Novak Djokovic is a man made for five-set tennis. Only once out of 11 five-setters at the All England Club has he been a loser and that was back in 2006 to Mario Ancic. This incredible win also meant Djokovic pulled back a two-set deficit for the seventh time in a grand-slam match.
It may have been five years since the Serb has been defeated at Wimbledon and he has stretched his winning streak to 26 with this quarter-final victory, but it was not made easy for the six-time champion as he lost the two opening sets to the 20-year-old Italian Jannik Sinner. Djokovic did not look himself as he missed multiple drop shots in those two sets, but he maintained his habit of being a master of the marathon as he set up a semi-final with Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Some may argue that the status quo prevails in the men’s game but Djokovic did look fallible and given how young Sinner is and the fight he put up, this is surely a positive sign for a player in his first Wimbledon quarter-final and another name to add to the list of young male grand slam challengers of the future.
Djokovic was frank in his assessment of both how he will be received by a partisan crowd when he takes on Norrie and the gulf in experience that exists between the world No 3 and No 12.
“Playing here in Wimbledon on Centre Court semi-finals of a slam in his country, of course I know what to expect, you know, in terms of the crowd support,” Djokovic said. “For him, [he has] not much to lose. Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him. I know that.”
Djokovic moved comfortably on the grass in the opening games of the match and the defending champion moved 4-1 up, but Sinner – buoyed by the cheers of “Andiamo” [here we go] and, of course, his own determination and talent – began to find his natural game and he battled his way into the match. At 4-4, he showed his mettle to take a break point and subsequently closed out the first set 7-5.
Sinner had a spring in his step heading into the second set and looked sharp in the rallies. He had rattled Djokovic, who admitted the youngster at that stage “was having a better game mentally”. There is often a mild “anybody but Djokovic” vibe among the Centre Court fans and they got behind Sinner much in the same fashion they had supported his fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini when he lost to Djokovic in last year’s final.
The Italian won the second set in even more emphatic fashion, taking it 6-2, but even at two sets down Djokovic could not be written off and, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge cheering him, he pulled himself back to parity.
Djokovic may have the reputation of being one of the fiercest competitors in world sport but he was also responsible for one of the most poignant moments of sportsmanship this Championships when Sinner took an awkward tumble, twisting his ankle and he screaming in agony before the 20-time grand slam champion helped the young pretender back to his feet.
It was a scary moment in what had been a high-quality match and it brought back memories of when Alexander Zverev tore his ankle ligaments during an epic Roland-Garros semi-final against Rafael Nadal last month. Thankfully, Sinner was able to continue and he later played down the impact it had on his performance. “I was a little bit careful the first two points, but then I was good. The most important thing is that my body feels good,” he said.
Djokovic said his lengthy comfort break after the second set was the turning point but the break of serve in the third set when he began to come out on top in the rallies was also key. The Serb did at times look weary between points, even when he was back on top, showing the 15-year age gap.
During his visit to the bathroom he gave himself a pep talk in the mirror in the same way he did when he overcame Stefanos Tsitsipas at last year’s French Open after going two sets down.
“As negative and down as you feel on yourself in those moments, even though as fake as it sounds to you, it really gives you an effect and support if you are trying to, you know, find the right and positive affirmations and tell it to yourself and kind of reanimate yourself in a way,” Djokovic said.
He certainly was reanimated from then on as he only lost seven games in the final three sets and won an impressive 94 per cent of his first-service points in the fourth set.
The Italian had the crowd behind him in the fifth set up until the closing minutes, when they defected to a man on a mission towards another title.
Djokovic closed out the match in style with an ace but before that he outclassed Sinner with a flamboyant backhand passing shot. With that flourish Djokovic marches on towards a 21st grand-slam title.
Djokovic v Sinner: as it happened
Djokovic on his love of Wimbledon
I feel happiness, fulfilment, pride. I love this court. I adore it. It's the biggest tennis tournament in the history of our game. It's the most important one in my life. It inspired me to take the racket in my hand at the age of five. It has always inspired me, this court.
Novak on 'winning the internal fight'
I have been blessed to play professional tennis for 20 years but nevertheless I have the same doubts as everyone else. Winning the internal fight is the big challenge. If I can win the internal fight., the external fight follows. Whether it's the experience, the toilet break, winning the internal fight.
