WIMBLEDON, England — With all 16 fourth-round singles matches on the schedule, the seventh day of Wimbledon is often called Manic Monday.
But the men’s marquee matches were more meh than manic. The so-called Big Three of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, showing no signs of slowing down, easily dispatched their opponents to advance to the quarterfinals without seeming to break a sweat.
That led to obvious questions about the staying power of Djokovic, Federer and Nadal, who have won the last 10 consecutive Grand Slam events despite being well into their 30s.
On Monday, the three looked as untouchable as ever, not dropping more than three games in any set, and facing only one break point among them.
The third-seeded Nadal won first, blowing through 69th-ranked Joao Sousa, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2, on Centre Court.
[Read about Alison Riske’s win over No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, one of several upsets to shake up the women’s draw.]
“I know there is going to be a day that they’re going to be in front of us,” Nadal said of challengers not yet visible. “Because they will play better than us — or because we are leaving. We are not kids anymore.”
The top-seeded Djokovic had only slightly more trouble, breezing past 66th-ranked Ugo Humbert, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.
The second-seeded Federer figured to have the toughest test of the day, coming up against the 17th-seeded Matteo Berrettini, an explosive young Italian whose powerful game has proved dangerous on grass this year. Last month, he won the tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, and reached the semifinals in Halle, Germany.
But the match turned out to be the least competitive of the three. Federer sprinted to a two-sets-and-double-break lead in less than an hour against a hapless Berrettini before closing out the 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 win in just 1 hour 14 minutes.
When they met at the net, Berrettini said he thanked Federer “for the lesson,” which even Federer had not expected to be quite so comprehensive.
“Today was excellent; I was very happy,” said Federer, who will play eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori on Wednesday. “I was expecting a tough match and a close one with not many chances. It was actually quite the opposite, so that was great.”
CreditNic Bothma/EPA, via Shutterstock
Federer said the invincibility he felt against Berrettini was satisfying.
“You almost start feeling whatever you’re going to do is somehow going to work out,” he said. “You almost can’t explain what it is.”
Federer has won eight titles while complying with Wimbledon’s all-white rules, but described the feeling with another color.
“Everything is just sort of pink,” he said. “It’s just happy out there. It just feels nice. You rock up to a ball. You’re like, ‘I know I’m not going to miss one.’ You hit a winner. Then you do the same again and again. That’s probably one of the best feelings you can get as a tennis player on a tennis court.”
Djokovic, who will play David Goffin in the quarterfinals, did not express such transcendent feelings, but said he thought that the field remained daunted by “everything that we have achieved in our careers.”
“Most of the players feel that, feel pressure,” Djokovic said of the auras. “For us, it’s another match on the center stage that we’ve experienced so many times. ”
Djokovic acknowledged that “young guys will eventually replace us at the top spots of the world,” but that it was more inevitable than imminent.
“Hopefully not too soon, but it’s going to happen,” he said.
There was little sign of a challenge from the obvious contenders at this tournament: fourth-ranked Dominic Thiem, fifth-ranked Alexander Zverev and sixth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas lost in the first round.
The lack of breakthroughs by younger players has Andy Murray, who knows what it takes to reach the top of the sport, optimistic that a comeback from hip replacement surgery might not be so difficult.
“I don’t feel that the game has moved on and I won’t be able to get back,” Murray told British reporters.
“A lot of the same guys are still there. Why not? If someone can give me a reason why I shouldn’t be able to compete again, then I would listen to it, but so far I haven’t really been given one.”
Sam Querrey was the last player to beat Murray at Wimbledon, knocking him out in 2017, when he was the top seed. The year before, Querrey defeated Djokovic when he was No. 1.
Querrey, who became the first unseeded men’s quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in four years with a 6-4, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) win over Tennys Sandgren, figures to be the toughest challenge for any of the Big Three in the quarterfinal round on Wednesday, when he faces Nadal.
In order to stop the Big Three’s streak of Grand Slam titles, Querrey, a semifinalist in 2017, will probably have to defeat all three of them.
“The mountain gets very steep from here to break that trend,” he said, “but I’m going to do the best I can.”
July 8, 2019
July 8, 2019