LONDON (Reuters) - The scorecard suggests a routine win for top seed Novak Djokovic but his satisfaction at reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals without dropping a set was mixed with relief after some tricky moments against German veteran Tommy Haas on Monday.
Djokovic hardly broke sweat in the first set on Center Court but he always knew it would not be that straightforward against the elegant stylist who had twice beaten him on grass.
The evergreen Haas, 35, matched Djokovic shot for shot thereafter but fell to a 6-1 6-4 7-6(4) defeat, ending his hopes of becoming the oldest man to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Dutchman Tom Okker in 1979.
Haas, whose single-handed backhand remains a stroke of wonder, led 4-2 in the second set and then hit back from 5-2 down in the third to stretch Djokovic into a tiebreak.
For the army of Andy Murray fans hoping to cheer the Scot to the title, the occasional Djokovic lapse offers hope yet when it really mattered the six-times major winner showed the deadly precision that has taken him to world number one.
The hurdles will get higher for Djokovic starting with Tomas Berdych, who beat him in 2010 semis, but he says he is playing better than when he beat Rafa Nadal to win the title in 2011.
“I feel good about myself in this moment,” he told reporters. “I think I actually play better tennis on grass than I played two years ago when I won this tournament.
“I had a minor setback in the third set and I allowed him an opportunity to come back to the match. But I played a great tiebreak and I’m really glad to finish in three.”
With the light fading and the prospect of the match being finished under the roof lights, there was an added sense of urgency as Djokovic bossed the tiebreak.
“If I had lost the third set and maybe they go on and close the roof and go under the lights deep in the night, you can’t predict the result after that,” he said.
“That’s why I really wanted to get the job done.”
As the seeds have tumbled in both the men’s and women’s draws, Djokovic has been watertight and has arrived at the business end of the tournament looking as fresh as a daisy.
It is quite a difference to the crestfallen figure who saw victory slip through his fingers in an epic French Open semi-final defeat by Rafa Nadal last month.
“When you lose, that’s when you really start thinking about what you should do next,” he said. “A lot of tentative, maybe negative thoughts go through your mind.
“It’s a big challenge mentally to overcome that and manage to understand what you need to do.”
By that same token Djokovic points to his 2010 Wimbledon semi-final defeat by Berdych as the springboard that elevated his career into orbit.
“I had quite a turbulent five, six months of 2010 but the semi-finals of Wimbledon came in the right time for me because I felt that was like a springboard for me,” he said.
“From that moment on, everything started going uphill really.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ed Osmond and Sonia Oxley