Novak Djokovic has proven that age is just a number as he is on the verge of winning his eighth Wimbledon title, tying the record. He defeated Italy’s Jannik Sinner in straight sets with a score of 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 in the first men’s semifinal on Friday.
The 36-year-old’s win secured their spot in the record-breaking 35th grand slam final, surpassing Chris Evert’s milestone. They will now compete against Carlos Alcaraz in the final on Sunday.
Djokovic will be the overwhelming favorite to win a record-extending 24th grand slam title against Alcaraz, not least because he’s already won the Australian Open and the French Open in 2023.
The Serbian player has only lost one Wimbledon final that he has reached, which occurred 10 years ago when he was defeated by Andy Murray.
‘I love it’
Djokovic, known for his flair, engaged in a playful exchange with a spectator who had cheered when he missed a serve during a crucial moment in the third set. After successfully maintaining his serve, Djokovic playfully imitated wiping tears from his eyes towards the fan.
The newcomer, Sinner, reached the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time in his career. Despite giving it his all on the court, he was no match for Djokovic’s unstoppable skill.
The 21-year-old is considered one of the most promising young players in tennis and will likely compete in a grand slam again in the near future. However, for now, the sport’s older and more experienced player remains victorious at SW19.
Djokovic humbly acknowledged in his post-match interview that the semifinals were bound to be a tightly contested and intense match. He expressed that the three sets were extremely close and the score may not accurately reflect the intensity of the gameplay.
“He could have won the third set, as he had a 15-40 advantage while leading 5-4. However, he missed a few shots, giving me the opportunity to win the tie-break. The third set was intense and I had opportunities to win early on, but he demonstrated why he is a top player in the upcoming generation and one of the best in the world.”
“I am delighted to be a part of this new era, I am truly enjoying it,” Djokovic quipped.
Rare hindrance call
Sinner showed potential early on, earning a break point in Djokovic’s first service game. Unfortunately, he was unable to capitalize on it. The tide turned as Sinner’s serve was broken in his own opening game, giving Djokovic the upper hand in the first set.
Overall, Sinner had three opportunities to break Djokovic’s serve in the first set, but he was unable to take advantage of any of them. Meanwhile, his opponent seized the one opportunity he had and converted it ruthlessly.
The second round followed a similar trend, with Sinner once again being broken early in the match. A dejected expression appeared on his face after playing a game of rather careless tennis.
During the second set, umpire Richard Haigh made an unusual decision by calling a hindrance on Djokovic and awarding the point to Sinner. This occurred after Djokovic let out a delayed grunt while hitting a backhand.
Djokovic stated that the interruption [call] during the match today may have altered the outcome of the game.
“After receiving the call from the chair umpire, I was filled with nerves. However, I was able to gather myself and this was likely the first instance in my career where I faced such a situation.”
“I typically do not make prolonged grunts, perhaps it was an echo from the ceiling or something. I did not believe I was causing any inconvenience, but it was the designated call and I had to adhere to it.”
Afterwards, Haigh penalized Djokovic for taking too long on his serve. While it was the right call, it only increased the annoyance of both Djokovic and the audience.
Despite the umpire’s rulings, Djokovic maintained his serve and eventually gained a strong advantage by winning two sets.
Sinner deserves plenty of credit for continuing to battle deep into the third set, pumping his fist toward his box with every booming winner, including one that registered 100 miles per hour on the speed gun.
The young player was currently showcasing his top performance in the game, and as a result, he had the opportunity to win the third set by playing a tie-break.
Djokovic’s dominance could not be denied as he raised the intensity to win the tie-break and ultimately the match.
Despite being 36 years old, Djokovic claims that he may be playing the best tennis of his career.
“I would like to think that is true,” he stated. “As we are involved in an individual sport, we must rely on ourselves and ensure we are in optimal physical, mental, and emotional condition before stepping onto the court.”
I made an effort to not let my age hinder my performance on the court. In my opinion, 36 is the new 26 and I feel great.
“I am filled with motivation and driven to play the tennis that I am passionate about. This sport has given me so many blessings and I am forever grateful. Therefore, I will do my best to give back to this sport by playing as much as I can.”
In the second semifinal, Alcaraz secured his spot in the Wimbledon final by defeating Daniil Medvedev with a commanding performance, winning in three sets with scores of 6-3 6-3 6-3.
Alcaraz quickly took control of the match, dominating with powerful shots and skillful drop shots. Despite Medvedev’s tenacity in the last set, the top-ranked player secured his spot in the tournament’s final with his signature precise forehand.