No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic overcame a slow start to defeat British No. 1 Cameron Norrie 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4, reaching his 32nd Slam final.
The Serb will now face unseeded Nick Kyrgios in the final on Sunday, hoping for his seventh Wimbledon title.
The Road to the Semifinals
Norrie’s first-ever deep run at a Slam has been an interesting one, overcoming adversity in some matches while keeping others short with focused performances. The Brit received a favorable opening-round draw in experienced clay courter Pablo Andujar.
Norrie defeated him in straight sets and was looking good against Jaume Munar in the second round as well, starting with a bagel in the first set just like against Andujar. The Spaniard stepped up his level in the second set and the errors began piling up for Norrie in the third and all of a sudden it was Munar with the lead. Norrie re-grouped though and his superior fitness allowed him to lose just two more games in the last two sets.
Then came two straight-set victories for Norrie over American opponents. Steve Johnson was not seen as much of a challenge with the Brit exposing his backhand efficiently and dropping just five games. The Tommy Paul win was impressive as the 30th seed was yet to drop a set. Norrie’s strong serving performance and early breaks in each set propelled him to victory.
The quarterfinal was Norrie’s biggest challenge, largely outplayed by David Goffin for the first three sets. The Brit was able to lean on the crowd and his fitness when it mattered, taking advantage of Goffin playing five sets the match before. The fans’ importance could not be overstated as their constant support seemed to be what made the difference in the fifth-set finish.
Some question marks surrounding Djokovic as he entered Wimbledon, struggling for consistent form and being largely outplayed by Rafael Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals. The Serb looked a little tentative in a four-set win over Soonwoo Kwon but then upgraded his level against Thanasi Kokkinakis and Miomir Kecmanovic.
Wildcard Tim Van Rijthoven was a tricky customer in the fourth round, taking a set from the defending champion before the talented Jannik Sinner went two sets to love up against Djokovic. We never know what would have happened had the Italian not slipped, shades of Djokovic’s match against Lorenzo Musetti at the 2021 French Open there though Sinner managed to play the match out, though he was not much of a threat in the later sets.
Norrie’s Stunning Start
Norrie looked nervous in the warm-up but broke in the opening game, Djokovic with three unforced errors. The Brit followed up with a nervy performance on serve though, getting just one of five first serves in as a string of unforced errors gave the top seed a break back.
Djokovic got the first hold of the match for 2-1 and played out an extraordinary rally to open the fourth game, drop shotting Norrie, who lobbed the Serb before he pulled out a tweener lob and finished the point with a stop volley. Norrie began swinging the cross-court backhand more, which helped him turn the game around from 15-30 to a hold after two unreturned serves.
The top seed began looking like he had some trouble figuring Norrie out, getting broken in the fifth game. The Brit turned defense to offense very efficiently on the breakpoint and pushed Djokovic to a forehand error. The wind seemed to be playing a bit of a role as neither player had won a game on the umpire’s left side yet.
Norrie bucked that trend, though he lost the first point of the sixth game after Djokovic brought him in with a drop shot. The 26-year-old then won a long rally, forcing a short ball from Djokovic after a deep forehand and three points off the serve gave him the hold for 4-2.
Djokovic began the must-win seventh game with an ace but a couple of surprising forehand errors gave Norrie the edge. The Serb tried the drop shot again but the Brit was wise to it and set up two breakpoints with a simple passing shot. Norrie once again turned defense into offense on the breakpoint and forced a forehand error after a strong backhand.
To everyone’s surprise, Norrie was serving for the first set with a double break. The Brit continued his serving performance, setting up two set points with an ace down the T. Norrie followed with a double fault before closing out with a second ace. The 26-year-old began with a shock, winning the opening set after just 32 minutes. The key stat was certainly Djokovic winning just 20% of points after the second serve, Norrie efficiently attacking the Serb’s biggest weakness.
Novak Djokovic Strikes Back
Djokovic opened the second set looking more confident on serve, getting his first hold to love in the match. Norrie won the first two points of his first service game in the second but Djokovic pulled one back with brilliant point construction before Norrie framed a short return into the net for 30-30. The Brit held his nerve and the serve to go 1-1.
Djokovic held easily to love again and put the pressure on Norrie in the next game. The 26-year-old attempted a puzzling drop shot from a deep position in the middle of a strong rally at 30-30, hitting the net and setting up a breakpoint. The Brit rallied back though, winning the next point after Djokovic challenged a forehand approach shot that turned out to be a good half-inch away from even touching to go back to deuce and leaning on his serve to hold for 2-2.