On 'reconstructing his game'
In these circumstances sometimes these things are necessary, a little break to try to regather the thoughts and reassemble everything you have.
I was fortunate to start the third set very well. It gave me a confidence boost and I sensed a little doubt from him.
Huge congratulations on a big fight for Jannik. He is so mature for his age. There is going to be plenty of opportunities on the big stage. Big tournament for him, I wish him luck.
He was the better player for two sets. I went out for a toilet break, had a little pep talk in the mirror - it's actually true!
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic ace sees him reach three match points. GAME SET MATCH DJOKOVIC.
Sinner forehand into the net and Djokovic completes the comeback.
What a player.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-2 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Tremendous kick second serve by Sinner, Djokovic just gets the ball back in play but Sinner hits a lovely inside out forehand.
WOW DJOKOVIC. On the full stretch, Djokovic comes up with an outrageous passing shot with his backhand. Djokovic lies flat on his chest with his arms outstretched. Jaw dropping shot.
Sinner overhead shank and Djokovic breaks again and will serve for the match.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-2 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Another routine service game for Djokovic. He's faced just one break point since Sinner won the second set.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-2 Sinner (*denotes next server)
A must win game for Sinner to keep his dreams alive. Djokovic finally gets a drop shot all wrong and nets, 40-0.
And Sinner holds when Djokovic's return flies long.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Sensational drop shot by Djokovic, world class, 30-0. And he holds with another stunning drop shot.
He's played that shot beautifully today.
Ominous for Sinner...
.@DjokerNole has won his last 8 five-setters @Wimbledon and is 9-1 overall. His only 5-set loss came to @AncicMario in 2006 fourth round. #Djokovic has rallied twice from 2-sets down in #Wimbledon: 2015 4R vs Anderson, 2005 2R vs Garcia-Lopez.
— ATP Media Info (@ATPMediaInfo) July 5, 2022
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Huge forehand winner down the line by Sinner, 15-15. Deep Djokovic return to the feet of Sinner and the Italian nets his forehand, 15-30.
Sinner hits a deep approach shot, Djokovic stretches and gets the ball back in play then Sinner nets the volley, two break points.
Sinner saves the first when Djokovic's backhand is millimetres out. Sinner drop shot into the net. Djokovic breaks.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
No sign of the ankle troubling Sinner at the moment, which is good news for him.
But he can't break his opponent in this game as Djokovic holds to 15.
Fifth Set: Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 0-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner gets an incredible reception as he prepares to serve at the start of this set. Can he rise to the occasion?
Djokovic forehand into the net, 30-15. Wide Sinner first serve is unreturned, 40-15.
Sinner backhand into the net, 40-30. Sinner does get the set off to the right start but holding.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic opens the game with an ace then an unreturned serve. But Sinners pulls it back to 30-30 and Djokovic nets a drop shot, break point.
Great rally between the players, Djokovic hits a drop shot, Sinner scrambles to reach it, slips and holds his left ankle.
He looks in serious pain and the physio is called on immediately. Djokovic helps his opponent up and Sinner incredibly looks able to continue without the need for treatment.
Break point Sinner when Djokovic nets a forehand. Saved when Sinner puts a forehand long.
Set point Djokovic when Sinner's return goes long. Blistering backhand down the line winner by Sinner.
Djokovic earns himself another set point and he takes it when Sinner's return goes long.
We head to a final set!
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 5-2 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Nice change up from Sinner as he hits a lovely serve and volley winner. Djokovic applauds the shot. 40-0.
Djokovic drills a backhand return down the line, Sinner just gets the ball over the net but Djokovic puts away the mid court forehand.
Djokovic forehand long and Sinner holds.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 5-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic races to 40-0 then hits a double fault. Unsurprisingly he finds his serve again and holds to 15.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 4-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Relief for Sinner as he gets on the board with a hold to 30. The Italian looks subdued. The crowd are trying to rally him but a final set is coming very soon!
Analysis from Centre Court by Kate Rowan
Body language can be a very useful way of gauging the momentum of a tennis match. At points in the last set when Djokovic lost four points on his serve before taking the set – he looked somewhat fatigued and showing his 35 years compared to his competitor’s 20 years. It was an unusual sight to see such a fierce competitor look tired but in the last few games of the third set and the two opening sets of the fourth set, he looked like a man reborn.
