Stan Wawrinka hopes to ‘not get killed’ by Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon
LONDON – Stan Wawrinka set up a Wimbledon third-round clash with seven-time champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday, hoping to “not get killed” by a rival he first faced 17 years ago.
The 38-year-old Wawrinka, who has won three Grand Slam titles, made the last 32 by seeing off Argentina’s 29th seed Tomas Martin Etcheverry 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
It will be his first time in the third round at the All England Club since 2015, when he went on to make the quarter-finals.
Wawrinka, now ranked at 88 after a lengthy battle with injuries, has only beaten Djokovic six times in 26 meetings.
However, they have never met on grass.
“I will enjoy it if I don’t get killed,” said Wawrinka. “Novak is an amazing champion. I am happy to get the chance to play him on grass before I finish my career.
“It will be a big challenge and I will have to play at a high level.”
Two of Wawrinka’s wins over Djokovic came in Grand Slam finals – at the 2015 French Open and 2016 US Open.
The Swiss also beat the 23-time major winner in the last-eight of the 2014 Australian Open on his way to his maiden Slam triumph.
“He took away two Grand Slams from me. That’s the role he played, beating me in two Grand Slam finals,” joked Djokovic after booking his place in the third round on Wednesday.
“No, I like Stan a lot. He’s a great person. Really always inspirational what he’s doing at his age. He’s almost 40 years old and he still keeps going strong. That’s something that not many people can do.”
Meanwhile, former semi-finalist Elina Svitolina continued her excellent run in Grand Slams following her maternity break as the Ukrainian wildcard downed 28th seed Elise Mertens 6-1 1-6 6-1 to move into the third round.
Svitolina, who returned to the tour in April following the birth of her daughter in October 2022, reached the French Open quarter-finals last month and proved too good for five-time champion Venus Williams in her Wimbledon opener.
“I enjoy so much being on the court, getting this chance to play in front of an amazing crowd in such an amazing event,” Svitolina said.
“I’ll try to accept what’s coming my way though sometimes there can be tough days. I know my family is there supporting me and enjoying every single moment I get to play in such an amazing event.”
The 28-year-old raced through the first set against Belgian Mertens on the back of two breaks of serve, showing glimpses of the form that took her to the last four in 2019, but she faced an uphill task in the next set after going 0-5 down.
Mertens levelled the match on serve, finishing with a powerful overhead smash, but former world number three Svitolina pounced in the decider to break in the second game thanks to a blistering backhand down the line.
“On grass it (momentum shifts) can happen and you have to just accept it and move on,” Svitolina said.
“I was playing really good in the first set and Elise came back really strong, serving good. I just lost my momentum but in the third set I tried to move my legs quicker a little bit and here I am.”
With the momentum having swung her way again, Svitolina held her nerve to close out victory and set up a clash with American Sofia Kenin after the former Major champion eased past China’s Wang Xinyu 6-4 6-3.
“I’m really thankful for this opportunity in the first place with the wild card and now I’m in the third round,” Svitolina added. “It feels amazing.” - AFP, REUTERS