Jannik Sinner races past Kecmanovic after ‘making friends with the grass’

There’s nothing like a deadline to focus the mind. Jannik Sinner stepped on to Centre Court here just after 7.30pm on Friday for his third-round clash with Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, knowing that he had less than three and a half hours to complete the match before the 11pm curfew. Having gone three hours and 42 minutes in beating his fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini in the previous round, there was little margin for error.

As it happened, there was never any danger of the match being held over. With the roof closed due to rain, conditions were still and the world No 1 Sinner played in his typically efficient manner, done and dusted 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in just one hour and 36 minutes, sealing his place in the last 16 with the minimum of fuss.

“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Sinner, who will play either American Ben Shelton or Canada’s Denis Shapovalov next. “I felt like I was hitting the ball with good pace. I’m glad to finish it off, now some good recovery and let’s see what’s coming in the next round.”

Sinner enjoyed his best run here last year when he reached the semi-finals and said one of his coaches, Darren Cahill, has been giving him a few tips on how to succeed on the surface. “To make friendship with the grass,” he said, smiling. “Darren always tells me this. Be kind to the grass and something positive will happen.”

Sinner had won all three of his previous matches with Kecmanovic and any chance the Serbian may have had was snuffed out immediately as Sinner broke in the first game and then romped through the first set in just 21 minutes. Ranked 52, Kecmanovic upped his game in the second set but Sinner just bided his time, breaking in the ninth game and closing it out.

Another break at the start of the third set put Sinner on his way and the world No 1 eased through the rest of it to wrap things up. The only break point he faced in the entire match came in the final game, but he saved it with a brilliant running forehand. In truth, Kecmanovic never had a chance.

Only seven men have ever completed the Queen’s-Wimbledon double, almost a who’s who of grass-court tennis, from John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker in the 1980s to Pete Sampras, Lleyton Hewitt, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.

It’s asking an awful lot for Tommy Paul to back up his Queen’s Club title by winning a first grand slam title at Wimbledon a week on Sunday, but the American advanced to round four with aplomb, keeping the dream alive. “I’m having fun on the grass,” he said, after making it eight wins on the bounce with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan. “I like it. Every time I play on it, I feel more and more comfortable.

Tommy Paul on his way to a comfortable victory over Alexander Bublik. Photograph: Mosa’ab Elshamy/AP

“I actually was surprised when I came out on the court today. I thought it was going to be a little more slippery. On the third point of the match or something, I kind of stuck my foot in the ground, and I stopped. Normally I feel like when it’s slick, you would kind of slide out there. It gave me a little confidence to move a little harder. It helped me out in the match.”

Paul reached the fourth round here two years ago and moves so well on the surface that he is a genuine threat. With either Fabio Fognini or Roberto Bautista Agut to come in the next round, a quarter-final place is there for the taking.

The Guardian

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