Sinner who has had very positive body language all the way through – just dropped his shoulders ever so slightly at last change over perhaps showing what he will be up against. Djokovic is roaring to get the crowd involved but does look a little weary between points in a way he usually doesn’t, but he is showing more aggression on his serve. There was a big fist pump for the reigning champion as he leads 3-0 in the fourth set.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 4-0 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Sinner might as well save energy for the fifth set the way the match is moving. He needs to find a way to stop this Djokovic steam train.
But sometimes it is just irresistible. Double break consolidated by Djokovic.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 3-0 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner serve and volley, Djokovic reaches the ball but lifts his lob just long, 15-30.
He then nets a forehand and is disgusted with himself, 30-30. Sinner forehand into the tramlines.
Timely first serve by Sinner and Djokovic fails to return it. Sinner backhand long, second break point.
Djokovic stretches Sinner wide and the Italian just misses with his forehand pass. Djokovic breaks again.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 2-0 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Sinner is struggling to have an impact on the Djokovic service games and it means the No 1 seed is holding very comfortably and quickly. The mood in the crowd has also shifted. They were sensing an update but now Djokovic looks favourite to win.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner double fault, 15-30. He responds with a wide ace, 30-30. Sinner forehand long, 30-40.
Cross court Sinner forehand winner, deuce. Wow.
Sinner then shanks a backhand, break point Djokovic. Tense point and Djokovic puts a backhand long.
Djokovic is on a roll now.
Fourth Set: Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 6-3 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic earns himself three set points. Sinner saves the first when he shows incredible foot speed to hunt down a Djokovic drop volley and flick a forehand into the corner. The shot earns applause from Djokovic and a standing ovation from the fans.
But Djokovic doesn't squander the chance to take the set as his first serve is unreturned by Sinner.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 5-3 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner forehand into the net, 0-30. Djokovic is on the march you feel. Sinner gets a point on the board when Djokovic's backhand flies long, 15-30.
Djokovic forehand winner, 15-40. Gutsy and patient play by Sinner to push the game to deuce.
And he holds with a 113mph ace.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 5-2 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Fans are on their feet as Sinner pulls Djokovic back and forth with the drop shot and ends the point with a delightful lob over the Serbian, 0-15.
Sinner goes at Djokovic's forehand but Djokovic responds with a blistering forehand winner, 30-15. Djokovic's turn for a drop shot and Sinner nets, 40-15.
Djokovic hits a wide serve for an ace to hold.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 4-2 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic broke Sinner to lead 4-1 in the first and the Italian recovered.
Sinner begins the comeback here by holding to 15.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 4-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Point of the match and a potentially decisive moment. Great rally between the two players, Sinner hits a drop shot which Djokovic incredibly reaches. But Sinner still has an easy volley to put away but he nets.
Djokovic then holds with a backhand winner to consolidate the break.
Analysis from Centre Court by Kate Rowan
It would be interesting to know who some of the most famous tennis fans here today are shouting for inwardly even if they may not be able to outwardly express it as there are some high-profile tennis fans in the Royal Box as mentioned earlier in this blog including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
The Duchess has been known to be on friendly terms with Roger Federer, breaking Royal protocol to give him three kisses on the cheek at the 2017 tournament – so it would be interesting to know who HRH is cheering on in his absence?
There is also sporting Royalty present including Olympic sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie, who the Duchess has also long been on good terms with. Other Royal Box attendees today include Australian World Cup winner George Gregan, inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and composer Sir Tim Rice. So, no doubt some interesting conversations to eavesdrop on in the best seats in the house!
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 3-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner forehand into the net, 0-30. Djokovic takes charge of the rally and finishes at the net with a volley winner, three break points.
And Djokovic breaks when Sinner pulls a forehand long. Perfect response by the defending champion.
Meanwhile, out on Court 1
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 2-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
It feels like Djokovic is just trying to weather a storm at the moment. He does manage to hold to 15 and keep himself in the hunt. But it will be an uphill task.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6, 1-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
First bit of concerted pressure on the Sinner serve for some time for Djokovic. He earns a break point when Sinner double faults. But the Italian holds with a forehand winner.
Sinner drop shot drags Djokovic to the net and the Italian flicks a forehand down the line for a winner.
