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Djokovic: path to the final

Novak Djokovic celebrates.
by Matt Trollope
Sunday 7 July 2013

In a tournament marked by the exits of some notable champions, top seed Novak Djokovic has proved the rock, a stabilising influence within a highly-volatile draw.

With the exception of his thrilling semi-final against Juan Martin Del Potro, the Serb hasn’t dropped a set all fortnight at The Championships, and will feature in his second Wimbledon final – the other coming in 2011 – when he takes on No.2 seed and crowd favourite Andy Murray on Sunday.

Here’s how Djokovic arrived at this point.

First Round – [1] Novak Djokovic bt Florian Mayer 6-3, 7-5, 6-4

It was a tough introduction to Wimbledon for the top seed, who drew 34th-ranked Florian Mayer in his opening match. The German reached the quarter-finals last year – falling to Djokovic – and just missed out on a seeding at the 2013 Championships. As a result, the Serb was dialled-in from the first point, despite not having played a competitive match since Roland Garros. He smacked 40 winners to just 20 errors and skipped into the second round.

Second Round – Djokovic bt Bobby Reynolds 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-1

Djokovic next found himself up against American journeyman Bobby Reynolds, the 31-year-old who’d come through three rounds of qualifying before besting compatriot Steve Johnson in five in the first round. And he looked set to continue his winning run in the first set, serving strongly to keep pace with the top seed. Yet Djokovic, with far more experience than Reynolds on the grand stage of Centre Court, began to read the American, and after snaring the opening set, improved as the match wore on beneath a closed roof.

Third Round – Djokovic bt [28] Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

This was a very tough match-up for Djokovic, against a rangy Frenchman with a big serve and forehand – always excellent weapons on the grass. Clearly wary of the potential threat, Djokovic ensured Chardy was never able to get his teeth into the match. In a simply sublime performance, he committed just three unforced errors – the first coming deep in the third set – while striking 38 winners to erase Chardy’s challenge in less than 90 minutes. “That was incredible for me,” he said after the match.

Fourth Round – Djokovic bt [13] Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(4)

It seemed memories of Djokovic’s stunning loss to Haas in Miami were fresh in the Serb’s head as he began this match, as he played with an urgency that helped him race through the first set before the German could blink. But Haas, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2009, began to find his range. Muscling the top seed around the court with his heavy forehand, he worked his way into the match, as Djokovic struggled with his footing on the grass. But an incredible clutch player, Djokovic showed his mettle in the third set tie-break, subduing the rampaging No.13 seed to secure a quarter-final berth.

Quarter-final – Djokovic bt [7] Tomas Berdych 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-3

Berdych had beaten Djokovic in their only encounter at Wimbledon, back in 2010, and their most recent match in Rome in May. But sandwiched between those losses were 11 straight victories for the Serb. And that dominance continued on No.1 Court in the quarter-finals. After coming through a first set of high-quality tennis, Djokovic fell behind 3-0 in the second set before righting the ship. And in recovering, he took the wind out of the Czech’s sails. After two hours and 15 minutes, Djokovic sealed victory, and moved into the semi-finals having not dropped a set all tournament.

Semi-final – Djokovic bt [8] Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-7(6), 6-3

In a delightful contrast of styles, Djokovic and Del Potro produced the match of the tournament – and a Wimbledon semi-final for the ages – in battling out five glorious sets. It pitted Djokovic’s superb blend of attack and defence and incredible athleticism against the brutal stand-and-deliver-style power of the Argentine, and for almost five hours, they couldn’t be separated. Djokovic earned two match points in the fourth set tie-break only to see Del Potro erase them and level the match, but in the deciding fifth, Djokovic had just that little bit extra. One final backhand winner down the line cemented a fabulous victory and his place in a second Wimbledon final.

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