'Somehow I found a way': Djokovic wins again at Wimbledon

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates during the men's singles third round match against a return to Denis Kudla of the US on day five of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, Friday July 2, 2021. (Alberto Pezzali/AP)

WIMBLEDON, England -- Any lapse by Novak Djokovic is brief.

When the world's No. 1 player double-faulted on his first two points in a tiebreaker Friday, he quickly regrouped to close out a victory over American qualifier Denis Kudla, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7).

"Somehow I found a way to win," Djokovic said.

As usual. He improved to 17-0 in Grand Slam matches this year, and has also won 17 consecutive matches at Wimbledon, where he is the two-time defending champion.

During a postmatch interview on court, the Serb was asked about the source of his hunger to win, and he referenced his youth in a war-torn nation.

"The way I've grown up in difficult times in the '90s for my country," Djokovic said, "failure is never an option for me, or anybody in my family. We had to find a way to find the basic needs for us to survive during those times. It was difficult. That has strengthened my character, I would say."

Djokovic's opponent Monday will be No. 17-seeded Cristian Garin of Chile, who beat Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

On the women's side, No. 2-seeded Aryna Sabalenka is into the second week of play, and on the verge of a career breakthrough. The hard-hitting Belarusian beat qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano 6-0, 6-3 to reach the fourth round, and she might be overdue for a deep run in a Grand Slam.

Sabalenka is the only woman among the top 20 seeds who has yet to reach a major quarterfinal.

The time seems right for that to change: Sabalenka leads the tour with 32 match wins this year, her seeding is a career high in a major, and she's navigating a draw already without eight of the 11 highest-ranked women.

"I just keep working, keep improving," Sabalenka said. "Every match is a new match. You never know what is going to happen."

She overpowered Osorio Serrano, and pulled away when the Colombian went 0 for 6 converting break points in the first set.

"So many chances," Osorio Serrano said. "I couldn't close it."

Sabalenka next faces No. 18 Elena Rybakina, who eliminated American Shelby Rogers 6-1, 6-4.

Also still in contention is No. 7-seeded Iga ?wi?tek, the 2020 French Open champion, who breezed into the fourth round by beating Irina-Camelia Begu 6-1, 6-0. ?wi?tek seeks a Wimbledon double after winning the girls' singles title in 2018.

"It would be amazing," she said. "It's another Grand Slam, so it's like a dream come true for any of us."

No. 21 Ons Jabeur vomited next to the backstop before her first match point and then finished off former Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

Jabeur became the first Tunisian woman to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon. She also had the shot of the day when she hit a running forehand around the net post from off the court for a winner.

Wild card Liudmila Samsonova of Russia reached the round of 16 at a major for the first time by beating American Sloane Stephens 6-2, 2-6, 6-4. No. 8 Karolina Pliskova swept Tereza Martincova 6-3, 6-3.

In other men's play, No. 9 Diego Schwartzman was eliminated by Marton Fucsovics, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4. No. 25 Karen Khachanov won 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 against American Frances Tiafoe, who upset No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the first round.

No. 5 Andrey Rublev hit 13 aces and beat No. 26 Fabio Fognini 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2. No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut swept Dominik Koepfer 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (4).

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