Third Set: Djokovic 5-7, 2-6, 1-0 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic left the court after the second set for a change of clothes and to presumably halt his opponent's momentum.
It may have worked as Djokovic holds to love to start the set.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-6 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic starts this must win game with a forehand winner, 0-15. Sinner then double faults for the third time in the match, 0-30.
Djokovic backhand into the tramlines, he was completely off balance there, 15-30. Sinner finds his first serve again and Djokovic's return flies long.
Djokovic forehand into the net, set point. Djokovic return long and Sinner is one set away from the semi-finals and the biggest win of his career.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-5 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Sinner forehand return is a winner, Djokovic barely moves, 15-30. Djokovic forehand long, terrible shot, two break points.
Sinner gets a look at a second serve but he puts his forehand return long. HUGE slice of luck for Djokovic as his defensive backhand clips the top of the net and drops on Sinner's side. The Serb's apologises but he must be delighted. Deuce.
A fourth double fault by Djokovic, third set point. Deep Sinner return is called out as Djokovic mis-hits his reply.
Sinner challenges it and the Hawkeye says the ball was in. Sinner breaks again. Incredible scenes.
Djokovic* 5-7, 2-4 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner nets a drop shot, that looked a bit tight. Nevertheless, he responds with a forehand winner.
Sinner nets a backhand volley, 15-30. Big point coming up.
Sinner crashes down a timely 126 mph first serve which Djokovic nets. Djokovic drop shot, Sinner gets there and flicks a cross court forehand winner, 40-30.
Sinner finds his first serve again down the T, Djokovic's return goes high into the air and Sinner finishes the point with a driver forehand winner.
Djokovic 5-7, 2-3 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Better from Djokovic as he drills a series of deep backhands to the baseline and Sinner eventually nets.
Djokovic holds for 2-3 when Sinner pulls a backhand wide.
Djokovic* 5-7, 1-3 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is all over the place here and his unforced error count is rising. He moves to 15 when he drags a forehand into the tramlines.
And a fourth ace of the match by Sinner consolidates the break.
Jannik Sinner leads Djokovic by a set and a break now so here he is with a big glorious hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Sinner is the only player I know who ever landed a cheese sponsorship, so really he’s already a winner.#Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/xGnN13OqXM
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 5, 2022
Djokovic 5-7, 1-2 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Sinner drive forehand winner, 0-15. Serve and volley winner from Djokovic, 15-15. Another wrong footing forehand by Sinner and Djokovic nets a defensive backhand, 15-30.
Sinner is peaking right now. All court play from the Italian and he finishes with a backhand overhead winner, 15-40. Two break points.
Djokovic with a wild backhand which flies well long.
Djokovic* 5-7, 1-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Third ace of the match for Sinner moves him to 40-0 and he holds when Djokovic puts a forehand return long.
Second Set: Djokovic 5-7, 1-0 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic gets back on track with a hold to 15. No real emotion from him to losing the set. You have to imagine he will respond.
But can Sinner keep up with him?
How will Djokovic respond?
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Djokovic* 5-7 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic forehand return long, 15-15. 2nd double fault of the match by Sinner, 15-30. Djokovic is pushed out wide but his forehand down the line goes long, 30-30.
Djokovic forehand long, set point. Djokovic saves it when Sinner misses a forehand.
Sinner drop shot winner, second set point. Sinner first serve down the T, Djokovic returns into the net.
Game on folks!
Djokovic 5-6 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic backhand into the net, 0-30. Djokovic's serve down the T is perfectly placed and Sinner fails to return it.
Terrible drop shot by Djokovic, Sinner races up to it and hits a backhand straight back at Djokovic, but the Serb's lob goes long. Two break points.
WOW. Huge cross court Sinner forehand to break. Stunning shot.
Djokovic* 5-5 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic volley winner as he reads Sinner's attempted pass, 30-30. Sinner wrong foots Djokovic with a lovely inside out forehand and he holds when he finds his first serve and Djokovic nets.
Djokovic 5-4 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Toughest service game of the set for Djokovic as he's forced to save another break point with Sinner applying the pressure.
But the No 1 seed hangs tough to get ahead again and force Sinner to hold to stay in the set.
Djokovic* 4-4 Sinner (*denotes next server)
We're back level on Centre as Sinner holds to 15. The Italian is right in the fight now.
