Novak Djokovic couldn’t have been pleased at the fact that his semi-final against Roberto Bautista-Agut was just a warm-up for the main event, the second semi which followed and featured Roger Federer and his longest rival, Rafa Nadal.
I’m glad it went my way Novak Djokovic
The build up to this year’s semis concentrated in the main, on the epic 2008 final between those two icons of the game no doubt also much to the chagrin of the current world number one and defending champion chasing his fifth Wimbledon crown.
As per usual, Djokovic looked to the crowd for support and became tetchy when it wasn’t forthcoming and following his inevitable win, going through his now ritual and false display of affection towards them.
The Serbian took command in the opening set to set to establish what looked to be a pattern for the rest of the match, but no doubt to his surprise, Bautista-Agut hit back to level at a set all and then continued to press the four-time champion hard over the subsequent sets before capitulating 6-2 4-6 6-3 6-2 after two-hours and 49-minutes of frenetic play.
As a starter to the main event, it certainly filled the bill.
The Spaniard, ranked 22, had surprised himself by reaching the last four. In fact he had organised his stag do in Ibiza for Friday night in the expectation of a much earlier departure from SW19. The do was abandoned and by all accounts, his friends, some from Ibiza, flew over to give him support in what was the highpoint of his career to date.
Djokovic took the first set relatively comfortably following Bautista-Agut’s failure to hold his opening service game thereby handing the Serb the start he desperately wanted.
The tables were turned in the second set to the delight of the Centre Court crowd who wanted a match but it rubbed the defending champion the wrong way and as a consequence, only helped to spur him on.
He hit 5 aces and struck 42 winners to 3 and 34 from Bautista-Agut. On the deficit side, the two made virtually the same number of errors, 29 by Djokovic as against 30 by the Spaniard.
“I had to dig deep,” he told the BBC as he came off court. “Of course, it was the semi-finals (of a grand slam) and Roberto was playing in his first. Regardless of that, he was not overwhelmed by the stadium or occasion. He played really well.
“During the first set, he was probably still managing his nerves and making some uncharacteristic unforced errors. Then at the start of the second, he established himself and started to play better.”
In conclusion he added: “I’m glad it went my way” bearing in mind that the 31-year-old Bautista-Agut had beaten him twice during the early part of the season, in Doha and Miami.
Djokovic now awaits a much more experienced opponent for his 25th grand slam final, and whoever it is between Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, it could well be a classic one, but will it be better that that 2008 epic?