Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his victory over Canada’s Vasek Pospisil during their round of 16 match on day five of the AEGON International tennis tournament at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, England, Wednesday June 28, 2017. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Djokovic wins at Eastbourne, downplays Wimbledon chances

EASTBOURNE, England — Novak Djokovic downplayed his chances of capturing a fourth Wimbledon title after winning his first match on grass this year at the Eastbourne International on Wednesday.

Djokovic beat Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-3 in a second-round match that was carried over from Tuesday because of rain, setting up a quarterfinal match against Donald Young at the Wimbledon warm-up event.

The top-seeded Djokovic broke Pospisil’s serve once in each set in a comfortable 85-minute victory, which wasn’t enough to persuade the former No. 1 that he would be among the favourites for Wimbledon.

“It is liberating a bit,” said Djokovic, who has had an inconsistent last 12 months, during which he has relinquished all his Grand Slam titles. “I was very fortunate and privileged to have so much success in the last eight, nine years, and kind of entered most of the tournaments as one of the biggest favourites. So for a change, it’s good to not be one of the top favourites.

“It releases a bit of the pressure.”

Despite being ranked No. 4, he was seeded at No. 2 by the All England Club on Wednesday because of his good recent results at Wimbledon. He won the title there in 2011, ‘14 and ‘15.

“Whether it helps or not, I can’t say at the moment,” Djokovic said.

The match against Pospisil was his first since a straight-set loss to Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarterfinals three weeks ago. He accepted a wild card invitation by Eastbourne organizers and is playing a grass-court event between the French Open and Wimbledon for the first time since 2010.

Djokovic resumed 1-0 ahead after managing to play only 13 points on Tuesday, and didn’t lose his serve.

“I felt good on the court, considering it was my first grass-court match,” Djokovic said. “I played against an opponent that has a really good game for grass. He serves well, comes to the net and has good variety. It was a really, really solid win.”

Young, who also reached the quarterfinals at Queen’s last week, beat fellow American Jared Donaldson 6-4, 7-5.

In the women’s tournament at Eastbourne, Garbine Muguruza lost 6-1, 6-0 to Barbora Strycova to continue her underwhelming run of results since winning the French Open in 2016. She hasn’t reached a final of any tournament since.

Top-seeded Angelique Kerber beat Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the second round and was scheduled to play Lara Arruabarrena-Vecino in the third round later Wednesday, only for rain to bring an early end to the day’s play.

There were second-round wins for Simona Halep, Johanna Konta and Caroline Wozniacki.

Some players in the women’s tournament face playing two matches — in the third round and the quarterfinals — on Thursday as organizers look to make up for lost time.


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