Novak Djokovic showed why he is the greatest competitor in this sport on Friday by overcoming a spirited Denis Shapovalov. The young Canadian served for the first set and had countless chances in the second, but couldn’t win the mental battle with the world #1. Though it was a straight sets win (7-6 7-5 7-5), the intensity and closeness of the match felt like a marathon five setter. With this win, Djokovic will be competing in his 7th Wimbledon final as he continues his hunt for the Calendar Slam.
Novak Djokovic def. Denis Shapovalov
After a confident hold from both players to start proceedings, Djokovic looked tentative in his second service game. A double fault and some errors were magnified by some wonderful shot-making from Shapovalov. The Serb quickly found himself down two break points which he saved, but double faulted again to give another break point to the Canadian. Shapovalov played a superb point and finished it off with a sublime crosscourt backhand to seal the break for 2-1.
Both men went on to hold serve pretty comfortably throughout the set, with Shapovalov looking more comfortable and dangerous. He was serving excellently and Novak was looking slightly flat.
However, it all changed when it came to serving out the first set at 5-4. Djokovic stepped up his level and Shapovalov dropped his own, clearly feeling the pressure as he made numerous errors. Despite saving a break point, the Canadian was unable to maintain his level and Djokovic broke to level the set at 5-5.
Djokovic held convincingly, meaning the 22 year-old all of a sudden was having to serve to stay in the set. He did so, but could not bring his best tennis in the tiebreak. Errors flew off the Canadian’s racket, and even though Djokovic didn’t play a great tiebreak himself, it was pretty routine for him, with Shapovalov failing to win a single point on his serve. Facing three set points, Shapovalov double faulted and the set was the Serbian’s, 7-6. Though Shapovalov won more points than Djokovic in the set, he couldn’t win the big ones.
Despite the disappointment of not closing out the first set, Shapovalov started the second emphatically by holding to love. Both players held serve comfortably, but at 2-1 to Shapovalov there was a real chance for him to break serve. Though the Canadian had three break points, he hit more errors on the big points and couldn’t convert. Djokovic kept his cool and held serve.
Shapovalov continued his dominance on serve, and played a superb return game at 3-2 to give himself two more break points. Unfortunately for the 22 year-old, more errors came on the big points and Djokovic once again held strong and served out the game.
Although Shapovalov was disappointed at playing the big points poorly, he continued serving excellently. However, Djokovic was also looking far more confident on serve and the chances that the Canadian previously missed weren’t appearing any longer.
At 5-5, Shapovalov clearly felt the pressure and found himself facing a break point, with Djokovic once again showing why is the greatest competitor the game has ever seen. With another double fault in a big moment, he was broken.
Djokovic was now serving for the set and didn’t blink, taking it 7-5. Novak Djokovic showed why he is often named the ‘Mental Giant’ in that set. A long way back now for the underdog.
The young Canadian was understandably frustrated after the second set, but he didn’t let this get him down. He held strongly once again and began putting more pressure on Djokovic’s serve, earning himself a further two break points. Like the rest of the match, he was unable to convert. This time it wasn’t down to his errors, but rather some clutch serving from Djokovic and more mental fortitude. Though he had another break point, Djokovic hit another ace and went on to hold.
The world #1 then played an excellent return game, heaping the pressure onto the Canadian’s serve. Now he was the one with two break points. Denis held his composure admirably, hitting two unreturnable serves and fighting his way out of trouble. 2-2.
Djokovic was now the more dominant player on serve, and gave no openings to the youngster. The two held onto serve with ease for the next couple of games, before the Serb put more pressure on the Canadian’s serve at 3-3.
A tense game saw Shapovalov hit another double fault, and he was facing another break point under serious pressure. He showed his heart by saving this with an enormous backhand winner. However, he wasn’t out of the woods yet as he faced yet another break point, before serving his way out of trouble and showing he was still in this fight.
Djokovic was still unrelenting on serve, holding to love again for 4-4. Shapovalov then held strong and took the lead at 5-4 to put the pressure back on Djokovic. However, there was simply no pressure for Djokovic could feel as he held with ease once again. There was now a look in his eyes that made it clear that he was out for blood in Shapovalov’s next service game.
This is exactly what transpired. Racing to a 0-30 lead on the Canadian’s serve which included a double fault, it was make or break. Shapovalov played two great points to try rescue the game, but double faulted once again to give Djokovic break point. Though he saved it with huge bravery, he was quickly facing another due to another unforced error.
Shapovalov simply couldn’t keep this up, and despite saving another break point, he overhit a forehand to concede the all important break. Shapovalov had fought valiantly, but the mental beast that is Djokovic was just too strong. The world #1 was fired up and rightly so. A crushing game on serve saw him with three match points, and he secured his spot in the final with a booming ace out wide. 7-5 in the third set.
It was an incredible fight from both players, that Novak Djokovic won with his mental strength. He will now face Matteo Berrettini in Sunday’s final, in what promises to be a thrilling occasion.
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