Cameron Norrie failed in his bid to upset the defending champion, Novak Djokovic, in the only men’s semi-final played on Friday following Nick Kyrgios’s walkover into Sunday’s final after his opponent, the 21-time champion Rafa Nadal, pulled out on Thursday with a 7mm abdominal tear.
I didn’t start well today. It was very hot. I was a bit tight and not swinging through the ball as I would like. Cameron didn’t have much to lose, playing the tournament of his life at home. Novak Djokovic
Djokovic now has the opportunity of equalling Nadal’s record of grand slam titles won, but as he readily admits, it won’t be easy. He has yet to win a set off the Australian and in his win over Norrie wasn’t as decisive as the 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 would suggest.
For a set and half, Norrie was in control against a surprisingly subdued Djokovic which again, was acknowledged by the six-time Wimbledon champion.
But a slip by the British No.1 behind the baseline midway through the second, turned that around as the former world No.1, now wearing a cap, won his 18th grand slam semi-final from the 19 he has now appeared in since 2015, to level at a set-all.
“I didn’t start well today. It was very hot. I was a bit tight and not swinging through the ball as I would like. Cameron didn’t have much to lose, playing the tournament of his life at home. I wish him all the best. He’s a great player and I have a lot of respect for him,” Djokovic said after the two-hour 35-minute match, played out in brilliant sunshine on Centre Court.
Looking ahead to the final against Kyrgios, the top seed added:
“One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both of us. It is his first Grand Slam final so he is very excited and he doesn’t have much to lose but he is always playing like that.
“I’ve never won a set off him. But it’s another final for me here at Wimbledon, the tournament I love so much. Hopefully it can work in my favour.
“He plays freely, a lot of power in his shots. We haven’t played for some time (and) I never won a set off him. Hope it is different this time. For me another Wimbledon final, hope experience can work in my favour.”
Those two matches took place in 2017 which augurs well for the final on Sunday – Kyrgios attempting to keep his record against him by claiming his first major title versus a Djokovic going for a seventh Wimbledon trophy – the stakes are big for both of them.
But Djokovic will have to lift his game somewhat and not let his opponent get as good a start as Norrie got. The first point, which the Serbian lost, lifted the crowd who immediately roared their player on and he did well to keep control of the opening set and, while Djokovic produced a remarkable tweener lob, his general game was below par under the more aggressive game from the Brit.
A set down Djokovic produced his hat and at 3-3 in the second, Norrie positioning himself on the baseline slipped. It wasn’t a major fall, but it obviously unsettled him for in the next game he missed the easiest of volleys when he had an open court which led to him being broken and virtually handed the second set his opponent.
Djokovic didn’t need to go and speak to himself in the mirror, or take a puff from the magical water bottle, to turn the match around.
As far as the Serbian was concerned, he had reset the situation in his favour as Norrie was now floundering, not only was his serve now off song, but his usual accuracy off the ground became a memory and the unforced errors grew.
Djokovic simply rolled through the third and fourth to reach his 32nd Grand Slam final while leaving Norrie to reflect on what could have been.
However, Norrie’s run into the last four was in itself, a major achievement and he will have to be satisfied with becoming only the fourth Brit to have made that run in the Open Era, joining Roger Taylor, Tim Henman and Andy Murray.