Norrie got his first point on the Djokovic serve in the second set but the Serb dealt well with the pressure, winning the next four points to hold again. The pattern continued with Djokovic holding easily and pushing Norrie on return, earning another breakpoint but sending a backhand down the line long to go to deuce. Another break opportunity came for the Serb but Norrie attacked well, forcing Djokovic into an error. The Brit would win the next two points to keep at 3-3 but the feeling was clear that he was on the back foot in the second set.
Djokovic continued his stunning second-set serving performance, coming up with a beautiful half volley to win the first point. Norrie slightly slipped in the second point, which gave Djokovic the edge in the rally. The Serb held to love once again. Despite beginning with an ace, Norrie was in trouble again, an unforced forehand error and then a wild miss on an easy backhand volley putting him under pressure. Djokovic got two breakpoints and would capitalize this time, serving for the set with new balls.
The Serb got into trouble for the first time that set on serve, a missed drop shot setting up 0-30 for Norrie. A great serve wide-out and a framed return from the Brit brought the game back to 30-30. Norrie missed a backhand wide to set up a set point for the top seed and an approach backhand sailing long tied the match up, Djokovic winning the second set 6-3. Norrie’s level beginning to drop towards the end of the set as well as an improved serving performance from Djokovic were the keys for the Serb. Djokovic got 78% of first serves in, a marked improvement from 55% in the first set, dropping just three points on serve in the second.
Djokovic Continues To Dominate
The slip may have been more serious than originally thought as Norrie’s level had dropped noticeably from that point. He found himself down breakpoint to start the third set, saving it with an overhead smash after an aggressive rally, though it was advantage-Djokovic after a long rally at deuce. Norrie saved it again with a forehand winner as the Serb slipped off of the split-step, though a backhand error gave Djokovic another breakpoint. A shanked approach forehand would hand the top seed an early break.
Djokovic began the third with another hold to love, getting some help from the net cord at 40-0 as Norrie missed an overhead smash to give Djokovic the game. The Brit got himself a bit more fired up as a couple of winners helped him win the first game since the slip after losing five straight. Djokovic was gesturing wildly, speaking towards his box as Norrie tried to get the crowd going after the hold.
The crowd came through with a big chant before Djokovic commenced the fourth game. The Serb won the first point after a Norrie backhand error but his body language seemed negative once he lost the next ball. Djokovic’s serve came through, winning the next point with a serve plus one swing forehand before hitting two aces out wide to hold.
Djokovic got Norrie problems again, setting up a breakpoint with some great defense before attacking the Brit’s forehand. Norrie sent a backhand long and Djokovic let out a big roar as he went up a double break. Djokovic was solid on serve once again, holding with Norrie serving to stay in the third set
Norrie fought to keep the third set alive with a tough hold for 5-2. Djokovic once again held strong on the serve, winning the third set 6-2. The Brit’s footwork looked slower after the slip, though a retirement from this match would be out of the question for Norrie.
No. 1 Closes Out
Norrie began the fourth set on serve with new balls but failed to hold, a long forehand error giving Djokovic another early lead. The importance of Djokovic’s serve after the first set cannot be overstated as he held to love once again for a 2-0 lead.
Norrie got his serve going in the third game, getting his first hold to love of the match. Djokovic once again did not let the Brit anywhere near his serve, holding easily again. Norrie found himself a breakpoint down once again but kept on fighting, saving four breakpoints to hold with an overhead smash, keeping himself in the match.
Djokovic was not phased by the missed opportunities in the last game, completing the hold to love with an ace. Norrie got an easier hold this time, an emphatic running passing shot entertaining the crowd and sending the message to Djokovic that he will fight until the very end. The Serb got yet another easy hold, not threatened on his serve at all since the first set. Norrie responded well though, holding when serving to stay in the set after two unreturned serves sealed the game for the Brit, forcing Djokovic to serve it out.
It was never in question for Djokovic in the final game, serving the match out to win 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 after two hours and 34 minutes to a mixed reaction by the crowd with some audible boos being heard.
The serving performance from Djokovic was sublime after the first set, not letting Norrie to a single breakpoint while winning 82% of points after the first serve in the match.
Djokovic, the only champion at Wimbledon since 2018 will be looking for his seventh title at the AELTC.
Next Up: Novak Djokovic vs Nick Kyrgios
Instead of having to face Rafael Nadal in his first career slam semifinal, Nick Kyrgios got to advance straight to the Wimbledon final. The Australian played an incredible match to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas, struggled a bit with his shoulder against Brandon Nakashima, and produced a focused performance to beat Cristian Garin in straight sets.
Kyrgios has the edge in the head-to-head, beating the Serb in two straight tournaments in straight sets in 2017, though he has never been in a match of this magnitude.
“One thing is for sure, there’s going to be a lot of fireworks emotionally,” Djokovic said with a smile when asked about the upcoming final.
Main Photo from Getty.