Protected by the Centre Court roof and fortified by his tenacity, nothing was going to stop Novak Djokovic from securing his 30th consecutive grand slam victory, a record in the open era. The rain could not touch Djokovic and nor could Adrian Mannarino, who produced some delightful touches without ever coming close to bloodying the world No1’s nose.
Mannarino certainly enjoyed himself on his 28th birthday, playing with flair and panache, and he even had the defending champion rattled after dragging the third set into an unlikely tie-break. For all the Frenchman’s fleeting impertinence, however, the gulf in class always lurked in the background, a constant reminder that no player is as dangerous as Djokovic in the decisive moments.
Djokovic teased Mannarino and the crowd by trundling into a 15-40 deficit in his opening service game and there was the farcical moment when the rug was pulled from under his feet as he hurtled after a drop shot during the tie-break, an irritable presence indeed as he lay flat on his back.
But that portrait of vulnerability was an illusion. Djokovic, who will face either Sam Querrey, the 28th seed, or Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci in the third round, did not always exude calm and control. His 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) victory in two hours and five minutes over the world No55 was littered with eight double faults, the last of them coming when he was broken serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set. Djokovic was patient and clinical, however, snatching the first set when Mannarino netted a backhand.
Mannarino’s tricky lefty game caused problems – one unorthodox looping backhand drop shot was inspired – but he lacked consistency. Five of his nine break points came in the second game of the start of the third set. Djokovic held.
Forced to aim for the lines, Mannarino hit 30 winners and made 42 unforced errors, sending a backhand long to drop his serve at the start of the second set.
Djokovic secured a two-set lead thanks to an ace. His one loss of focus only delayed the inevitable.
“The record I managed to break today was one of the better ones,” Djokovic said after moving ahead of Rod Laver. “It’s very pleasing. I want to keep it going and see where it takes me.”
All the way to the final, no doubt – and he tends to win those as well.
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