LONDON (Reuters) - Three-time champion Novak Djokovic silenced a raucous Center Court crowd as he came back to beat home favorite Kyle Edmund 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 in the third round of Wimbledon on Saturday.
Briton Edmund was riding a wave of euphoria generated by England’s World Cup quarter-final win against Sweden as he outplayed the Serbian former world number one in the first set.
But 31-year-old Djokovic, who in the 2013 final lost to Andy Murray in a similarly frenzied atmosphere, snapped out of his torpor and took charge once he broke in a pivotal seventh game of the second set.
He dominated the third set and although 21st seed Edmund was competitive again in the fourth, Djokovic broke at 4-4 and then clinically held serve for victory — applying the seal to an impressive display with an ace down the middle.
Djokovic proved he still has the old fire in his belly too when he reacted furiously at 3-3 in the fourth when Edmund scrambled up a low ball for a winner despite replays clearly showing the ball had bounced twice.
While the 12-times Grand Slam champion is still not quite back to his best after a difficult year blighted by an elbow injury, he must now be considered a genuine threat.
“He became more and more dangerous and showed of his old self,” former champion John McEnroe, commentating for the BBC, said. “The intensity and the desire were there.”
The Serb, seeded 12th, will face powerful Russian youngster Karen Khachanov for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It was tough, Edmund is playing really well, he won our last encounter on clay,” Djokovic said of the man who has replaced the injured Murray as Britain’s top dog, said.
“He has just improved a lot in his game, especially the backhand side. The forehand we know is a big weapon, and he is serving better. Losing the first set was not an ideal situation for me but somehow (I) managed to come back.”
Edmund used his blowtorch forehand to great effect in the opening set and was the dominant player early on.
Feeding off the energy of a crowd still buzzing from events in Russia, he summoned up four break points in the seventh game — converting the fourth with a brilliantly-constructed point which ended with both players at close quarters.
The deafening roar that went around the arena was surpassed a few games later when Edmund took the opening set with a beefy serve down the middle.
Djokovic was wobbling but showed his old survival instincts and hung tough in the second set.
At 3-3 Edmund saved three break points, one with a sublime running forehand, but Britain’s new number one coughed up a double fault to give Djokovic the break.
Djokovic carried his momentum into the third set and broke in the first game — bellowing a guttural roar of his own as Edmund hooked a forehand long.
Edmund regrouped in the fourth set and when he saved serve at 3-3, thanks to a moment of controversy, it looked as though he could still drag the match into a decider.
The 23-year-old buckled in his next service game at 4-4, framing a forehand out to open the door for Djokovic to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 44th time — second on the all-time list behind Roger Federer.
Edmund’s defeat means there will be no Brits in the second week of the singles competition at Wimbledon.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge