Novak Djokovic defeats Cameron Norrie to advance to Wimbledon final

Wimbledon, England. Last year, Novak Djokovic endured the highest of tennis highs, coming within one match of winning a rare calendar year grand slam, and the lowest of lows, including detention and deportation after he arrived in Melbourne in January to try defend his title at the Australian Open.

On Sunday, he will have the chance to win his seventh Wimbledon singles title against challenger Nick Kyrgios of Australia, who few, including Kyrgios himself, thought he would ever find the mental strength needed to enter the biggest arena in the sport. sports.

Djokovic earned his place in the final by defeating Britain’s Cameron Norrie in four sets on Friday afternoon, overcoming some early match inconsistency that is becoming something of a habit. He braved both a strong start from Norrie and a raucous hometown crowd on Center Court to win the semi-finals 2–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4.

It was the only men’s semi-final played on Friday.

On Thursday, Rafael Nadal withdrew from the tournament with a torn abdominal muscle. Nadal’s decision not to play after widening the gap in his five-set quarter-final victory over Taylor Fritz allowed Kyrgios to effortlessly reach his first Grand Slam singles final. It also ended hopes for a coveted showdown between Djokovic and Nadal, who have won 42 Grand Slam titles in total, but played each other for the trophy at Wimbledon only oncein 2011 Djokovic won.

What the match-up with Kyrgios in the final may lack in terms of historical value – no one, not even Kyrgios, expects him to turn into an all-time great player at 27 – it could well make up for in drama. This is a duel between two players who are considered villains by many in the sport.

Djokovic’s fast-paced and controversial demeanor, especially when compared to his arch-rivals, the gentlemanly Nadal and Roger Federer, has long inspired more fear than love for him as he shattered the binary tennis rivalry that Federer and Nadal first created over 15 years ago.

A temperamental and explosive talent who has battled the tennis establishment and his own demons throughout his career, Kyrgios is an uncontrollable and destructive force that has been at the center of Wimbledon’s attention since the early days of this tournament.

He can explode at any moment, and over the past two weeks he has repeatedly faced chair officials, opponents, fans or anyone who he thinks is treating him unfairly. Sometimes it’s sincere, sometimes it’s just to shake up and distract the opponent. He earned $14,000 in fines from this tournament, but played in crowded stadiums, with fans hankering after his powerful serve or occasional backhand serve, as well as his stunt kicks through the legs.

On Tuesday, it became known that Kyrgios is due to appear in court on August 8. 2 to face assault charges against an ex-girlfriend. Chiara Passari told police that Kyrgios grabbed her during a domestic argument in December. On the advice of his lawyers, Kyrgios declined to comment on the allegations.

“There will be a lot of emotional fireworks,” said Djokovic, the favorite for the match, even though he has never won or even won a set against Kyrgios.

Djokovic and Kyrgios have not played since 2017 and have never competed in a Grand Slam tournament. But the two fell out verbally at the 2021 Australian Open, a tournament that took place in the midst of the pandemic.

Djokovic has criticized tournament organizers for the restrictions they have placed on players coming to Australia to compete in the tournament. Most of the players were in a limited two-week quarantine, but many found themselves locked in their rooms for 14 days after a handful of people on special flights into the country tested positive for Covid-19.

Kyrgios remained in Australia for most of the first year of the pandemic, devoting time to delivering food and other supplies to people who struggled to get them during the country’s strict lockdown. Djokovic, who has refused to be vaccinated, is skeptical about how public health is handling the pandemic.

Long before officials started giving the green light to public gatherings, he hosted a tennis expo that turned into a super-disseminating event. Then, shortly after arriving in Australia, he criticized the rules.

“Djokovic is a tool,” Kyrgios tweeted.

Djokovic then said at a press conference that he respects Kyrgios’ tennis talents but does not respect him off the court.

Kyrgios hit back by stating that he could not take Djokovic’s criticism seriously given Djokovic’s behavior.

“He’s a very strange cat, Novak,” he said. “A hell of a tennis player, but unfortunately someone who’s having fun shirtless during a global pandemic, I don’t know if I can give the man some slack.”

Since then, they have reached a kind of détente. It started earlier this year when Kyrgios spoke out on Djokovic’s behalf after Djokovic was detained in Australia during a controversy over his vaccination status, which eventually led to his deportation.

Kyrgios even described Friday as a “bromance” of sorts. Djokovic didn’t go that far.

“I think everyone knows that for a while, love was not lost,” Kyrgios said. “I think it was good for the sport. I think every time we played each other there was a buzz around it.”

Djokovic said the relationship was much better than it was.

“When I was having a really hard time in Australia, he was one of the very few players who came out publicly and supported me and supported me,” he said. “That’s what I really appreciate.”

Djokovic remains unvaccinated and unless the US and Australia change their rules, Sunday’s final could be his last Grand Slam match in almost 11 months and he doesn’t expect it to be easy.

“Every time he goes on the court, he plays without lights,” Djokovic said of Kyrgios. “There is just a lot of power in his serve and in his game. So I’m sure he’ll go for it.”

Djokovic struggled to make it on Friday on a sun-drenched 80-degree day that meteorologists in London called a heat wave. Norrie, a consistent, never-dying southpaw, was the best player in the early and early games of the second set, going head-to-head and trying to get past the best rally driver in the world.

Djokovic struggled to find his serve and find his trademark accuracy on ground shots. He also doesn’t really like to play in the heat. Halfway through the first set, with Norrie taking the lead, Djokovic settled into his chair and covered his head with a towel as the packed crowd on Center Court roared for the compatriot who had a house right down the road.

Norrie, who lives so close to the All England Club that he rode a bike at the start of the tournament, hit an ace and won a set, shook his fist and enjoyed the sound. In addition to the crowd at the stadium, thousands of other picnics gathered on Henman Hill drinking beer and Pimm’s while watching the match on the big screen.

But Djokovic is so good at taking the best from his opponent – and the chiding of the crowd – and bide his time when the opportunity presents itself. He did this when he lost a set in the fourth round to a hot unknown Dutchman. Tim van Reithovenand in the quarterfinals, when he lost the first two sets Yannick Sinner from Italy, one of the greatest young players in the world.

Djokovic wore a baseball cap to protect himself from the scorching sun and stopped giving Norrie free points midway through the set. Suddenly, Norrie found that every time he pitched, he had to contend with break points. In the eighth game of the set, Norrie sent a long forehand to give Djokovic a 5-3 lead. Djokovic turned to his box and clenched his fist as if to say, “Don’t worry, I got it.”

There was never any doubt. Djokovic went through the third set quickly as Norrie’s play deteriorated and he took an early serving break in the fourth. Norrie did his best to keep him close, but in the end it was all he could do. A small victory, but not the one he wanted.

In the final, Djokovic, who played 68 Grand Slams and reached the final 32 times, broke a pitch down the middle and then turned to lure a fan who was screaming as he tried to rip off his last shot. Later, he claimed with a smile that he had blown kisses to those who supported him.

Now he has to face Kyrgios, a player he and others have long considered one of the most dangerous in the world, if he can ever control his emotions and dedicate himself to the sport, which he has, at least for now. moment.

“For the quality player that he is,” Djokovic said of Kyrgios, “this is where he should be and he deserves it.”