Djokovic’s 27th Wimbledon win in row puts him in 8th final


By Howard Fendrich - AP Tennis Writer



WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Novak Djokovic fashioned a second consecutive comeback victory at Wimbledon on Friday, this one with a deficit far less daunting, the drama far less palpable.

The top-seeded Djokovic beat No. 9 seed Cam Norrie of Britain 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals to run his winning streak at the All England Club to 27 matches in a row as he pursues a fourth straight championship there.

On the steamiest afternoon of the fortnight so far, with the temperature reaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) and the air still, Djokovic got off to a slow start and often looked displeased, shaking his head or gesticulating toward his guest box. But unlike in the quarterfinals, when he dropped the opening two sets against No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner before winning in five, it took little time for Djokovic to assert his dominance.

When it ended, Djokovic curled his lips as if sending a kiss to someone in the stands who had been backing Norrie during the match.

“The job,” Djokovic said, “is not finished.”

He will face first-time major finalist Nick Kyrgios for the trophy on Sunday. The unseeded Kyrgios, a combustible 27-year-old from Australia who drew jeers for the mere mention of his name during Djokovic’s on-court interview, did not need to play on Friday because 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from their semifinal with a torn abdominal muscle.

“Well, one thing is for sure,” said Djokovic, who has lost both past matches against Kyrgios. “There’s going to be a lot of fireworks, emotionally, from both.”

It will be the 32nd Grand Slam title match for Djokovic, breaking a tie for the men’s record he shared with Roger Federer, and gives the 35-year-old from Serbia a shot at a 21st major title and seventh at Wimbledon. Only Federer, with eight, owns more at the grass-court tournament among men.

The women’s final is Saturday, with No. 3 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia facing No. 17 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. That will be the first Wimbledon final since 1962 between two women both making their debuts in a major final.

Djokovic vs. Norrie began auspiciously enough for locals hoping to see one of their own get to a men’s final, something only two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has accomplished for Britain since the professional era began in 1968.

Roars came when the left-handed Norrie arose first from his seat — Djokovic was pouring some water on his hand and rubbing it in his hair to cool off — and headed to the baseline to receive serve in the first game.

More arrived when Djokovic missed a backhand to cede the opening point, when he pushed a forehand long on the second and when Norrie’s volley winner completed the break to grab that game. Norrie hopped and skipped and threw an uppercut. Some Union Jack flags waved in the stands.

Was the championship won? No, of course not. A berth in the final earned? Not that, either. All in all, it was quite a celebration after merely one of what would become 35 games, after five of 202 points, four of 154 minutes.

When Djokovic broke right back a few minutes later, he swiftly turned to walk to the courtside stand holding his white towel and dabbed at his perspiration. To him, this was not a monumental achievement.

The contrasting reactions underscored the differences in their careers to date.

For Norrie, this was his first Grand Slam semifinal, 42 fewer than his opponent. Indeed, until this fortnight, Norrie never had been past the third round at a major, going 0-5 at that stage previously.

By the conclusion, the disparity in skills was obvious, too. Just one tiny example of how versatile and superb Djokovic is came on one particularly marvelous point. He hit a spinning half-volley on the move, but Norrie replied with a lob. So Djokovic ran back toward the baseline, the net behind him, and conjured up a between-the-legs, facing-the-wrong-way, high-arching lob of his own that somehow landed in. Norrie ran to that, twisted his body to reply with a forehand and Djokovic ended the 14-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner.

Even the partisans on hand cheered with approval. Djokovic raised his right index finger to the sky.

Still, it took him a full set to get going. Only two of Norrie’s first 20 points in the match came via winners he produced. Djokovic was off enough to commit 12 unforced errors by set’s end, and there were plenty of other strokes mediocre enough to let Norrie take the early lead.

“A bit tighter at the beginning of the match,” said Djokovic, who took a bathroom break and put on a white hat before the second set. “You’re not swinging through the ball so smoothly as you would like to.”

But here is one measure of how he restored order: Djokovic made 16 unforced errors over the last three sets combined.

Norrie, meanwhile, grew less sharp as Djokovic increased the pressure — within points and on the scoreboard. A particularly sloppy service game by Norrie, with a trio of unforced errors, helped Djokovic break to lead 5-3 in the second set.

“He kind of gifted me that game,” Djokovic said. “I feel like momentum … shifted a little bit.”

Perhaps sensing their guy could use a boost, some fans offered chants of “Let’s go, Norrie, let’s go!” early in the third set. Didn’t change a thing.

Djokovic broke to open the third and again to open the fourth.

Only one of Norrie’s previous five foes this fortnight was even seeded, No. 30 Tommy Paul. Needless to say, Djokovic represented quite a considerable step up in quality.

He is not one to ignore chances presented to him, not one to casually allow gifts to go unopened, and so it was on this day.

By Howard Fendrich

AP Tennis Writer