By Jeremy Wilson at Wimbledon
At precisely 7.29pm on the first Friday of Wimbledon 2023, Denis Shapovalov fizzed a forehand into a wide open Court Two and so delivered the last rites on Britain’s final man standing.
For what is the fourth time in five years, the third round has proved to be the collective ceiling and even that required the performance of a lifetime from Liam Broady, a 29-year-old Wimbledon wildcard from Stockport who has never been inside the world’s top 100.
Some perspective is of course required when you have just enjoyed the best win and payday of a long career but, for even for Broady, who departs with £131,000, his Wimbledon exit will still be accompanied by just the whiff of an opportunity missed.
Yes, it was a huge ask to follow up victory over world number four Casper Rudd with a win against another seed but Broady can rarely have broken an opponent’s serve five times and still been beaten in four sets.
It is a statistic that also told the story of the match.
Broady’s groundstrokes were frequently thrilling and placed the 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist under continuous pressure.
The problem was that Broady lacked the first serve power to ruthlessly capitalise and, when it mattered most at the end of both the third and fourth sets, he just faltered and could not turn 17 break points (two more than Shapovalov during the match) into another famous victory.
The impact of five physically and emotionally draining sets on Centre Court must also have been considerable and some credit was due to his Canadian opponent. Shapovalov is certainly erratic but there are still few better shots in tennis than his extravagant one-handed backhand and, with a relatively inviting draw, he could again go deep into the second week.
The big focus for Broady will now be the American hard-court season where, with few world ranking points to defend, there will be an inviting chance to use this springboard to climb into the world’s top 100.
The potential carrot is automatic entry into the US Open, the only Grand Slam in which he has never played. “That’s the goal – the hard court season now is an amazing opportunity for me,” he said.
Broady admitted that his defeat, coming within hours of both Andy Murray and Cameron Norrie’s exits, was “a Debbie Downer” for the tournament but was upbeat about the wider health of British tennis. “I think the men’s game is in a fantastic state,” he said.
“I think Jack [Draper]‘s going to have a breakout Wimbledon at some point. I think Cam could have easily gone deep. Andy could have. Dan Evans is a bit low on confidence at the moment, but he could have easily gone deep.
“The women’s side, maybe some of the girls didn’t have the Wimbledon they’d hoped to after some of the performances they’ve put in over the course of the grass court season – but that’s tennis. Wimbledon is one tournament. Why could we not have four or five girls in the top hundred by the end of the year, as well?”
With the opening two sets shared, the decisive moment against Shapovalov had arrived in the third set when, having raced into a 5-2 lead, Broady just appeared weary at the wrong moment in what were searing temperatures. Shapovalov capitalised with a run of five straight games before also just upping his game in the decisive moments of the fourth set.
“I got pretty lucky sneaking out that third set,” said Shapovalov, who is seeded 26 this year, but has previously been in the world’s top 10. “I would have been in trouble if he had got that one. He was definitely in control of the match – I just tried to stay in it and make him earn it.”
Djokovic brushes off Wawrinka before the curfew
By Fiona Tomas, at Wimbledon
There was no way Novak Djokovic was going to let the dreaded curfew strike again. The defending champion almost appeared in a hurry as he overpowered Stan Wawrinka in straight sets late on Friday night, conscious of the fate that had befallen Andy Murray earlier in the day.
Murray had been a set away from victory against Stefanos Tsitispas when play was brutally curtailed at 11pm the day previous. The overnight pause galvanised the Greek when the pair returned in the searing heat on Friday, when Murray’s Wimbledon dream was extinguished.
So Djokovic was understandably in no mood to hang about – he breezed through the opening two sets – but as the match wore on Wawrinka fortified like a fine wine. Harnessing the energy of the crowd under the Centre Court roof, he unapologetically pushed the Serb all the way to an exhilarating third-set tiebreak as the clock ticked towards the 11pm cut-off.
Djokovic drew first blood, only for Wawrinka to respond. The Swiss rattled down an ace, then teased a backhand slice out of Djokovic that tickled the net. Seemingly unnerved, the Serb then sprayed a forehand long in the next rally and suddenly Wawrinka was 5-3 up and two points away from extending the match to another day. You could hear a pin drop around Centre – because everyone was thinking the same thing – was this heading to a fourth set and was it going to spill over into Saturday?
But the Serb proceeded to take the next three points and at 10.46pm, Warinka fired a forehand high and wide. Djokovic, given the champion that he is, lived to tell the tale, closing out the contest 6-3 6-1 7-6 to set up a fourth-round meeting with Hubert Hurkasz.
The Serb applauded the resurgent Swiss as he bounced out of the court, seemingly happy with the late night drama he had caused on Centre Court.
“It’s amazing what Stan is doing at his age, after several surgeries,” said 36-year-old Djokovic, who is two years younger than Wawrinka, told on-court interviewer Rishi Persad afterwards. His politeness merely elicited laughs from the crowd. “What’s wrong?” he smirked. “We’re two old guys. It’s inspiring. Like Andy, he was forced to drop the rankings in the last couple of years. We’ve had some amazing battles on some of the biggest courts in the sport. I respect him a lot.”
There were 74 years between these two veterans of the sport – the oldest combined age for a men’s singles match at Wimbledon since Ken Rosewall faced Barry Phillips-Moore in 1974 – but watching the pair, you wouldn’t have known it, given the pace and panache that they both showed.
After cruising through the first set, Djokovic subsequently raced through his first service game to fly into a 4-0 lead in the second, bagging a double break without barely breaking sweat under the Centre Court roof. This was a practice session for the seven-time Wimbledon champion.
Wawrinka had admitted he had “no chance” against Djokovic. He was absolutely correct – so he resorted to his only tactic: playing to the crowd. For what else could the Swiss do? Centre Court broke into rapturous applause when he managed to hold serve at the start of the third set. Moments later, Djokovic pelted a forehand return that, by accident or design, hit Wawrinka straight in the stomach a metre inside baseline. He acrobatically collapsed on the turf, before hauling himself back up, to the approval of those watching.
As it turned out, there were plenty of empty seats – or more than one should expect – for a headline Centre Court match featuring two men that have won 26 Grand Slams between them on a Friday night. Those who witnessed these two veterans of the game would not have left disappointed.