Unpopular tactics gifts comeback Djokovic wins

It says a lot about Novak Djokovic that a two-set-to-none hole at Wimbledon on a day when he was barely at his best never seemed insurmountable. Not against him. Not for someone watching.

Says a lot about his history of overcoming that kind of deficiency. A lot about his ability to adapt, to adapt and to set himself right. Much about his superiority at the All England Club in recent years.

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Djokovic saw Italy’s 10th seed Jannik Sinner take the huge lead on Tuesday, then worked his way back to win 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 at Center Court to finish an 11th half. earned his place in the final at Wimbledon with his 26th consecutive victory at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.

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Djokovic led 4-1 in the first set, but let his lead slip away with the 20-year-old Italian rallying to win the first set.

Sinner once again stunned the leading group with breaks in the third and seventh game en route to a two-set lead.

It was then that Djokovic left the field, just as he had at Roland Garros last year as he stared at the defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas. A break in the fourth game of the third set enabled Djokovic to make his comeback.

“It was just a pep talk, a positive conversation. Today it worked,” he said. “I just felt like I had to change something. I didn’t play well, I didn’t feel good on the pitch, I was dominated by Sinner.

“Luckily, Grand Slams are played in the best-of-five, so I had the chance to come back.

The victory in the quarterfinals was the Serbian star’s 47th game in five sets. For Sinner, it was only his fifth. as the match progressed, Djokovic felt his opponent languish under the pressure.

“I feel like Sinner, who came into the game, didn’t have much to lose, but he had a lot to lose when he had two sets to love,” he said.

“I could feel that mentally with him. He didn’t play too many games in five sets in his life and this was his first quarter-final in a Slam, not too many games on Center Court.”

“I’ve always believed,” added Djokovic, who then faces ninth-seeded Great Britain’s Cam Norrie, “that I could turn the game around.”

In the men’s game, only Roger Federer has played more semi-finals at Wimbledon with 13 and won more championships (eight) than the seven Djokovic could achieve by winning the trophy for the fourth year in a row on Sunday.

“He makes you play differently — well, not differently, but in a way that he likes,” Sinner said.

Djokovic was responsible for just one of Wednesday’s comebacks: in all four of the singles quarter-finals on a sunny day, the player who dropped the first set came out victorious.

Norrie defeated David Goffin of Belgium 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5; No.3 Ons Jabeur from Tunisia defeated Marie Bouzkova from the Czech Republic 3-6, 6-1, 6-1; Tatjana Maria defeated Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in an all-German matchup.

Norrie, Jabeur and Maria all earned the right to make their debut in a Grand Slam semi-final.

“I can’t enjoy it too much right now,” said Norrie, 26, who was born in South Africa to British parents, grew up in New Zealand and played college tennis at Texas Christian University. “Get ready for Novak in a few days.”

Maria, in 103rd place, is the oldest woman at 34 to reach a semifinalist for the first time in a major and only the sixth woman at least that age to have made it this far at Wimbledon in the professional era, started in 1968. The others? A whole list: Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.

“I’ve always believed I have something in me,” said Maria, who made it to the third round just once before. “That I can do this.”

It was Djokovic’s seventh comeback of his career in a game where he was two sets behind — and improved to 37-10 in five-setters. That includes a score of 10-1 in matches that go to the extreme at Wimbledon, including nine consecutive wins; the only loss came in 2006.

“He’s been in this situation many times,” said 20-year-old Sinner. “That certainly helps.”

The match brought Sinner’s total to three in the quarterfinals, which is exactly 50 less than Djokovic’s.

Sinner has shown tremendous potential, reaching the quarter-finals at the 2020 French Open before losing to Rafael Nadal and the 2022 Australian Open before losing to Tsitsipas. As for grass? Sinner was 0-4 until last week. But he won No. 1 at Wimbledon by knocking out three-time Grand Champion Stan Wawrinka and then beating a pair of seeded foes: No. 20 John Isner and No. 5 Carlos Alcaraz.

With his wide wingspan and a Djokovic-style ability to slide into strokes, the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Sinner gets at balls that seem out of reach and is capable of responding with considerable force. That allows him to extend exchanges and make even a consummate baseliner like Djokovic do extra work to earn a point.

Sinner went up a set and a break when Djokovic sailed a long backhand and then bowed his head. Sinner again broke for 5-2, and soon, 1 1/2 hours in, was a set of the greatest triumph of his nascent career.

But Djokovic said the match was different when he came back from his toilet break.

After 19 unforced errors in the first two sets, he made 14 in the last three. After breaking four times in straight sets, he won all 13 of his service games the rest of the time.

He also became more and more animated. Djokovic shook a fist and screamed after breaking twice to take a 3-0 lead after 20 minutes into the third set.

“He dictated more,” Sinner said.

After landing on his stomach in the fifth set after a slide that turned into the crevices on a backhand in the fifth set, Djokovic spread his arms wide like a kid pretending to be an airplane — or a baseball umpire safekeeping a runner. calls.

Sinner’s game, meanwhile, dropped. His form at the net, so early on, faltered: he was successful on 14 of 17 trips forward in the first two sets, but 8 of 18 in the last three. He caught a toe in the grass and twisted his left ankle forward with one push, fell and immediately grabbed his ankle; Djokovic climbed over the net to help Sinner to his feet. That didn’t seem to affect Sinner’s footwork, though.

Djokovic just had a lot to deal with.

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