Records and titles are accumulating more frequently for Novak Djokovic these days and for the 15th consecutive time at a major this year, he won a tiebreaker. The tiebreaker came in the third set of a Wimbledon semifinal victory against Jannik Sinner. Down 3-1 in the tiebreak, Djokovic went on to win six of the next seven points to emerge as the winner 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4).
The semifinal victory put Djokovic in the singles final of a major for a record 35th time, breaking a tie with Chrissie Evert (18-16). Djokovic in recent years has shifted his focus to winning Grand Slams. “All the tournaments that I play are basically leading me up to Grand Slam,” said Djokovic. “I’m really glad that this year, actually last several years, my Grand Slam seasons are amazing. The results are fantastic.”
Djokovic assembled points and games as a 23 time champion would, surgically threading acute angles and light touch with drop shots. Sinner’s forehand was bullied, a shot the Italian strikes heavily with higher string tension than the Serbian, but also misses often. Djokovic’s forehand once upon a time was also a weak point in his game earlier in his career.
“Well, it was a well-fought, straight-set victory,” said Djokovic. “Each set was closer than it appears maybe on the scoreboard. I knew that he is going to try to be aggressive and hit from both forehand and backhand quite flat and fast, so I needed to be really sharp from the beginning, which I think I have.”
Another aspect of Djokovic’s game that has improved over the years is his serving. Trying to find a way to close out the first set at 5-3, from love-15, Djokovic hit three aces in a row. In the opening games, he totaled five aces and won 67 percent of his second serve points.
Djokovic started to push the pace early in the second set, breaking Sinner at 1-1. The next game featured an odd moment for the sport, Djokovic at 15-all was called for a mid-rally hindrance by the chair umpire. “I saw the replay,” said Djokovic. “I saw that my grunt finished before he hit the shot. So I thought that chair umpire’s call was not correct. I mean, my opinion.”
Two points later, the Serbian was hit with a time violation, which further added to his frustration. “I was just trying to hold my things mentally together and not really get upset, even though I was really upset because I didn’t think it was the right call.” said Djokovic.
Djokovic steered himself into a two-set lead over the Italian. Sinner looked to have a big problem to tackle. Serving in the third set at 1-all, love-40, Sinner fought back to hold. Sinner left an opening for Djokovic early in the third set by letting the Serbian dictate the point. Djokovic was turning the screws early and often.
At this point, Sinner was looking for any small advantage. On his serve for deuce, he asked for the same ball back that he served with the point before. He found a spark, a big response from love-40. Sinner even had time to smile before he served to hold.
Down a pair of set points, Djokovic forced Sinner to hit two errors and in time made his way to a tiebreaker, with an unbeatable record. “Coming into every tiebreak now,” said Djokovic. “I feel I think more comfortable than my opponent just because of the record. I think that my opponents also know about that record. That mentally makes a difference.”
Djokovic finished with closed out the match with confidence and is now through to his 9th Wimbledon final. “Semi-Finals it was always going to be a very close match. The score line doesn’t give the reality of what was happening on the court. it was super close.”
Djokovic said in a lighthearted fashion, “Yeah, it’s great to be part of this new generation, I love it.” referring to how the ongoing theme in men’s professional tennis is that none of the younger generation can beat Djokovic.
Djokovic’s response to everything was clinical. He dealt with adversity and didn’t waver. It was the first time that he received a hindrance call in his entire 18 year career in tennis. An odd moment that ultimately turned into rocket fuel the rest of the match for the Serbian.
The 23-time Grand Slam champion has a chance to win an eighth title, his fifth straight at Wimbledon, and also reclaiming the world No. 1 title over Carlos Alcaraz, on Sunday.
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Featured Image courtesy of Wimbledon
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