First set: Federer 2-0 Willis* Every Willis point is greeted with riotous acclaim, but – understandably – he initially rushes through his first service points on Centre Court just a little too quickly. After an on-the-knees volley puts him 30-15 up, Willis spews a groundstroke wide and then double faults and is immediately faces breakpoint. But all credit to Willis, who saves it with a 120mph-plus serve! Another Federer breakpoint, another point saved: this time with a nifty serve and volley! A third breakpoint? Another save – this time with an ace! But Federer keeps at it and finally breaks.
First set: Federer* 1-0 Willis There’s a football-like atmosphere on Centre Court, and Willis seems to be revelling in it. He smiles throughout the knock-up and his old-school backhand, which has plenty of slice, keeps Federer off him initially before he holds to 30.
Huge huge cheers on Centre Court … as Marcus Willis, the world’s 772nd best player, steps on to court to face arguably the best of all time – Roger Federer. They’re knocking up now.
Better news on the weather front: the covers are off on the outside courts and play could be getting underway in the next 30 minutes.
That’s it! Djokovic wins 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) … but the straight sets victory doesn’t tell the entire story. The World No1 was pushed hard by his impressive opponent, who also dumped him on his back in the tie-break after a battle drop shots – but he finally comes through 7-5 in the tie-break to move through to the third.
Their respective tie-break records in 2016 tell a story: Djokovic is 13-2 this year, Mannarino is 2-7 … but the Frenchman is on a roll and immediately hits a rasping forehand to win the first point. Djokovic then hold his serves, helped by an astonishing half-volley flick for the clean winner down the line, to go 2-1 up. Then the point of the match, as the pair slug it out mano a mano, including a miraculous get from Djokovic that is smashed away by Mannarino. 2-2. But Djokovic raises his game again, getting the mini-break and then passing his opponent to go 4-2 ahead … surely now it’s match over?
Suddenly Djokovic is starting to look a little wobbly … he shanks a forehand into the tramlines and suddenly he is 0-30 down on serve and two points away from losing this set. But Djokovic is the world No1 for reason: Smartly, he changes things up, electing to come to the net on a slice and benefitting when Mannarino hoiks a shot wide and then wins the next three points to take it to a tie-break.
Now Mannarino holds to go 6-5 up in the third… he’s like a pesky wasp who won’t go away despite Djokovic repeated attempts to swat him aside.
Mannarino breaks back: it’s now 6-4, 6-3, 5-5 After Mannarino holds his serve, Djokovic steps up to seal the match. There’s a sniff of a chance when Mannarino wrong-foots his opponent with a forehand to earn a breakpoint at 30-40, but Djokovic saves it with a serve down the line. Still, another opportunity arises when Djokovic volleys long – and this time, at the ninth time of asking, the Frenchman breaks! Cue raucous cheers.
Novak Djokovic is now just one game away from victory … Mannarino tried to attack him again there, but the Serb was too good, clinching the game with a backhand down the line.
Mannarino has played very well here … but twice in succession he gets a rush of blood to the head and clouts forehands way past the baseline. Djokovic is 15-40 up and sensing blood. The Frenchman saves the first breakpoint by wrongfooting his opponent, but then he sinks a shot into the net, and it’s very nearly game over, with Djokovic leading 6-4, 6-3, 4-3 – with a break in the third set.
Forgive the brief delay: Wimbledon’s wifi went down for a few minutes. You haven’t missed much – Djokovic had a sniff on Mannarino’s serve, but the Frenchman held on. Djokovic then held and it’s now 6-4, 6-3, 3-3.
Fair play to Mannarino, who holds his serve … he was helped by a rogue call from a line judge at 30-30, however: a Djokovic forehand was called long late, just as Mannarino’s reply hit the net. The umpire over-ruled it, but the Serb could have very easily had a breakpoint. Djokovic quickly holds and now it’s 6-4, 6-3, 2-2.
Still this epic game goes on … Djokovic chucks in another double fault – his third of this game. But as usual he finds a way to pull through and finally holds. He now leads 6-4, 6-3, 1-1. Will Mannarino be left deflated having spurned so many chances there?
But wait – Djokovic has double faulted again (his fourth of the match) to give Mannarino his fifth break point of the game … but Djokovic again saves it, and then hits a sumptuous down-the-line winner from around his ankles to have his first game point.
Mannarino gets another breakpoint chance … but Djokovic finds the line with his second serve to pull it back to deuce.
Three breakpoint chances for Mannarino, after a volley puts him 0-40 up! The Frenchman goes for it on the first, slapping a return into the net. Djokovic saves the second with an ace. And then he screws a forehand wide to blow the first.
Mannarino is hearing the last rites of this match when he goes 30-40 down on his opening service game of the third set. But what a response: an ace – only his second of the match – then an unreturnable serve, then another ace! Djokovic now leads 6-4, 6-3, 0-1.
Meanwhile another announcement from the Wimbledon tannoy: there will be no play on the outside courts before 4.30pm “but we are optimistic that the intermittent showers will clear and there will be play later”.
