LONDON (Agencies): Novak Djokovic reached the Wimbledon men’s singles final for the fifth successive year with a dominant win in the last four over Jannik Sinner.
Second seed Djokovic won 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-4) against the Italian eighth seed, leaving him one victory away from a record-equalling eighth men’s title.
The 36-year-old Serb could also earn a record-equalling 24th major title. Djokovic will play Spanish top seed Carlos Alcaraz or Russian third seed Daniil Medvedev in Sunday’s final.
The pair, who contest the second semi-final later on Friday, are bidding to reach their first final at the All England Club. By contrast, Djokovic has reached his ninth Wimbledon showpiece.
It will also be a record 35th Grand Slam final appearance after he surpassed the tally he previously shared with American Chris Evert. Djokovic has not lost a completed match at Wimbledon since 2016 and has not been beaten on Centre Court since 2013.
“In the semi-finals, it was always going to be a very close and very tense match,” said Djokovic, who is 14 years older than Sinner. “That was the case and the scoreline doesn’t give the reality of what was happening on the court. It was super close.
“Jannik has proven why he is one of the leaders of the next generation and one of the best players in the world. “I tried not to look at age as a hindrance or a factor of the outcome. I guess 36 is the new 26.”
Experience prevails over youth – again
The contrast between Djokovic and Sinner in terms of experience was laid bare by the statistics before the match – and borne out in reality during it.
Sinner, 21, was playing his first Grand Slam semi-final, while Djokovic was contesting a 46th major semi-final – equalling Roger Federer’s all-time men’s record.
Djokovic, who turned 36 in May, was bidding to become the third oldest man in the Open era to reach the final. Sinner was aiming to become the youngest since 2007. Knowledge of how to succeed on the biggest occasions in the sport, plus the ability to execute when it matters the most, proved to be the key.
In a lengthy opening game of the match, Sinner demonstrated his firepower with two forehand winners which teed up break points. But he could not take either of them in a six-minute game and paid the price when Djokovic took his only break point of the set in the second game.
A third break point came Sinner’s way at 3-1, but he dragged a poor cross-court forehand wide, allowing Djokovic to survive again after finding his first serve. Sinner, who led Djokovic by two sets before losing in five when they met in last year’s quarter-finals, was not playing badly.
But, having not faced a seed in his run to the last four, Djokovic was a considerable step up in class. It told in the moments of fine margins. Djokovic demonstrated his ability to clinically close out sets, hitting three aces and a service winner from 0-15 down at 5-3 in the opener.
Djokovic had never lost at Wimbledon when he had won the first set, a run spanning 77 matches. Things looked increasingly ominous for Sinner when he handed over a break early in the second set.
A fourth chance to take Djokovic’s serve went begging at 2-1 – in a game where the Serb was docked a point for hindrance, judged by British umpire Richard Haigh to have disturbed Sinner with a long grunt, and then warned for taking too long to serve.
After his jaw dropped in disbelief and had words with the official, Djokovic quickly regained focus to hold. The former world number one went on to serve out the second set without facing a further break point and few would have backed Sinner to turn the match around at that point.
The Italian refused to wilt like many expected and instead raised his level to push Djokovic in a tight third set. Djokovic was becoming increasingly tetchy as a result. He had an exchange with a fan after saving two set points at 5-4, sarcastically telling them to stop crying, then smiling in the same direction after securing victory in the tie-break.