Novak Djokovic was tired and withdrawn for much of that semi-final, a shadow of his usual self scorching in the sun on center court, but even that deficit couldn’t bridge the chasm of class that engulfed Cameron Norrie. The Briton had already defied all odds to reach Wimbledonand he managed to arouse the most cynical imaginations when he broke Djokovic three times in a barely comprehensible opening set. But with near-crushing inevitability, the defending champion raised his game and systematically trashed Britain’s No. 1 from his mind, moving through the next three sets with increasing ease to close out a 2-6 6-3 6-2 win. 6-4.
Norrie fought valiantly to the end, but his shoulders had long been slumped and a sense of regret could weigh heavily in the days to come. Djokovic had been so staggered at the start here, so heavy and inert, that one wonders if a better opportunity could ever present itself. But lo and behold, Djokovic fell short of four successive finals and extended a Wimbledon unbeaten record to 27 matches while still reaching his peak level. It’s an art as much as an ability to always find that extra gear when needed, crush opponents, and poke their weaknesses just enough until the pressure bends them. It ended Norrie’s hopes, but there was no shame in defeat after a great run that started as the ninth seed in relative obscurity and ended with him as the top seed. poster on the main stage at Wimbledon.
“Yeah, [it’s been a great experience],” he said. “I can take a lot of confidence out of it. Reaching the semi-finals, reaching Friday of week two, that’s pretty sick. But I think for me, I want to go more and I want to do more and going further and trying to win a slam. I think comparing to Novak, I think it was just that the level of execution from him today was better than me. His level of focus, the way he handled his service games was better than I. That was the difference.
Whether that kind of performance is enough for Djokovic to retain his title on Sunday is another matter altogether. An injury could have deprived Center Court of a hugely entertaining semi-final against Rafael Nadal, but Nick Kyrgios will provide belligerence and fireworks galore. The pair are poles apart, a relentless devotee against a blasphemous renegade, but it’s the Aussie who has won their previous two encounters and will be better rested and refreshed. “He’s got a big game overall, power in his shots,” Djokovic said. “We haven’t played for a while but I’ve never won a set against him. Hopefully it’s different this time.
If Djokovic starts off as slowly as he did here, he’s unlikely to get off so easily. A veteran of ten Wimbledon semi-finals, the Serb started with three unusual errors to forgo the early break. Normally one to keep his emotions a secret, Norrie uncorked a massive fist pump that betrayed the magnitude of the occasion, never getting past the third round of a grand slam. He fell into a similar trap of nerves to return the advantage and it looked like Djokovic had settled in when he produced one of the tournament shots at 2-1, chasing Norrie’s lob volley and shaping a back through his legs as he was on the run, but the 35-year-old then inexplicably tripped again. Norrie clinically took two break chances and a sense of disbelief spread around center court as the Briton won the first set 6-2.
Slowly but surely Djokovic started to shake off that funk in the second, nearly breaking Norrie in the opener and then fending off another chance after the 26-year-old lost a smash in the glare of the sun. It was only a matter of time before something moved and Djokovic finally broke to go 5-3 up and served the set with anger rather than joy.
The match may have returned to a level playing field, but the momentum had turned irretrievably in Djokovic’s favour. Despite a futile dive and a painful slide, the Serbian’s level had been high enough to eliminate Norrie’s mistakes and he broke in the opener of the third set. A quick hold cemented him and, although Norrie did his best to seize the crowd’s support, rallying them after a gutsy 2-1 hold, there was no doubt as to how the rest of the match would go on. Djokovic broke for the second time as Norrie succumbed to mistakes and attacked chances that weren’t there, and the Briton managed to hold at 5-1 seemed like a matter of saving dignity rather than seeking victoire.
Frustration threatened to boil over in the fourth when Norrie’s demeanor crashed and he smashed a racquet against his bag after being smashed again. To his credit, however, he fought to the last and survived a ten-minute game and two break points to ensure Djokovic couldn’t cross the finish line, even though hope had long since evaporated. Djokovic still reserved the opportunity to shout something at a spectator who had heckled him, prompting a wave of boos, but that has always been part of the raison d’etre that makes Djokovic such a fearsome champion. No amount of skill, fatigue, or desire was going to stop him.
Novak Djokovic fights back to defeat Cameron Norrie and reach Wimbledon final
Source link Novak Djokovic fights back to defeat Cameron Norrie and reach Wimbledon final