QF Preview: Novak Djokovic Sees ‘A Little Bit Of Myself’ In Jannik Sinner’s Game | ATP Tour

The men’s singles quarter-finals begin on Tuesday at Wimbledon, with two matches on tap at SW19. Top seed Novak Djokovic will face Jannik Sinner in the Centre Court opener, with Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie and David Goffin set to close play on No. 1 Court. 

Two men’s doubles quarter-finals are also set for Day 9 at The Championships. Defending champions and second seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic face 11th seeds and two-time Roland Garros champs Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies on No. 3 Court, while 2019 Wimbledon champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah face Americans Denis Kudla and Jack Sock on Court 12. 

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[1] Novak Djokovic [SER] vs. [10] Jannik Sinner (ITA)

Prior to this quarter-final clash, Djokovic paid his opponent a supreme compliment by comparing the Italian’s game to his own.

“I kind of see a little bit of myself in his game,” the Serbian said in his most recent press conference. “From back of the court, playing flat backhands, constantly staying on the back of the line, trying to put pressure on opponents.”

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The pair has met just once before, when Djokovic opened their ATP Head2Head series last year at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters with a 6-4, 6-2 victory. But the 20-year-old Sinner is much improved since then; a five-time tour-level titlist, the Italian claimed three of those trophies in the second half of the 2021 season.

Despite his youth, Sinner has played 25 matches against players inside the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, including seven this season. While his record stands at 8-17 in such contests, he improved that mark in the Wimbledon fourth round when he outclassed Carlos Alcaraz to reach his third career Grand Slam quarter-final. The only major at which he has not progressed to that stage is the US Open, where he reached the fourth round last year.

“For sure I showed also this year [that] I’ve got consistency,” Sinner said in his post-match press conference. “I made many quarter-finals, many Round of 16s. I think I improved also physically. If you go Grand Slam after Grand Slam and you go into the second week, you have to be good also physically.”

After picking up his first grass-court win earlier this fortnight, Sinner starred against Alcaraz in his Centre Court debut. Naturally, his confidence level on the surface is at an all-time high. Djokovic watched the showdown of former Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champions and described it as a “dominant performance” by the Italian in which he “was always somehow in control”. 

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The Serbian was also pleased with his own fourth-round outing as he pulled away from wild card Tim van Rijthoven in a four-set win, ending the Dutchman’s dream debut at The Championships. While the top seed opened his post-match presser with kind words for van Rijthoven, he closed with a glowing assessment of his next opponent.

“I have only superlatives and positive things to talk about Sinner’s game,” Djokovic said. “We all know he’s very talented. He’s already now an established top player.

“I’ve seen him play many different surfaces in the last few years. He’s maturing a lot on the big stage… He’s very confident. He believes he can win against anybody [in] any stadium, which is important for a young player like him. He’s already now experienced, even though he’s still young, because he has had big matches.”

Matches don’t come much bigger than facing Djokovic on Centre Court.

[9] Cameron Norrie [GBR] vs. David Goffin [BEL]

The last Briton remaining in the men’s or women’s singles draw, Norrie has appealed to his home fans to ratchet up their support in Wimbledon‘s second week.

“Unfortunately I’m the last one standing,” he said after extending his best major run into the quarter-finals. “But I think it’s even more reason for everyone to get behind me. The atmosphere was great today and definitely helped me get over the line there.

The 26-year-old defeated American Tommy Paul in straight sets — his third such victory of the fortnight — and has improved with each match, taking a cue from the likes of top seeds Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

“If you look at a lot of the top players, they get better as the tournament progresses,” he said. “I feel like with myself, for sure, [that has been the case here]… I think I played my better two matches in the third and fourth rounds. I feel like I’m improving and my level is getting better. Definitely a little bit more calm in the bigger matches. It’s nice to do it that way around.”

Goffin also had a strong fourth-round performance in a battling five-set win against Frances Tiafoe. “Top-10 level, easy,” Tiafoe said of the four-hour, 36-minute contest — the longest of the tournament. “[We were] hitting ridiculous shots, both of us.”

The Belgian is through to the quarter-finals for the second time in as many appearances at SW19, having last competed in 2019, when he bowed out against eventual champion Djokovic.

“I was very excited to come back here because it’s a very important tournament for me, because it’s probably my favorite tournament of the year,” Goffin said after advancing. “[It is] a place that I love, a surface that I can play really well [on]. I had some great results on that surface. It means a lot.”

The former World No. 7 ended his 2021 season in September due to a knee inury, but has enjoyed a resurgent 2022 campaign. He earned his 300th tour-level win in April in Marrakech and went on to claim the title at the ATP 250 event to kickstart a strong clay swing.

While Goffin will not be the fresher quarter-finalist on No. 1 Court, he will have the advantage of experience, playing at that stage of a major for the fourth time as he seeks his first semi-final.

“He’s a very experienced player,” Norrie assessed ahead of the pair’s first meeting. “He really likes the grass. He’s played a lot of big matches. It’s going to be tough. He’s a great competitor, a really good athlete. He’s got a very complete game.

“One thing for sure, I know that I’m going to get into a lot of rallies with him. He’s not going to come and serve me off the court, which is good. It’s going to be another physical match, which is great for me.

“I’m looking forward to competing. It’s going to be another huge challenge.”

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