Novak Djokovic's Near-Perfect Wimbledon R2 Record: The Marat Safin Exception

Novak Djokovic is 18-1 in the Wimbledon R2, losing only to Marat Safin in 2008

by Jovica Ilic
Novak Djokovic's Near-Perfect Wimbledon R2 Record: The Marat Safin Exception
© Ryan Pierse / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic will compete in the third round at Wimbledon for the 18th time in 19 trips to London. Novak faced the home player Jacob Fearnley in the second round and notched a 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 win in three hours, entering the last 32 and remaining on the title course.

Thus, Djokovic improved his second-round Wimbledon record to 18-1, suffering the only loss in 2008 versus Marat Safin! The Serb survived a cracker in the second round during his first Wimbledon in 2005, fending off six match points versus Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and avoiding an early exit.

Novak defeated Tommy Robredo and Amer Delic in the upcoming two years before losing to the former world no. 1 Safin in 2008, embracing his worst result at the All England Club. Djokovic did not lose a set in the second round at Wimbledon in the next five years, and that streak ended in 2014.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2024© Francois Nel / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Radek Stepanek pushed world no. 2 to the limits ten years ago before Djokovic prevailed 6-4, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, avoiding a deciding set. Novak stood too strong in the following eight Wimbledon editions, beating every second-round rival in straight sets and extending his streak.

After ten years, Djokovic finally lost a set in the second round of Wimbledon, with world no. 277 Fearnley throwing everything at world no. 2. Jacob celebrated an NCAA College title with TSU in May before conquering the Nottingham Challenger as a qualifier, earning the Wimbledon wild card.

The Briton used it with both hands and scored his first Major victory before facing the 24-time Major winner in round two. Novak played well in the opening two sets before losing ground a bit, allowing Jacob to take charge and dominate the rallies.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2024© Francois Nel / Staff - Gettyn Images Sport

Novak Djokovic's only Wimbledon R2 loss came in 2008 versus Marat Safin.

The Briton claimed the third set with a late break before the Serb sealed the deal with a return game in the closing stages of the fourth, avoiding spending more time on the court after standing two points from dropping the set.

Djokovic claimed 15 points more than Fearnley and made the difference with four breaks on his tally while losing serve two times. Jacob fired 42 winners, attacking the GOAT and rushing to the net almost 40 times. However, he sprayed 49 unforced errors in comparison to Novak's 27, hitting the exit door despite a valiant effort.

Thus, Marat Safin remains the only player to oust Djokovic in the second round at Wimbledon, achieving that 16 years ago! Novak reached the semi-final in 2007, embracing a couple of challenging duels before retiring versus Rafael Nadal.

A year later, the Serb beat Michael Berrer in four sets in the first round before facing the former world no. 1 in the second.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2008© Clive Brunskill / Staff- Getty Images Sport

Ranked 75th, Safin contemplated retirement, leaving professional tennis in November 2009.

However, the Russian could still produce a stunner, achieving one against Novak on Centre Court with a 6-4, 7-6, 6-2 triumph in two hours and two minutes! Djokovic experienced his earliest Major loss since the 2006 Australian Open, ending his run of five consecutive Major semi-finals.

The Serb stood powerless on the return while getting broken four times, suffering an early exit and propelling the Russian into the last 32. Safin used his experience and had the upper hand in the pivotal moments, taking the tie break of the second set and dominating the third for a notable victory.

The 21-year-old faced three break points in the first game of the encounter. Novak stayed calm and rattled off five points, closing the game with an ace and avoiding an early setback. Marat closed the second game after deuces and locked the result at 2-2 two games later.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2008© Clive Brunskill / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Djokovic played a loose service game a few minutes later, hitting a double fault and falling 3-2 behind. However, the young gun pulled the break back in the next one, firing a forehand winner and locking the result at 3-3.

Marat stayed competitive and attacked on the return in the seventh game. He landed a forehand drive-volley winner for a break at love and the second advantage. Safin cemented the lead with a forehand down the line winner in game eight and served for the opener at 5-4.

Novak reached a deuce before Marat claimed two points, wrapping up the set 6-4 in 40 minutes. Djokovic got out of jail in the third game of the second set and produced a hold at 15 with an unreturned serve two games later for 3-2.

Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon 2008© Ryan Pierse / Staff - Getty Images Sport

They served well for the rest of the set, introducing a tie break. Safin opened a 3-1 lead after Djokovic's forehand error and extended it with a stop-volley at the net in the sixth point.

The Russian closed the set with a service winner at 6-3, building a massive advantage ahead of set number three. Novak lost momentum and hit a double fault in the second game, falling behind and sending Marat closer to the finish line.

Safin moved 4-1 up with a service winner and landed two powerful serve at a deuce two games later for 5-2, keeping the pressure on the other side. Djokovic served to stay in the match in game eight and hit a double fault, losing serve and propelling Safin over the top.

Novak Djokovic Wimbledon Marat Safin