He played to scare himself, but Novak Djokovic remains in contention for a fourth consecutive title at Wimbledon, the seventh in total, which would allow him to match the performance of his youth idol Pete Sampras. Led two sets to nil by Jannik Sinner, the Serb, almost extinct for two sets, transformed himself mentally to reverse a badly started situation and win in five sets (5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2), this Tuesday in the quarter-finals of the London Grand Slam.
This is the seventh time in his career that “Nole” has won a match after losing the first two sets. The last was last year in the Roland-Garros final against Stefanos Tsitsipas (6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4), in a scenario very similar to that experienced on Center Court.
From 4-1, amorphous Djokovic loses 12 of next 15 games
Sinner had not once lost his commitment in his two previous encounters against John Isner and Carlos Alcaraz. Facing Djokovic, he committed four unforced errors (two forehands, a backhand and a double fault) and gave it up immediately. Until 4-1, double break point in his favor, the Serb, carried by a very effective service (73% of first serves, 100% of points won behind them), played fair and dominated the debates.
But the match turned for the first time at 4-2. Two double faults and two cushioned water jets: the 3rd in the world completely blacked out his entry and relaunched Sinner who gained confidence. Fairly timid until then, the 20-year-old suddenly put more weight into his shots and began to smash the Serb’s defence, rambling from one end of the court to the other.
Jostled in the rallies, Djokovic tried to shorten the exchanges, but two new badly touched drop shots were punished by his opponent who, with a winning cross forehand, managed a second break at 5-5, before concluding the set with a service winner on the T.
“The toilet break (after the second set) was the turning point of the match”
On his way, the 13th in the world continued his destruction business behind super-powerful flat strikes in the replacement of Djokovic, regularly caught on the wrong foot. An off-center backhand by the Serb then a backhand return that hit the baseline after calling for the challenge: the Italian broke twice more, at 1-1 and 4-2, and flew to lead two sets at zero.
Facing Jannik Sinner, Novak Djokovic won his 26th consecutive match at Wimbledon. The Serb has not been beaten at the All England Club for five years and his retirement in the quarter-finals against Tomas Berdych (7-6, 2-0, ab.) in 2017.
After a toilet break of less than five minutes, “turning point” he will say with a smile, Djokovic, who had lost 12 of the last 15 games, reappeared on the court with a completely different face. Until then amorphous and without reaction, he clearly raised his level of play, his speed of movement and the intensity in each of his shots. Much more precise on the way back, it also varied more and gradually took over.
A big forehand fault from Sinner, almost as often at fault in the third set (11 errors against 3 for Djokovic) as in the first two (15), gave him a white break at 2-1. With renewed service efficiency (80% of first serves and only five points lost in total over the entire round), he pocketed the third set without difficulty.
Sinner suddenly without a solution
Superior in the rallies for 1h30, Sinner had no solution. A percentage of first serves too low (54% over the whole match) did not allow him to initiate the exchange serenely. His statistics for points won behind his second serves – 65% in the first set, 56% in the second, 40% in the third, 33% in the fourth – spoke well of the pressure imposed on the return during the second part of the match by Djokovic, who managed two fourth-inning breaks and was back in the game in an instant.
Victim of a fall at the end of the fourth set, his left ankle slightly affected, Sinner tried to react at the start of the fifth set with a good service game and a determined look towards his clan. But the trend was not going to be reversed. A drop shot into the net cost him the break at 1-1 before Djokovic finished it off with an exceptional winning backhand pass at the end of the race, slipping and then falling.
On the next point, the Italian wooded a high volley of easy forehand and gave up his commitment a second time, one too many. Djokovic concluded with a third shutout in a row on serve. He who had lost 26 points on his engagement during the first two sets only dropped 14 on the next three.
In the semi-finals on Friday, Djokovic will face Belgian David Goffin or Briton Cameron Norrie.