Novak Djokovic once again showed why he is by far the greatest tennis player in history when the matches go to the fifth set.
Defending champion Novak Djokovic said he never doubted his ability to recover from two sets to defeat Yannick Sinner to reach his 11th Wimbledon semi-final.
Djokovic won 5-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-2 and will face Britain’s Cameron Norrie for a place in Sunday’s final.
It was the seventh time in the 35-year-old Serbian’s career that he fought in straight sets to win the Slams.
“I always believed that I could come back. I know that the experience I have can eventually prevail in situations like this,” said six-time champion Djokovic.
“It was just a matter of changing momentum. I felt that the start of the third set was crucial, you need to start well, try to break your serve early. That’s what happened.”
His victory included an unlikely passing shot that saw him slip, hit the winner, and then finish face down on the grass.
“It was absolutely ridiculous,” one tennis fan tweeted. “Time in the match too. I’d just leave if I were the other guy.”
“Possibly Djokovic just landed the best backhand on the run of all time… The flexibility and accuracy required for that passing shot was just insane,” added another.
Djokovic also returned from two sets most recently, at the 2021 French Open against Lorenzo Musetti in the fourth round and then against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
Crucially, Tuesday’s affair was his 47th five-set matchup. For the Sinner, it was only his fifth. So, once things got this far, it’s no surprise that the Serbian pushed his record to a ridiculous 37-10 in long-distance matches.
“I feel that the Sinner, who came to the match, had nothing to lose, but he had something to lose when he had two sets left to have fun,” said 20-time major tournament winner Djokovic.
“I could feel it mentally with him. There haven’t been many five-set matches in his life, and this was his first Grand Slam quarter-final, not many matches on center court.
“So all these things play a role. It definitely helps to know that you have been in these specific situations and have been successful in the past.”
Djokovic is in contention to equal Pete Sampras as the seven-time Wimbledon Men’s Champion.
That would put him just one spot behind Roger Federer’s record of eight.
Djokovic masterfully uses the toilet break
He looked set for a normal day as he took a 4-1 lead in the first leg and made a break point for a 5-1 against the 20-year-old Italian.
Sinner, in 10th place, saved him and rallied to take a 6-5 lead with a set to serve.
Djokovic saved the set point, but the Italian won the set on a clean serve. Sinner, ruthlessly unleashing winners from all corners of the floor, once again stunned the top seed with breaks in games three and seven on his way to a two-set lead.
Djokovic immediately left the court, as he did at Roland Garros last year when he expected to be defeated by Tsitsipas.
“It was just a parting conversation, a positive conversation. It worked today,” he said. “I just felt like I had to change something. I played badly, felt bad on the court, I was dominated by Sinner.
“Fortunately, Grand Slams are played in a best-of-five format, so I had the opportunity to come back.”
The toilet tactic, which is legal but not popular with tennis players, certainly worked.
A break in the fourth game of the third set allowed Djokovic to close the deficit in the quarterfinals.
In control, he equalized with a double break in the fourth set when Sinner fell on his ankle while scrambling for the Center Court net.
Djokovic made two more breaks in the decider, the second due to a terrific stretch left crosshand to go 5-2 before calmly serving.
he will play Cameron Norrie for a place in the Wimbledon final after the Briton was able to take out David Goffin in another five-set match.
The ninth-placed Norrie returned to defeat the 58th-placed Belgian 3–6 7–5 2–6 6–3 7–5 to reach the last four Grand Slams for the first time.
– with AFP
Originally published as Novak Djokovic’s ‘absolutely ridiculous’ act at Wimbledon stuns fans