The defending champion, Novak Djokovic, demonstrated his ruthless side in giving nothing but a thrashing to his friend, contemporary and Olympic doubles partner Viktor Troicki under the Centre Court roof yesterday evening.
The unseeded Troicki was dismissed 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in exactly 90 minutes, and can only hope that his countryman is in equally devastating form when they team up under the Serbian flag here later this month.
The world No 1 has looked the most assured of the leading four men at this Wimbledon, dropping only one set, which was against Radek Stepanek in his previous match. All three other members of the gilded quartet had featured in an extravaganza under the roof – Rafael Nadal to his cost – and the crowd had been hoping for a contest to match the previous ones. But this was by far the most one-sided, and Boris Becker called it "the best performance we've seen from a player so far at these championships".
Troicki, No 34 in the world, had said it would be a "miracle" to defeat his countryman and that his main target had been just to have the opportunity, which he earned by knocking out two seeds in Marcel Granollers and Juan Monaco. A hat-trick was never on the cards, the one surprise being that at 3-1 down in the first set he achieved a break back before immediately dropping his own serve again.
In the second set Djokovic was at times unplayable, as the figures suggested: 100 per cent of his first serves in and 92 per cent of the points won on them. He took it with a double break in only 24 minutes and ran through the third just as comfortably, winning on his third match point. It was a formidable display.
Next up will be either Florian Mayer, seeded 31, or the 18th seed, Richard Gasquet. Mayer took the first set of their fourth-round match yesterday before the rain, but neither man will have any great reason for optimism and not just because of yesterday's show of strength; Djokovic leads France's Gasquet 6-1 and Germany's Mayer 1-0 in previous meetings.
Last night the champion was apologetic about the treatment handed out to his friend. "Me and Viktor know each other so well. When we first played I was nine and he was eight," he said. "There are no secrets between us but today there had to be a loser.
"It's difficult how to behave on the court when you're playing your best friend. But in the end we're professionals."
Should he need to play under the roof again, as seems perfectly possible given the weather forecast, Djokovic will now be well prepared. "I think I have played well in my last three matches, all under the roof," he added. "It's quite a change, so you need time to adjust. There is a difference in the speed of the ball through the air and I find it easier to return serve."Reuse content