Novak Djokovic rattles down an ace to go two sets up … Mannarino isn’t playing badly, but that’s not enough to stop the Serb in this form.
Unsurprisingly lots of today’s matches have already been cancelled … and there’s news from the doubles too – which is already upsetting some players. It’s now 6-4, 5-3 in the Djokovic – Mannarino game.
Djokovic’s first serve percentage has gone up this set … and as a result he is looking even more secure: he has now won 88% of 1st serve points. Mannarino slaps a lovely forehand winner and benefits from a rare unforced error from Djokovic but he still loses the game to 30. It’s now 6-4, 5-2.
Mannarino clings on … At 15-30 down on serve he looked in trouble again but he hit another exquisite drop shot which sent Djokovic sliding to the floor, followed by two meaty serves to hold on. He’s still 6-4, 4-2 down. Now can he put Djokovic’s serve under pressure?
Another easy service game hold for Djokovic … who now leads 4-1 in the second set.
After losing five games in a row … Mannarino stops the rot. He was made to work for it, but holds to 30 to pull it back to 6-4, 3-1.
I popped out at the end of the first set to check the weather … the covers are being deflated on the outside courts, which is a good sign, but the it’s still spitting a little bit. I wouldn’t be counting on play across Wimbledon any time soon. Meanwhile Djokovic holds to lead 6-4, 3-0.
This isn’t looking good for Mannarino now … he played well in the first set but after Djokovic holds at the start of the second set he makes a hatful of unforced errors to be broken. Djokovic has now won four games in a row and leads 6-4, 2-0.
First set Djokovic 6-4! Djokovic senses there’s an opportunity to put the pressure on and he does just that by going 0-30 up. Mannarino then hits two big serves to pull it back to 30-30. But the Serb holds his nerve in two long rallies in a row, and after Mannarino nets for a second time in succession, he wins the set. “Come on,” shouts Djokovic -who is applauded by his coach Boris Becker.
Djokovic holds easily to go 5-4 up … Apart from the first game he’s looked largely untroubled on serve. Now can he apply the squeeze and take the first set?
Mannarino produces his first ace of the match to hold again … It’s now 4-4 in the first set. Meanwhile a quick peak outside suggests that it is still raining – which will be very frustrating to the thousands who have tickets for Court One, Court Two, and groundpasses for all the outside courts.
Superb from Mannarino … who from two feet behind the baseline produces a sand wedge of a drop shot that spins away from Djokovic’s clutches. That clearly rattles the Serb, as he then produces a double fault to make it 30-30. But when Djokovic slips on the next point, Mannarino misses his chance, and the Serb holds for 4-3.
Meanwhile in the tennis it’s 3-3 in the first set between Djokovic and Mannarino … with Mannarino giving as good as he’s getting. You might expect his wide starting position for the serve might leave him to vulnerable down the line return, but so far Djokovic has been unable to exploit it.
For those asking … yes, the legendary crooner Cliff Richard is here today. He’s in the Royal Box along with actor Gemma Arterton, and a number of Dame’s and Earls that I – and surely most readers of this blog – will have never heard of.
Djokovic sniffs an opportunity on Mannarino’s serve at 15-30 … and he skips in frustration as his return flies just long. Still, he quickly earns breakpoint, but finds the Frenchman holds firm. It’s 2-2, first set.
Meanwhile there’s a weather update from the umpires’ office … they say play will not get underway on the outside courts until at least 3.30pm. Given it is still raining and blustery, that forecast appears wildly optimistic.
Mannarino isn’t going to die wondering … he’s having a real pop at Djokovic’s serve whenever he gets the opportunity, but the Serb holds firm at 30-30 to go 2-1 up.
Encouraging start for Mannarino … there are suggestions that his groundstrokes are little flat, and his forehand scratchy, but he had no problems holding serve there. It’s 1-1, first set.
Well, this wasn’t part of the script. Mannarino finds his return game immediately and goes 15-40 up. But Djokovic’s first and second serve has improved substantially, and he’s not perturbed. He pulls it back to deuce, hits a wide 99mph serve to leave an easy put away for advantage, then finishes with an unreturnable serve to hold. Djokovic leads 1-0.
So what of Adrian Mannarino? Well, he can play a bit. He got as high as 27th in the world last year after finishing runner up in a tournament in Bogota, but is now ranked 55th. He’s a left-hander who has a decent return game and played pretty well to beat Britain’s Kyle Edmund in straight sets in the first round. This, though, is an entirely different level of opponent.
Meanwhile Britain’s world number 772 Marcus Willis has just given a wave to the Wimbledon crowds … who responded with a rousing cry of “Will-Bomb’s on Fire!” (But even if Willis was burning the heavy rain here would soon be put out)
Still, at least we’ll have Novak Djokovic against birthday boy Adrian Mannarino on Centre Court shortly … Djokovic is looking to extend his 29 Grand Slam winning streak and it would be a major shock if Mannarino denied him. I can’t tell you the odds for the match, because Wimbledon have blocked the Oddschecker website, but Djokovic will be a very short favourite.