WIMBLEDON, England – Novak Djokovic made some masterful escapes on Center Court.
Is Roger Federer serving two match points for the championship in the fifth set of an epic 2019 final? No problem. Djokovic won and won in a tiebreak.
Add Tuesday’s quarterfinal to the list for Djokovic, the defending champion and six-time winner of the sport’s most prestigious tournament, including the last three. His triumph, 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, over Janic Sinner, a rising 20-year-old Italian, was a simple lesson in regicide – when you come to kill the king. , do it quickly or not at all.
“I always believe I can turn a game around,” he said when it was over.
Djokovic, winner of 20 Grand Slam singles titles, entered the match on a 25-match winning streak at Wimbledon. Djokovic’s last loss at Wimbledon was in 2017 (the tournament was canceled in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic), when he retired with an elbow injury midway through the second set of his quarterfinal match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. He is now 10-1 at Wimbledon when the match goes five sets.
The last time he lost a match here that went all the way was in 2016, when he lost in four sets to American Sam Querrey in the third round.
From the start, it looked like Djokovic was having another easy afternoon on Center Court, the venue for many of his career signatures. He has been so clinical in his first three games, his movement, feel for the ball and control of the pitch as strong as ever. The unusual clash was marked by a second set loss to the unknown but hot Dutchman Tim van Rijhoven on Sunday night.
With William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, seated in the front row of the royal court, Djokovic won the first seven points of the match. Cheers erupted from the crowd as Sinner managed to get on the scoreboard, but Djokovic still went 3-0 up.
Sinner, making his second appearance on center court in three days, quickly found his sea legs. Every year, at the start of the second week of Wimbledon, the grass near the center court starting line turns brown and bumpy. Sinner started with his strong topspin forehand and flat, solid backhand in this area and hit the target more often, beating Djokovic at his own game as he pushed the court after Kutay.
Sinner broke even midway through the set to take the lead in the 11th game, breaking Djokovic’s serve once again with a crosscourt backhand, then closing out the first set with a series of big serves and chops that stayed all the way to the grass. .
The second set brought more of the same, with Sinner getting an early service break to take the set 6-2 late. After 93 minutes, Sinner was far from the finish line.
But then Djokovic, the most dangerous player in the game when he’s down two sets, woke up and the size of the moment and the task seemed to grow on the sinner’s mind. Djokovic left the court for a break – eating and talking in the bathroom mirror.
For the next 70 minutes, he was sending a message to whoever is holding the racket on the other side of the net from him in the final days of this tournament – refusing a Covid-19 vaccination could prevent him from playing another game. The Grand Slam is 11 months in and it’s not going anywhere easily.
“I saw a little doubt in his game and his movement,” Djokovic said.
It clocked a speed of 123 miles per hour, sending chalk dust from flying lines into the air. He sprinted to short balls and shots. He hit shots inches from the top of the net that sent Syner back as if he had an 80-foot pole attached to his chest.
In the best shots, Djokovic put a finger to his ear or raised his hands to the sky, asking for more noise from the crowd. He even laughed when a champagne cork popped before his serve late in the fourth set, breaking the silence and forcing him to pause and restart. This was his idea of fun.
Three hours after they started, Djokovic hit another serve down the center line and Sinner missed. The ball floated long and they headed for a deciding set, an ear-splitting roar echoing through center court as Siner came to serve.
It was all over in a few minutes.
Djokovic grumbles and makes his way to the points he wants and needs. In the third game, with a chance to break Sinner’s serve and a decisive break in his spirit, Djokovic sent a back-and-forth on the baseline, with Sinner hitting another forehand, then another before the young Italian volleyed into the net. After five games, the result became official. Elapsed time – 3 hours 35 minutes.
“I’m just glad I decided,” he said.