Djokovic beats Nadal to reach Wim­ble­don fi­nal,

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY SAM FARMER Los An­ge­les Times

Ad­van­tage: No­body. The Wim­ble­don men’s sin­gles fi­nal is back to deuce.

Novak Djokovic sur­vived an ex­haust­ing marathon of his own Satur­day – they’re hap­pen­ing ev­ery day in this cham­pi­onship – to beat Rafael Nadal in a five-set match that would leave even the fittest play­ers rub­ber-legged. In a match be­tween fa­mil­iar foes that started Fri­day night but was called for cur­few, Djokovic pre­vailed, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8.

Djokovic, a three-time Wim­ble­don sin­gles cham­pion, will play for a fourth ti­tle Sun­day against Kevin Anderson, whose record­break­ing, 61⁄ hour semi­fi­nal slog Fri­day sud­denly doesn’t look so crip­pling.

Now, it’s two stag­ger­ing sur­vivors who must go from the cold of the ice bath to the heat of the spot­light.

“Kevin also had quite a few hours on the court in the last cou­ple of matches,” said Djokovic, whose match lasted a to­tal of 5 hours, 15 min­utes over two days. “But he had a day off, which is quite, so to say, nec­es­sary at this stage. I wish I can have a day.”

Not that any­one is com­plain­ing. Anderson, who out­lasted John Is­ner in the long­est match ever played on Cen­tre Court, is look- ing to win his first Grand Slam ti­tle. Djokovic, who had to pull out of Wim­ble­don last year with an el­bow in­jury that even­tu­ally re­quired surgery, is try­ing to reestab­lish him­self as the best player in the game.

Djokovic is one of just two men – Roger Fed­erer be­ing the other – with at least 60 match wins in all four Grand Slam events, but he has gone from mag­nif­i­cent to mortal in re­cent years. In May, he dropped out of the top 20 for the first time in 11 years.

Play­ing in his 22nd Grand Slam fi­nal, Djokovic (No. 21) is the low­es­tranked man to reach a Wim­ble­don fi­nal since No. 48 Mark Philip­pous­sis fin­ished run­ner-up in 2003.

“There were mo­ments of doubt, frus­tra­tion, dis­ap­point­ment, where you’re ques­tion­ing whether you want to keep it go­ing in this way or that way,” Djokovic said of the past 15 months. “But did I truly be­lieve I could get back on the level? Yes. It’s hard for me to play ten­nis and not be­lieve that I can be the best in what I do.”

Play­ing un­der the roof – pre­cisely the way Fri­day night ended for them – Djokovic and Nadal as­sem­bled an in­stant clas­sic on a day when the women’s fi­nal typ­i­cally has the main stage to it­self.

Wim­ble­don con­sulted the play­ers about whether the roof should be open or closed for part two of their match.

Asked whether it made sense to him to keep the roof closed, Nadal said: “No, but I will not talk more about this.”

Djokovic be­lieved the op­po­site.

“I was for the roof,” he said, “be­cause we started to play, and I wanted to play in the same con­di­tions.”

As to whether he asked tour­na­ment of­fi­cials to keep it closed, he said: “I didn’t ask them. I just ex­pressed my opin­ion be­cause they asked for my opin­ion. But as I un­der­stood, they al­ready made a de­ci­sion.”

On the court, it was back and forth be­tween two play­ers who know one an­other bet­ter than brothers. Djokovic and Nadal have played each other 52 times, more than any two men in the Open era.

“He’s prob­a­bly the great­est fighter ever to play this game,” Djokovic said. “I mean, he bat­tles ev­ery sin­gle point like it’s his last. That’s some­thing that’s so im­pres­sive with Rafa. That’s what makes him dif­fi­cult to beat on any sur­face.”

This was the fifth Grand Slam semi­fi­nal fea­tur­ing Djokovic and Nadal, with Nadal win­ning the first four.

‘‘ DID I TRULY BE­LIEVE I COULD GET BACK ON THE LEVEL? YES. IT’S HARD FOR ME TO PLAY TEN­NIS AND NOT BE­LIEVE THAT I CAN BE THE BEST IN WHAT I DO.

Novak Djokovic

JOHN WAL­TON AP

Spain’s Rafael Nadal, bot­tom, serves to Ser­bia’s Novak Djokovic on Satur­day at Wim­ble­don in London.

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