Novak Djokovic on Friday won his 800th career match to reach the Queen’s Club semi-finals and suggested that he could play on past his 40th birthday.
The 31-year-old Serb has been in the doldrums since winning the French Open in 2016 and has been nursing an elbow injury for 18 months.
However, the spring in his step on the London grass-courts was evident as he dispatched Adrian Mannarino 7-5, 6-1 to set up a semi-final against another in-form Frenchman, Jeremy Chardy, who yesterday defeated Frances Tiafoe of the US 6-4, 6-4.
“Fifty, 60, 70, I don’t know, and I don’t want to put any limit or any number to it,” Djokovic told reporters when asked if he could still be playing at 40. “I’m 31 on the paper, but I’m 19 in the real sense.”
Djokovic is only the 10th man in the professional era to reach 800 match wins, and while Jimmy Connors’ 1,256 — not to mention Roger Federer’s still-growing 1,156 — is still a long way off, those who were beginning to write off the former world No. 1 and dominant force might need a rethink.
Top-seeded Marin Cilic also advanced with a 7-6 (7/3), 6-2 win over Sam Querrey.
Cilic now is to face Nick Kyrgios, who eliminated defending champion Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/3).
GERRY WEBER OPEN
AFP, HALLE, Germany
Roger Federer on Friday stepped up his grass game as Wimbledon looms, holding off Australian Matthew Ebden 7-6 (7/2), 7-5 in their quarter-final at the Gerry Weber Open.
With his world No. 1 ranking on the line, the Swiss is sparing no effort to make sure he lifts a 10th title at the event today.
He will next play US qualifier Denis Kudla, who beat Yuichi Sugita 6-2, 7-5.
The victory was the 19th in a row on grass for the 36-year-old Federer, who last lost on his favorite surface in an opening match in Stuttgart a year ago, although the 20-time Grand Slam champion atoned last weekend, winning that tournament for the first time.
The other semi-final is to pit Roberto Bautista Agut against Borna Coric.
Fourth seed Bautista Agut defeated Russian Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, while Croatian Coric eliminated Italy’s Andreas Seppi 7-5, 6-3.
“I felt I had to push myself today,” Federer said. “It didn’t come as easy as it did in other matches, but you can’t allow that to be frustrating. I can take away a lot of positives.”
Kudla, ranked 109th, had never been past a quarter-final on grass, which he achieved at Queen’s Club five years ago.
Kudla improved to 17-14 on grass over his career as he put out Sugita, the No. 52 who stunned third seed and Roland Garros finalist Dominic Thiem in the second round.
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