Grass is agreeing with Novak Djokovic who said that his trip to the south coast of England had a very positive effect on his game along with new coach Andre Agassi.
“I came to Eastbourne because I wanted to experience match play – mentally, physically and tactically – every way you look at it. Because grass is a different surface from any other, I would like to get as much time on the court as possible.
“The movement is very different from clay or hard courts. You’ve got to be very soft, very gentle, but yet very reactive… I’m trying to get as much of the match situations as possible, hear the chair umpire say 30-all, 4-all. Those kind of intense moments.”
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 favorites 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 favorites. So for a change, it’s good to not be one of the top favorites.
“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 a good variety. It was a really, really solid win.”
“It’s a very kind of informal tournament in a good way, where you can go around the grounds and kind of interact with people,” said Djokovic. “Sure, people come up to you, but they respect you if you’re going with a purpose to a certain court to observe a match or something like that. That’s what happened the other day. People are really kind of respectful and giving me space for a certain time until I finished with my scouting.
“That’s the nice thing about this tournament. I don’t get to experience that. Usually I am, like most of the top players, in the locker rooms or especially in the areas where the players are going to be around. So it’s nice to go around the outside courts and observe, because that’s what we all used to do. It’s good to do that again for a change.”
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.