By Jane Voigt
For all the upsets, drop outs, and skidding seeds, it’s comforting to know the top two players in men’s singles will contest the final at this year’s Wimbledon Championships.
Novak Djokovic certainly suffered at the hands of Juan Martin del Potro during their electrifying match, which was knighted the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history afterward. Alas, the Serbian Gumby imitation, a man with the flexibility of the iconic rubber toy, concentrated like a surgeon to advance to his fourth Wimbledon final in 4 hours and 44 minutes. The best player in the world improved to 19-7 in five-set matches.
“One of the best, exciting [match] to be part of,” Djokovic said to BBC TV. “It was so close.”
Djokovic knew, way deep down, how close. In the fourth he held two match points, but Del Potro would not yield to his opponent’s desires and pushed the match to five.
“He is a champion,” Djokovic added. “I know because every time he was in tough situation he came up with big shots. Credit to him for fighting.”
The final score was 75 46 76(2) 67(6) 63.
Del Potro smashed forehand after forehand, whipping Djokovic left, right, in, back, and around. He did the splits, rolled like a football player, and scrambled for sizzling shots. His defense was breathtaking. One of the Argentine’s forehands was clocked at 120 m.p.h.
“It was high level of tennis from start to finish,” Djokovic said. “It was tough to stay in the fifth. At end I feel privileged to be the winner.”
Djokovic’s winning point was a down-the-line backhand, a signature shot. Ironically, he frequently missed that shot during the match. One clear sign that the returning Wimbledon champion pulled out the stops … he hit his fastest serve of the tournament in the fourth set when both men approached their limits.
The win for Djokovic may have silenced his own disappointment for his loss to Rafael Nadal during the semifinals of Roland Garros. There, he was the man who stretched the encounter to a fifth set, as Nadal went for the win in the fourth set.
For Del Potro, though, today’s loss must have stung.
“I think this match is going to be memory for a few years. I was so close,” the No. 8 seed said. “We play for four hours and a half on a very high level. We didn’t make too many errors. I don’t know if the rest of the players can play like us today.”
Djokovic served 22 aces for a total of 80 winners to 48 unforced errors. He won 83% of his first-serve points but only 39% of points off his second serve. That was a result of Del Potro’s return pressure. His fastest serve at 129 m.p.h. was one mark away from the big’s mans. Novak won more points at net, yet converted less break points.
Del Potro had not played in the semifinal of a Major since the 2009 U. S. Open. He won that match and went on to defeat Roger Federer in the final, in another 5-set slug-fest, for Del Potro’s singular Major title. Many pundits were on the fence whether the six-six gentle giant could ever elevate his game enough to contend for a Major after returning from major wrist surgery that fall. His belief was questioned, too. Today, though, there was no mistake. This man is ready for another Major title.
Jerzy Jankowicz, in his first Major semifinal, demonstrated every aspect of a full-fledged top-five tennis game. He came in to the semi having hit 94 aces. He fastest serve today: 143 m.p.h. The average speed of his second serve: 108 m.p.h. Murray’s was 83 m.p.h. And he started the semi with a bang, winning the first set in a tiebreak.
England stood at watch as Murray rallied to win the second, then, horrors, go down a break in the third. That’s when the court turned. He ran off five straight games that sparkled as brilliantly as one of the Queen’s sterling tea sets.
Alas, the tournament executives, who plummeted to the bottom of Murray’s well-liked list in a New York minute, decided to close the roof. And … their decision was partially motivated after constant complaints from Jankowicz, the ‘not Andy’ person on Centre Court. No amount of argument from Murray swayed the big cheeses choice.
“You can’t close it now, man,” Murray shouted at the chair-umpire reported The Guardian.”It’s light until 9:30. He’s been complaining about it for the last 40 minutes — ridiculous; it’s not even dark. This is an outdoor tournament — I don’t understand these rules. This is not fair. The only reason we’re stopping is because of him.”
Thirty minutes later the two returned, when darkness had enveloped the village. Jancowicz continued his trend of double faults, probably wiggy from the break and change of atmosphere. Murray took complete advantage of the troubled new-comer and laced into him, winning the set by a break.
Final score: 67(2) 64 64 63.
This will be Andy’s second Wimbledon final. He lost last year to Roger Federer, but avenged that disappointment at the Olympics in the fall when he grabbed gold from Federer. If Murray wins on Sunday, he will be the first Englishman to win the coveted title in 77 years.
Djokovic is aiming at his 7th overall Major. He has reached 9 of the last 12 Major finals.