Thompson caned as Vukic bows to Wimbledon champ Alcaraz

Ian Chadband |

Wimbledon hope Jordan Thompson has bowed out tamely but Australian colleague Aleksandar Vukic had much to be proud of in defeat to brilliant champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Recent Queen’s Club star Thompson, Australia’s second-best hope of men’s singles success at Wimbledon, just couldn’t cope with the excellence of American Brandon Nakashima, succumbing in three one-sided sets 6-3 6-2 6-2 on a rain-hit Wednesday.

Fellow Sydneysider Vukic then followed up under the roof of No.1 Court, briefly offering the holder Alcaraz a scare, as he served for the first set on his showcourt debut.

However, the 21-year-old moved into an unstoppable higher gear to triumph 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-2. 

Carlos Alcaraz, Aleksandar Vukic
Carlos Alcaraz got a brief scare before outclassing Australian Aleksandar Vukic at Wimbledon. (EPA PHOTO)

The 30-year-old stalwart Thompson, in the middle of a breakthrough season in which he lifted his first ATP title, simply couldn’t back up his epic first-round comeback victory over five sets against Russian Pavel Kotov.

Thompson, a renowned battler who’s no stranger to five-set arm wrestles, having won eight of his 19 matches that went the distance, this time couldn’t even lay a glove on the man he fought back from two sets against to beat in last year’s first round.

Nakashima was dominant in every department as world No.40 Thompson, usually such a tough figure to down on his favourite grass courts and a player in such form that he only narrowly missed out on seeding at Wimbledon, appeared powerless, unable to convert his measly two break points.

But ‘Thommo’ was left adamant that he had not under-performed but was just beaten by a man playing lights-out tennis as he reflected on the disappointment of being knocked out in the first two rounds seven times in eight Wimbledons. 

“I think he played incredible,” shrugged Thompson. “Kept good depth, hitting it big, served for the most part around 80 per cent, making nearly every return, hitting lines and he just had a great day at the office and I watched a lot of balls go past me.

“Nothing’s wrong; he just played a great match. 

American Brandon Nakashima outplayed his Australian opponent. (AP PHOTO)

“Hats off to him. Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. I returned up, I returned back, sometimes I went for kickers, sliders, big serves, serves-volley, staying back but it just wasn’t happening.”

But the disappointment for Thompson was palpable, just two weeks after he had his best result at an ATP 500 event, reaching the semis in the Queen’s Club Championship.

“This is my favourite tournament. Losing here is always a disappointment, and running into guys who are in red-hot form is not ideal. I feel it’s become my most disappointing slam.”

In all, Thompson’s serve was cracked five times as he made more forays to the net than usual – 41 in all, while failing to convert 16 times – only for his attacks to often get picked off, with world No.65 Nakashima striking 37 searing winners.

Big-serving Vukic’s dream of a grand slam showcourt date was everything he had imagined for a set. The world No.69 reeled off four games in a row to serve for the opening set, only for the champion to suddenly start playing like one.

The 28-year-old Vukic is the only Aussie ever to have beaten Alcaraz in the pro ranks, having defeated the 17-year-old in French Open qualifying four years ago. 

“But he was a child then,” reflected Vukic. Alcaraz the man proved a very different proposition once he got into his stride in the second set, unveiling a panoply of dramatic shot-making to blitz 42 winners.

“I’m really happy. The first set, that was the key, it was really close,” said Alcaraz, who next up meets American star Frances Tiafoe. “I played a really good tie-break and then after that I played at a really high level.”