Frances Tiafoe did almost everything right against Novak Djokovic, but one key moment cost him the entire match.
Tiafoe, currently ranked 64th on the men’s circuit, gave Djokovic all he could handle on centre court, before the reigning champion pulled away to a 6-3 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 win.
The incident took place in the fourth set with the match delicately placed after Djokovic claimed the all-important third in a tiebreaker.
With the scores tied at 3-3 and 30-30 on Tiafoe’s serve, the American ambled around in lackadaisical fashion and docked of his first serve by chair umpire Damien Dumusois.
The decision stunned Tiafoe, who had barely gotten into his service motion by the time the serve clock expired, as he approached Dumusois’ chair to plead his case.
“We’ve played a whole point and we have to walk to the tunnel,” he said.
“(Djokovic) didn’t walk through the middle of the f—–g line. Come on bro, come on man, what are you expecting from me?”
Dumusois’ decision proved to be the straw that broke Tiafoe’s resistance, as Djokovic broke the American, before claiming the next two games to take out the fourth set.
Following his loss, Tiafoe admitted that the time violation called on him “broke the match”.
“Hats off to him, but that was a terrible ending to the match, to such a high-quality match,” he said.
“Could I have handled it better? Yes. That just broke me. I’m out there battling World No. 1, and like he needs any more help, you know.”
Despite Tiafoe’s pleas both during and after the match, American tennis legend Jim Courier laid the blame squarely on the shoulders of the 23-year-old.
“He’s not even aware of the clock. He tried to talk his way out of it (but) that was silly,” Courier said on Nine’s coverage.
“I love Frances, you’re not going to find a bigger Tiafoe fan than me, but he shouldn’t have said what he said and he should have been looking at the clock.
“That is completely on him, just a lack of situational awareness.”
With one American in his rear-view mirror, Djokovic will now adjust his focus onto another, with a match-up against Taylor Fritz on the horizon.