatment. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images
Djokovic looks to be in serious pain but was able to play on after treatment. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images

The excuse for this levity is that the Serb's collapse proved temporary and its impact in the tournament is restricted to a dent in Wimbledon's Centre Court.

"It was obviously a scary fall," the No.1 seed said after his 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 defeat of Gilles Simon. Djokovic was, though, in the mood for humour. "I talked with Boris. We obviously need to work on my diving volleys, learning how to fall down on the court. I'm not very skilful in that."

The reference was to his coach, Herr Becker, who used the Centre Court regularly for crash landings.

The fall was brushed off but initially it looked serious. "I tried to land on my left arm. I basically had a strong impact on the shoulder," Djokovic said. When I stood up I felt that click or pop, whatever you call it.

"I feared that maybe it might be a dislocated shoulder or something like that, a joint problem. But luckily for me it was only an impact that had a minor effect on the joint and the muscles around it, and no damage that can cause a bigger problem."

An ultrasound examination confirmed all was well.

Djokovic was competent against Simon but is aware he will have to raise his game against another Frenchman, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, in the fourth round.

"I don't fear anything," said the world No.2. "I expect him to serve well. I think that's his advantage. Coming to the net, he's a very aggressive player. If he's on, if he feels good on the certain day, he can beat anybody really."

However, Djokovic, who has contested two Wimbledon finals, winning in 2006 and losing to Andy Murray last year, will be a heavy favourite to prevail.

Two young pretenders also survived under pressure yesterday. Jerzy Janowicz came through his second-round match with Lleyton Hewitt as the rest of the men were competing for a place in the fourth round. It was a bruising day for the 23-year-old Pole against the 33-year-old Australian who has been winning at Wimbledon since 1998. "I hope I will not play against him any more," was Janowicz's sincere response to suggestions that Hewitt, who won Wimbledon in 2002, might retire. Beaten by Murray in last year's Wimbledon semi-finals, he stuttered against Hewitt before finding his booming serve in the fifth to win 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 6-3.

Hewitt did what she always does. He fought, he ran, he harried, and if he could return a serve he did his best to put a racket on it as if it was a matter of honour. He could not, though, register his 604th career win.

He did play the match, as usual, as if it was his last but with rumours of his retirement, was it? More pertinently was this the last time he would scamper around Wimbledon like a faithful terrier after a frisbee?

"You never know. I'm one injury away from hanging up the bats at any time," he said. He was supported by a band of followers who might just have been in kindergarten when Hewitt took his first steps at SW19.

Hewitt was grateful for their support but said they did not make him "appreciate the moment" any more. "Not really because when you're out there in battle, you're doing what comes naturally to you. Nothing changes," Hewitt said. Nothing ever does for the warrior from Adelaide.

The fourth round will also include Grigor Dimitrov but the 13th seed had his moments of doubt against the awkward Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine. The 23-year-old Bulgarian battled through 6-7 (3), 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 and can thank Roger Rasheed, his coach, who brought both resilience and fitness to his game.

Tennis is a game of talent. But it demands hard work. Ask Djokovic. Or just watch Hewitt.

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