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Djokovic wins before rain returns in Eastbourne

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Novak Djokovic in action in Eastbourne, southern England, on June 28, 2017 © AFP / Glyn KIRK

Eastbourne, United Kingdom, Jun 28 – Top seed Novak Djokovic moved into the quarter-finals at Eastbourne before rain brought an early finish on Wednesday.

The interruption was the second major hit on the Wimbledon warm-up event after a near-total washout on Tuesday.

With the women’s draw 64 players strong and the men’s half that size, WTA third-round matches were backed up at an event which finishes on Saturday.

Women were due to play twice on Wednesday in a plan which was ruined as just eight matches of 16 were completed, while the men got through seven of 12.

Among those who may have to play twice on Thursday are women’s top seed Angelique Kerber and number two Simona Halep.

Djokovic passed his first grass-court test of the season, defeating Canadian qualifier Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-3.

The former world number one claimed his fifth victory in as many attempts against Pospisil, who is now 4-22 against top-10 opponents in his career.

The Serbian is playing a pre-Wimbledon tournament for the first time since 2010 and will next face Donald Young, who beat Jared Donaldson 6-4, 7-5.

“I’m glad that I came here to Eastbourne,” Djokovic said.

“I have had a great couple of days of training with good players, different styles of game.

“Yesterday it obviously wasn’t really enjoyable to see the rain falling all day.

“But today we almost played a full match, so I’m glad for that. I felt good on the court, considering it’s the first match.”

The world number four Djokovic, who will be advised by Andre Agassi at Wimbledon, is the second-highest-ranked men’s player to ever compete at the Aegon International, behind then number two Marcelo Rios in 1998.

In the first round, Russian Daniil Medvedev knocked out fifth seed Sam Querrey, beating the American 6-3, 7-5. German Mischa Zverev, seeded sixth, beat Ryan Harrison 6-4 7-6 (11/9).

Seventh seed Richard Gasquet stopped Frances Tiafoe 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

On the women’s side, Kerber recovered to beat Czech Kristyna Pliskova 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, as the German returned to action for the first time since her opening round defeat at the French Open.

Kerber is fighting to hold onto her world number one ranking and withdrew from last week’s Birmingham event with a hamstring strain.

She trained in Mallorca after recovering from her injury but has yet to capture a title this year or beaten an opponent inside the top 20.

Roland Garros finalist Halep, who trails Kerber by just 115 ranking points, rallied to defeat China’s Duan Ying-Ying 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, while Tsvetana Pironkova — a 2010 Wimbledon semi-finalist — thumped Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-0, 6-4.

The Bulgarian Pironkova led Halep by a set and a break in their third-round clash though when the rains came, with the match to be completed on Thursday.

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