This deficiency was less frightening for Novak Djokovic† The tension is less palpable. It’s not that he wants to fall behind in competitions, of course. It’s that if he does, he knows how to deal with it.
“It’s amazing how the whole game can fall apart just because you feel tense. Then none of the recordings really work well. Your feet are static and slow,” said Djokovic. “Something happens in a race, then it is suddenly very different and you fly. Everything flows.”
Top-seeded Djokovic secured a second consecutive comeback win at Wimbledon on Friday, beating Britain’s number 9-seeded Cam Norrie 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the semi-finals to take his win streak at the All England Club to 27 games in a row as he pursues a fourth consecutive championship on his turf.
“The more you experience these kinds of situations, not the better you feel, but the more prepared you feel. You know what to expect,” said Djokovic. “It’s always about dealing with your own nerves better than maybe your opponent is his. This internal battle is always the biggest.”
He will take on the first major finalist Nick Kyrgios for the trophy on Sunday.
“The job,” said Djokovic, “is not finished yet.”
The unseeded Kyrgios, an incendiary 27-year-old from Australia who merely uttered his name during the interview with Djokovic, was out of play on Friday as 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal withdrew with a torn abdominal muscle.
“To mouth water,” Kyrgios described the upcoming match-up.
He won both previous encounters against Djokovic, although both were on hard courts five years ago.
“One thing is certain,” said Djokovic. “There will be a lot of fireworks, emotional, from both.”
It will be Djokovic’s 32nd Grand Slam title game, breaking a tie for the men’s record he shared with Roger Federer, and giving the 35-year-old Serb a shot at a 21st major title and seventh at Wimbledon. Only Federer has eight more in the men’s grass court tournament.
On the hottest afternoon of the fortnight, with a temperature of 29 degrees Celsius and the air still, Djokovic often looked displeased and gesturing at his guest box early. But unlike in the quarter-finals, when he dropped the first two sets against Jannik Sinner before winning five, it took Djokovic little time to confirm his dominance.
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Exactly what will enable Djokovic to follow suit and then win – he has made seven comebacks in his career from a two-set hole, including in the final of the 2021 French Open – is hard to know. He claimed that a conversation in the bathroom had helped Sinner. He joked that putting on a white hat after the first set made all the difference against Norrie.
Asked at Friday’s press conference to explain the white bottle he appeared to be inhaling from during another match, Djokovic offered this ironic response: “Magic potion.”
“You’ll find out soon,” he added, “but I can’t talk about it now.”
Djokovic vs. Norrie started favorably enough for the locals in hopes of seeing one of their own go to a men’s final, something only two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has accomplished for Great Britain since the professional era began in 1968.
There was a roar as left-handed Norrie rose first from his chair; Djokovic poured some water on his hand and rubbed it into his hair. When Norrie’s volley winner completed a break in that first game, he jumped up and threw an uppercut. Union Jack flags fluttered in the stands.
Has the championship been won? No. Earned a berth in the final? Not that either. All in all it was a big party after one of what was to be 35 games, five from 202 points, four from 154 minutes.
When Djokovic immediately broke back, he went to his white towel and dabbed off his perspiration. For him, this was not a monumental achievement.
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Just a small example of how versatile and fantastic Djokovic is came to a particularly wonderful point. He hit a spinning half volley en route, but Norrie answered with a lob. So Djokovic ran back to the baseline, just behind him, and conjured a high curved lob between the legs, facing the wrong way, of himself somehow ending up in it. Norrie ran towards it, spun his body to answer with a forehand and Djokovic ended the 14-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner.
Even the partisans present cheered with approval. Djokovic raised his right index finger to the sky.
Still, only two of Norrie’s first 20 points came through winners he produced. Djokovic made 12 unforced errors in the first set alone. A measure of how he restored order: Djokovic made 16 unforced errors in the last three sets combined.
Norrie, never past the third round on a major, became less sharp as Djokovic turned up the pressure – inside the points and on the scoreboard. A particularly sloppy service game by Norrie, with three unforced errors, helped Djokovic to a 5-3 lead in the second set.
“He kind of gifted me that,” said Djokovic, who went on to win 11 of 13 games in a match-shifting stretch.
He was broken three times in the first set, but never got a break point the rest of the way.
Perhaps feeling their man could use a boost, some fans offered chants of “Let’s go, Norrie, let’s go!” early in the third set. Didn’t change anything.
Djokovic broke to open the third. Did the same in the fourth.
“I just locked it,” Norrie said.
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