Djokovic downs Del Potro in epic match

Serb too strong in Cham­pi­onship’s long­est semi

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

NO­VAK DJOKOVIC de­feated heroic Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7/2) 67 (6/8) 6-3 yes­ter­day in the long­est Wim­ble­don semi-fi­nal in his­tory to move into his 11th Grand Slam ti­tle match.

In a ti­tanic strug­gle played out over four hours and 43 min­utes, world num­ber one Djokovic squan­dered two match points in the fourth set tiebreak be­fore go­ing on to seal a fi­nal clash against ei­ther Bri­tish sec­ond seed Andy Mur­ray, the run­ner-up last year, or 24th seeded Pole Jerzy Janow­icz.

The top-seeded Serb, cham­pion in 2011, leads Mur­ray 11-7 in ca­reer meet­ings but has yet to face Janow­icz, the first Pole to make the semi-fi­nals of a ma­jor.

Djokovic, bid­ding for a sev­enth Grand Slam crown, fired 22 aces and 80 win­ners in his breath­tak­ing win over the luck­less Del Potro, the 2009 US Open cham­pion, who had been hop­ing to be­come just the sec­ond Ar­gen­tine to make the Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

“It was one of the best matches I’ve been part of, cer­tainly one of the most ex­cit­ing. It was so close and noth­ing could sep­a­rate us,” said Djokovic.

“That’s why he is a Grand Slam cham­pion, ev­ery time he is in a tough sit­u­a­tion he comes up with un­be­liev­able shots,” he said. “I was ready to go five sets. I was able to stay tough and get through in the end.”

Del Potro, who had de­feated the Serb for the Olympic bronze medal at Wim­ble­don last year, had matched Djokovic blow for blow in the first set but had to bat back a break point in the sixth game to stay on level terms.

At 6-5, Djokovic stepped it up, a back­hand from off his toes land­ing in the cor­ner be­fore a back­hand off-bal­ance from the Ar­gen­tine sailed long.

The Serb, play­ing in his fourth suc­ces­sive Wim­ble­don semi-fi­nal, sensed blood and a wide fore­hand from the sud­denly be­sieged Del Potro gave the world num­ber one the opener.

Djokovic was rewarded for his pos­i­tive ap­proach. His 14 win­ners com­fort­ably trumped the mea­gre four that the eighth seed, still with his left knee heav­ily-strapped, could man­age.

Del Potro called for the doc­tor af­ter slip­ping down 3-2 in the sec­ond set, but the con­sul­ta­tion didn’t rem­edy his prob­lems against the top seed as he im­me­di­ately had to fend off four break points.

How­ever, buoyed by his de­fi­ance, Del Potro broke for a 4-3 edge, the sec­ond point of the game clinched by chas­ing down a Djokovic drop shot which he dinked over cross-court.

Del Potro just about backed it up for 5-3 be­fore he went on to level the tie on a sun-baked Cen­tre Court, a pic­ture-per­fect drop shot fol­lowed by an un­re­turned serve.

It was the first set that the Serb had dropped in the tour­na­ment. Djokovic fought off a break point in the fifth game of the third set and two more in the sev­enth be­fore the Ar­gen­tine had to save three set points in the 12th, the last courtesy of a 90mph win­ner. But Djokovic cruised through the tiebreak with Del Potro’s con­fi­dence and chal­lenge shat­tered in an in­stant when the 6ft 6in (1.98m) gi­ant net­ted an easy smash on the sixth point.

Del Potro was wiltg in the 26-de­gree heat and Djokovic took ad­van­tage, break­ing for 4-3 as an­other fierce re­turn landed on the Ar­gen­tine’s toes.

But Del Potro wasn’t fin­ished and brought the crowd to their feet by break­ing back for 4-4 and sav­ing two match points in the breaker, the first at the end of a pun­ish­ing 24-stroke ex­change. In the de­cider, Djokovic fought off a break point in the fifth game be­fore Del Potro saved one in the sixth. – Sapa-AFP

REUTERS

EPIC: No­vak Djokovic con­soles Juan Martin del Potro af­ter de­feat­ing him in their record-break­ing semi-fi­nal at Wim­ble­don yes­ter­day.

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