Tennis: Fiery Djokovic into ninth Wimbledon final, record 35th at Slams

AFP , Friday 14 Jul 2023

Novak Djokovic powered into his ninth Wimbledon final as the fiery defending champion feuded with the umpire and spectators before beating Jannik Sinner to reach a record 35th Grand Slam singles title match on Friday.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic reacts after beating Italy's Jannik Sinner to win their men's singles semifinal match on day twelve of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Friday, July 14, 2023. Photo: AP


Djokovic was in combative mood during a 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) semi-final victory that moved him closer to a record-equalling eighth Wimbledon title.

The 36-year-old faces world number one Carlos Alcaraz or Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev in his fifth successive Wimbledon final on Sunday.

"Semi-finals are always going to be very intense. Maybe the scoreline doesn't give the reality of what happened on court. It was super close," Djokovic said.

On his row with umpire Richard Haigh, who stripped him of a point after he made a loud yell in the middle of a rally, Djokovic said: "The hindrance could have changed the course of the match. I felt nervous after that call, but I managed to re-group.

"It's probably the first time it's happened to me, I don't normally have extended grunts. Maybe it was an echo in the roof."

The Serb will tie Roger Federer's eight Wimbledon crowns if he wins a fifth consecutive title on the All England Club grass.

Djokovic's latest milestone -- his record 35th Grand Slam final -- took him past American legend Chris Evert, but he has an even more significant feat in his sights on Sunday.

With 23 Grand Slam singles titles to his name, the world number two is aiming to equal Margaret Court's all-time record of 24.

'A lot of motivation'

Djokovic has already won this season's Australian Open and French Open as he chases an astonishing clean-sweep of all four Grand Slam events in a single year, with the US Open to come in August.

"I feel 36 is the new 26, it feels pretty good. I feel a lot of motivation," he said of his longevity.

"This sport has given me and my family a lot. I will return a favour to this sport and play as much as I can."

Italian eighth seed Sinner, 21, came close to a shock victory over Djokovic in the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year before the Serb came from two sets down to win.

This time it was Djokovic who held sway from the start as he took the first set with ease.

After breaking in the third game of the second set, Djokovic found himself in trouble with Haigh.

The British official took a point from Djokovic in the fourth game, ruling he made a distracting noise after his shot and just before Sinner was about to hit the ball.

Clearly furious, Djokovic stormed over to the official to ask "what are you doing?".

Haigh irked Djokovic again moments later, warning him for taking too long to serve as the Serb shook his head in disbelief.

But Djokovic recovered his equilibrium to win the second set with ruthless efficiency.

After saving two set points in the third set, Djokovic responded to the crowd's vocal support for Sinner by making a sarcastic crying gesture towards the stands.

Djokovic had the last laugh on his tormentors as he won the third set tie-break to clinch a victory that moved him to the brink of more history.

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