Novak Djokovic faces Carlos Alcaraz in dream Wimbledon final

This was it. If Novak Djokovic was to be stopped in the Wimbledon semifinals, if his much younger and harder-hitting opponent, Jannik Sinner, was to turn things around on Friday, the enormous comeback would have to begin quickly.

Djokovic was well aware of it. Sinner was well aware of this. The 15,000 or more Centre Court spectators were well aware of this.

After winning the first two sets, Djokovic trailed 5-4 in the third, and a flubbed forehand made the game score 15-40 as he served. Sinner has two opportunities to ultimately escape free. He has two chances to take a set. Djokovic made a mistake, which elicited applause from the crowd. Djokovic sarcastically applauded the noisemakers with his racket and ball, then flashed a thumbs-up.

He can back up any such boast. Djokovic simply does not lose at the All England Club these days. Or at any Grand Slam tournament for that matter. So he calmly gathered the following four points to win the game, looked towards the fans, and mockingly pretended to wipe away a tear. The match was finished in twenty minutes, as Djokovic’s 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) triumph over Sinner let him to close in on a record-tying eighth Wimbledon title and sixth in a consecutive.

“The third set could have gone his way,” said Djokovic, who will face No. 1 ranked Carlos Alcaraz for the trophy on Sunday. “It was just a lot of pressure,” she says.

Alcaraz used all of his abilities, including winning 17 of 20 points when he serve-and-volleyed, in defeating No. 3-ranked Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to reach his first major tournament final.

While Djokovic, 36, of Serbia, is aiming for his 24th Grand Slam singles title, Alcaraz, 20, of Spain, is aiming for his second after winning the US Open in September.

“What can I say? “Everyone recognises him as a legend,” Alcaraz remarked of Djokovic. “It’s going to be extremely difficult. But I will fight…. I will believe in myself, and I will believe that I can beat him here.”

Since 2017, no one has defeated Djokovic at Wimbledon. And no one has beaten him at Centre Court since 2013.

Djokovic repeatedly served himself out of trouble against Sinner, saving all six break points he faced to reach his ninth final at the All England Club. It is also his 35th Grand Slam final, more than any other man or woman in tennis history.

As good as he is as a returner and as good as his defence is (he would sprint, lean, and stretch to get to a ball that stretched a point until Sinner made a mistake), Djokovic has a serve that has developed the most over his career.

That was evident on Friday, and it has been for the past two weeks: Djokovic has won 100 of his 103 service games and saved 16 of 19 break points in his half-dozen encounters this event.

“He was very good under pressure.” Sinner stated, “There is no missing.” “He’s the one.”

The age difference between Djokovic and Sinner, 21, was the greatest between Wimbledon men’s semifinalists since the Open era began in 1968. Djokovic would be the oldest Wimbledon champion since professionals were initially permitted to compete that year.

“I feel 36 is the new 26, I guess,” Djokovic added. “It feels good.”

Sinner is the one who hammered serves at up to 132 mph and pounded one fault that clanged against the speed readout board in a corner of the stadium with such force that it sounded as though he might have damaged it. More concerning for Sinner: it was followed by another error in a service game in which he fell down 2-1 in the second set.

In reality, as skilled as Sinner is, he didn’t aggravate Djokovic any more than chair umpire Richard Haigh did.

In one game, Djokovic fought to no effect after forfeiting a point because Haigh called him for hindrance for letting out a lengthy yell while the ball was still in play. Moments later, Haigh warned Djokovic for letting the serve time run out.

“It was a very stressful game for me to survive and storm through.” “It was crucial,” said Djokovic, who thought the hindrance call was erroneous after seeing a replay. He said Haigh needed to “recognise the moment a little bit more” before issuing the time warning. “Fortunately for me, I kept my cool.”

Indeed, Djokovic did, extending his campaign to match Roger Federer as the only men to have won eight singles titles at Wimbledon. Martina Navratilova won the women’s championship nine times.

Djokovic won his 22nd major title in the Australian Open in January, and his 23rd at the French Open in June (his Wimbledon shoes have a small “23” stamped on the side) after defeating Alcaraz in the semifinals at Roland Garros.

If Djokovic wins on Sunday, he would head to the US Open in August with a chance to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.

The grass was sticky and sloppy during Djokovic vs. Sinner because the retractable roof of the main stadium was closed due to rain outside. Sinner slipped on the first point, and Djokovic on the third. And that happened to each of them again and again. They continuously pounded the soles of their shoes with their rackets to try to get the grass and dirt out.

Taking against Djokovic signified a big increase in the level of competition for Sinner. He had not only not faced a single seeded player until Friday, but he had also faced opponents ranked 79th, 85th, 98th, and 111th.

No one has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the half-century history of computerised tennis rankings – men’s and women’s – than Djokovic, who is currently No. 2. However, that figure does not accurately reflect his current condition.

This was Djokovic’s 46th major semifinal and Sinner’s first, and it seemed clear at the most vital points.

Sinner came close to reaching that stage a year ago at the All England Club, when he had a two-set lead in the quarterfinals against Djokovic, who rallied to win in five sets.

That type of job was not required this afternoon. Djokovic never let it go to that point.


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