This was the pivotal moment. On the off chance that Novak Djokovic’s walk to triumph was to be ended in the Wimbledon elimination rounds, his a lot more youthful and harder-hitting rival, Jannik Heathen, needed to hold fast right from the start of the match on Friday.
Both Djokovic and Sinner understood the significance of the moment, as did the 15,000 spectators packed into Centre Court.
Having already secured the first two sets, Djokovic found himself trailing 5-4 in the third set. The pressure intensified when he faced a critical moment, with the game score at 15-40 as he served. It was a golden opportunity for Sinner to break Djokovic’s serve and take the set. However, Djokovic managed to keep his cool and delivered four consecutive points to snatch that crucial game. In a moment of playfulness, he sarcastically acknowledged the support from the crowd, adding a touch of bravado.
Djokovic’s confidence was well-founded. He had been virtually unbeatable at the All England Club and other Grand Slam tournaments lately. True to form, he went on to finish the match in just 20 minutes, securing a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over Sinner. With this win, Djokovic inched closer to a record-tying eighth Wimbledon title and his fifth consecutive victory at the prestigious event.
Reflecting on the tense third set, Djokovic acknowledged the pressure he felt, recognizing that Sinner had the chance to turn the tables on him.
Looking ahead, Djokovic was now set to face the No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz in the final showdown on Sunday, as he pursued yet another triumphant moment in his remarkable tennis career.
Exhibiting an array of talents, Alcaraz demonstrated his prowess by winning 17 out of 20 points when employing the serve-and-volley tactic, securing a convincing 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 3-ranked Daniil Medvedev on Friday, earning his first-ever final appearance at the grass-court major tournament.
While Djokovic, a 36-year-old tennis maestro from Serbia, aims to add a 24th Grand Slam singles championship to his remarkable career, Alcaraz, a 20-year-old emerging star from Spain, seeks his second major title following his triumph at the US Open in September.
Regarding the upcoming showdown with Djokovic, Alcaraz humbly acknowledged the legend that the Serbian player is. Despite the daunting challenge, he expressed his determination to fight and believe in his abilities to overcome Djokovic in this crucial match.
Since 2017, no one has managed to defeat Djokovic at Wimbledon, and since 2013, he has remained unbeaten at Centre Court, showcasing his dominance on the prestigious grass surface.
In his semifinal against Sinner, Djokovic’s impeccable serving was on full display as he managed to save all six break points he faced, securing his ninth final appearance at the All England Club and an impressive 35th final appearance at all Grand Slam tournaments, a record unmatched by any other player in tennis history.
While Djokovic is widely recognized for his remarkable returning and defensive skills, his serve has been a standout aspect of his game, significantly improving over the course of his illustrious career.
Throughout the Wimbledon tournament, Djokovic’s service game has been outstanding, winning 100 out of 103 service games and saving 16 out of 19 break points in his six matches, showcasing his composure under pressure.
Sinner, known for his powerful serves, delivered some thunderous shots, reaching speeds of up to 132 mph. However, he faced challenges, including a service game he lost, falling behind 2-1 in the second set.
Despite the talent and efforts of Sinner, Djokovic remained unfazed, showing no more frustration than the chair umpire, Richard Haigh, throughout the match. Their age gap, with Djokovic at 36 and Sinner at 21, marked the largest difference between Wimbledon men’s semifinalists in the Open era.
In good humor, Djokovic expressed that 36 felt like the new 26, embracing his age with confidence as he continues to excel on the tennis court.
During a pivotal game, Djokovic faced and successfully eliminated a break point, but not without some contention. He argued in vain after losing a point due to a hindrance call by Haigh when he let out a loud yell while the ball was still in play. Presently a while later, Haigh gave Djokovic an admonition for permitting the serve clock to terminate.
Reflecting on the intense moment, Djokovic described the game as highly stressful but crucial for him to navigate through. He believed the hindrance call was incorrect after reviewing a replay and felt that Haigh should have shown more awareness of the situation instead of giving him a time warning. Nevertheless, Djokovic managed to stay composed amid the challenges.
Indeed, Djokovic remained resolute in his pursuit to match Roger Federer’s record of eight singles titles at Wimbledon, while Martina Navratilova holds the record for the most women’s championships with nine wins.
Having secured major titles No. 22 and No. 23 at the Australian Open and the French Open, respectively, Djokovic was determined to add an eighth Wimbledon title to his illustrious collection, as evidenced by the “23” stamp on his Wimbledon shoes, symbolizing his most recent Grand Slam victory.
A triumph at Wimbledon would put Djokovic in a remarkable position heading into the US Open, where he would have a chance to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam, a feat last accomplished by Rod Laver in 1969.
The semifinal match between Djokovic and Sinner took place indoors with the retractable roof of the main stadium closed due to rain. The slippery grass surface posed challenges for both players, as they repeatedly cleaned their shoe soles with their rackets to remove grass and dirt that got stuck.
For Sinner, facing Djokovic marked a significant rise in the level of competition. Prior to the semifinal, he had not encountered any seeded players and faced opponents ranked 79th, 85th, 98th, and 111th.
Although Djokovic currently holds the No. 2 ranking, his immense achievements have solidified his place in tennis history. With the most weeks at No. 1 in the history of computerized rankings for both men’s and women’s tennis, Djokovic’s current form continues to showcase his exceptional abilities on the court.
The disparity in experience was evident during the semifinal, with Djokovic competing in his 46th major semifinal compared to Sinner’s first. Despite coming close to defeating Djokovic in the Wimbledon quarterfinals the previous year, Sinner did not require such a comeback this time as Djokovic firmly controlled the match from the start.