Djokovic 4-3 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Best game of the match so far as Sinner earns himself two break points and he gets it when Djokovic double faults.
Djokovic* 4-2 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Djokovic gets Sinner on the full stretch and the Italian can't keep his backhand in play, break point.
The Italian saves it with a timely first serve down the T, deuce. The Italian manages to escape this service game to keep him in touch.
Djokovic 4-1 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic continues to be exemplary on serve but also in the rallies, keeping Sinner on the run, being patient and gaining the error.
Djokovic* 3-1 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Sinner finally get on the board and the crowd show their appreciation. Hopefully that will spark him into life because he is better than the level he's showed so far.
Djokovic 3-0 Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Ruthless start by the No 1 seed continues. He's won every point on his first serve so far, got 83 per cent of returns in play and made just one unforced error.
Djokovic* 2-0 Sinner (*denotes next server)
Early problems for Sinner as a double fault sees him slip to 0-30. First lengthy exchange between them, a forehand to forehand battle but Sinner nets. Three break points.
Sinner saves the first after a 17 point rally ends with Djokovic netting a defensive forehand. He saves the second after a big serve down the T. But not the third as Sinner pushes a forehand long.
Not the start the young Italian will have wanted.
First Set: Novak Djokovic 1-0 Jannik Sinner* (*denotes next server)
Two missed returns by Sinner and an ace moves Djokovic to 40-0. And he holds with a lovely angled volley winner.
Some special guests in the Royal Box today
Here we go...
... Djokovic and Sinner come out from under the Royal Box to a warm reception. Five minute warm-up and we will get going.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Djokovic vs Sinner preview by Simon Briggs
#Wimbledon Day 9⃣
Novak Djokovic is about to get under way against Jannik Sinner on Centre Court.
Our tennis correspondent @simonrbriggs has the lowdown on where the match will be won and lost⬇️ pic.twitter.com/1e7zZgyrV4
— Telegraph Sport (@TelegraphSport) July 5, 2022
Roger Federer might have some competition in the style stakes soon..
The House announces #JannikSinner as its newest Brand Ambassador. Wearing a selection of sartorial looks envisioned by #AlessandroMichele for #GucciLoveParade, he recently appeared in #ICONMagazine. Photographed by Stefano Galuzzi. Styled by Edoardo Caniglia. pic.twitter.com/p1awMUywl5
— gucci (@gucci) July 5, 2022
BREAKING: Nick Kyrgios to appear in court after being charged with domestic abuse
Kyrgios, the controversy-engulfed Wimbledon quarter-finalist, will appear in court in Australia next month accused of assaulting a former girlfriend.
The 27-year-old was summonsed in December 2021, and it appears All England Club organisers were unaware he is now due to appear before judges in Canberra.
Read more here.
A taste of what Djokovic can expect today?
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 5, 2022
Hello and good afternoon from Wimbledon as we enter the business end of the tournament with the men's and women's quarter-finals.
On Cente Court, Novak Djokovic opens play at 1.30pm against the talented Jannik Sinner and that match will be followed by Marie Bouzkova vs Ons Jabeur. While on Court 1, Britain's Cameron Norrie is the second match scheduled and he will face David Goffin.
Although Djokovic has made relatively straightforward progress to the last eight, he did drop a set in the previous round against wildcard Tim van Rijthoven. And today, he faces a stiff test again Sinner, who is enjoying his best run at SW19.
Djokovic said: "I have only superlatives and positive things to talk about Sinner's game. We all know he's very talented. He's already now an established top player.
"I've seen him play many different surfaces in the last few years. He's maturing a lot on the big stage. I think he doesn't feel too much pressure on the big stage because he can get you sometimes when you're younger.
"He's very confident. He believes he can win against anybody, any stadium, which is important for a young player like him. He's already now experienced, even though he's still young, because he has had big matches, top-10 player."
Sinner earned his match-up with Djokovic by winning his battle of the next generation with Carlos Alcaraz and is full of confidence.
He said: "It's going to be a tough match, of course. I mean, he's playing very, very good. I will try my best. That's the minimum I can do. Just enjoy every moment out there, which I've done today.
"It was a very special feeling to go on Centre Court. So, yeah, let's see in the next round what's going to happen. But, yeah, I think I can be happy today and trying to recover in the best possible way for the next match."