For Wimbledon spectators in the stands or perched on “Murray Mount”, the hill overlooking the All England Club, the thrill will have lasted just over an hour… while Novak Djokovic acclimatizes to the heat so much from a Center Court under a blazing sun, Friday July 8, than to the razor-sharp backhand of the local hero. Jostled by Briton Cameron Norrie at the start of their semi-final, the Serb finally enforced his rank, winning 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. And offered himself the right to play his eighth final at Wimbledon, the thirty-second in Grand Slam – a record for men.
But in 95 matches on the London lawn, the six-time winner had never conceded the first set with such a dry score. Despite the pressure of playing at home on the most venerable tennis court in the world, which celebrates its centenary this year, Cameron Norrie approached the game without complex when the world number 3 had on the contrary the arm which trembles – with the exception of the sequence of a tweener (kick between the legs) and a winning amortized volley at 2-1.
With his left-handed backhand which arrives very quickly and very low on the forehand of right-handers like Djokovic, the world number 12 disconcerted the triple defending champion, whose service was down (55% of first balls in the first set). “Yes, you can,” shouted a compatriot from the stands as the Briton was about to serve to win the first set. What he did while receiving a standing ovation from the 15,000 spectators, minus the few diehard Serbs.
The Serb on a mission and doubly motivated
Among the last four members, Cameron Norrie played the surprise guest in his own kingdom: he had never passed the third round there before. His fortnight had so far spared him the big clients, successively eliminating the Spaniards Pablo Andujar (number 100) and Jaume Munar (number 71), the Americans Steve Johnson (number 93) and Tommy Paul (number 32) and finally the Belgian David Goffin (number 58).
In his first grass court match against a top-5 player, the 26-year-old southpaw failed to reiterate what only one Her Majesty subject has so far achieved: beating Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon – that was Andy Murray in 2013, in the final. In his London garden, the Serb is a man on a mission.
The three-time defending champion knows that he risks playing his second and last Grand Slam of the season there. In the current state of things, already deprived of the Australian Open, he will not be able to participate in the US Open either, the United States still refusing to allow people not vaccinated against Covid on their soil. -19. “This is an additional motivation to do well at Wimbledon,” he said at a press conference on June 25, he who has not lost since 2017, when he dropped out in the quarterfinals. against the Czech Tomas Berdych, because of an elbow injury.
With his victory over Cameron Norrie, Novak Djokovic recorded his 27th rank on blessed grass. Once is not custom, Friday, the umbrellas were transformed into parasols, and the butterflies were cheerfully invited in the gallery. After a start to the match far from his standards, Novak Djokovic put on a cap at the start of the second set and gradually put his head back. On his peeled baseline, the elastic man regained his surgical precision, his serve, and his reservoir of winners to go with it.
A 21st Grand Slam title in sight
Deprived of an enticing semi-final on paper between Nick Kyrgios and the Spaniard Rafael Nadal – forced to forfeit Thursday evening, betrayed by his abs – the public cheerfully gave voice behind Cameron Norrie, hoping to postpone the inevitable . A spectator did try to distract Novak Djokovic when serving on his match point, but the latter did not give him this pleasure… and addressed a pout full of irony in the direction of the insolent as soon as the point – and the match – won.
“Yes, I’ve played a bunch of Grand Slam semi-finals, but it’s not easy to step onto the court with so much pressure and expectation of yourself, and Cameron was playing the tournament in his own way. life at home”, reacted on the court the winner of the day, who remains on two defeats against Nick Kyrgios in two confrontations, each time on hard (in Indian Wells and Acapulco, in 2017). “He doesn’t have much to lose, and that’s his style, I haven’t taken a set from him yet, hopefully it will be different on Sunday. One thing is certain, there will be a lot of fireworks,” smiled Novak Djokovic.
“He loves the big stages, he always plays his best tennis against the very best, and on grass his game is very aggressive”, he then summarized in a press conference.
Regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s final against the newbie Australian at this level, the world No. the former decided to exclude the Russians and Belarusians in opposition to the war in Ukraine, when the latter decided in retaliation not to award any points in the ranking to the players participating in the tournament.
To console himself, Novak Djokovic will aim for a 21st Grand Slam title, which would allow him to return to a length of the record of Rafael Nadal, and moreover to equal his youth idol Pete Sampras, seven times winner in London.