Down, but never out. Too many times this phrase has been used to describe Novak Djokovic, and today was another example. The Serb has kept his Wimbledon title defense alive, defeating 20-year-old Jannik Sinner in five sets. In a match lasting 3 hours and 35 minutes, top seed Djokovic completed a miraculous comeback to win 5-7 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-2.
It was a routine opening to the match for Djokovic, who broke Sinner in the second game of the match to go up 3-0. Things started to go awry in the 7th game, when the young Italian broke his opponent’s serve for the first time. Playing freely and fiercly, Sinner proceeded to break Djokovic again at 5-all. A barrage of big serves and thundering forehands wrapped up the set for the 10th seed.
The second set was highly uncharacteristic for Djokovic. Playing wearily, the Serb drooped with an apparent lack of confidence. He had his moments in the second set, but could never seem to rev up the engines. Sinner stayed on task, unfazed, and took the set 6-2. Djokovic had at that point dropped 12 of the previous 15 games.
After losing the second set gutlessly, Djokovic made a beeline for the locker room. When he came back two minutes later, the top seed was a completely different person. He made over 80% of his first serves in the third set, a stark contrast to the first two sets, when he averaged 63%.
Sinner had just one hiccup in the third set, dropping serve down 1-2, but it was enough to change the entire course of the match. Djokovic closed out the third set without any problems, and the outcome of the fourth was a foregone conclusion. Coming up to the net on a number of occasions, the 6-time Wimbledon champion eased to a 6-2 victory to even up the proceedings.
Sinner started the decider with purpose, holding serve to go up 1-0. He was never going to get a look at a break point, however, with Djokovic’s pinpoint serving proving to be too much. The Italian was further burdened by a nasty fall early in the 5th set, when he appeared to injure his ankle.
For the rest of the match, Djokovic never took his foot of the gas. Instead, his motivation increased as the match went on. At one point, he took a tumble after hitting an outrageous crosscourt backhand winner and turned it into a spontaneous “Superman” celebration, much to the amusement of the crowd.
Somehow, the defending champion was mauling his opponent who, until an hour ago, was on the cusp of the Wimbledon semifinals. Even more shockingly, Djokovic was loving every second of it. He wrapped up the win with back-to-back service winners.
In the other men’s quarterfinal on Tuesday, 9th seed Cameron Norrie completed a comeback of his own to get past David Goffin in five sets. The World No. 12 is the first Brit to make the semifinals since Andy Murray in 2016. Djokovic and Norrie square off on Friday at 13:30 local time for a spot in the championship match.
That match will be their second career meeting. At the ATP Finals in Turin last November, the Serb triumphed in straight sets, 6-2 6-1. He’ll look to replicate that performance on Friday time, coming in on a 26-match winning streak on grass. Norrie will rely on the support of the British crowd to spoil the party and end the streak.
Wednesday, two more quarterfinals take place. Nick Kyrgios faces Cristian Garin in a battle of unseeded players, while Rafael Nadal takes on Taylor Fritz. The winners will contest the semifinal in the bottom half of the draw.
Main Photo from Getty.