Serbian defending champion Novak Djokovic reached his eleventh semi-final on Tuesday at Wimbledon, the third Grand Slam in tennis, with an epic and thrilling victory over his Italian rival Yannick Sener, who was two sets behind.
Djokovic won 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, to set up a date with Briton Cameron Norrie or Belgian David Goffin to take one of the cards in the expected final match on Sunday .
It is the seventh time in the Serb’s career that he has returned from afar after falling two sets in a Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic greeted Sener and said: “Congratulations Yannick for the big fight, he is very mature for his age, he has plenty of time.”
He added that “the first two sets compared to the next three, as two different matches. He was the better player in the first two sets.”
“At the end of the second set, I was resting on the toilet, saying a little bit to myself and trying to organize my thoughts. I broke his serve early in the third set.”
And he added: “I saw a little doubt in his movement. I have many years of experience playing these courts and dealing with pressure.”
Djokovic wants to become only the fourth player to win the English title four times in a row after Bjorn Borg, American Pete Sampras and Swiss Roger Federer. He also wants to win his seventh championship title, one title away from Federer’s record.
The Serb looked set for what everyone thought was routine as he led 4-1 in the opening set and got a 5-1 breakpoint against the 20-year-old Italian.
But Sener saved the run, came back from a distance 6-5 and got a chance to serve for the group. Djokovic saved the point, but a volley into the net gave the Italian the set.
Sener then unleashed relentlessly against Djokovic, to also win the second set.
Although it seemed difficult for the Serb, Djokovic proved he is no stranger to overcoming the difficulties of the Grand Slam, having previously come back twice from two sets, the last of which was at Roland Garros last year in the final against the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Indeed, after breaking the serve in the fourth game of the third set, Djokovic began to regain the initiative, winning three consecutive sets and advancing to the semifinals.
In the women’s race, the 34-year-old German in the 103rd place in the world, Tatiana Maria, qualified for the semi-finals by beating compatriot Jules Niemeyer (97) on Tuesday 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Before leaving the stadium, Maria said: “I got goosebumps… It’s a dream to experience this with my family and my two young daughters. I gave birth less than a year ago… This is crazy!”
Maria has never made it past the third round of a major tournament, a role she achieved at Wimbledon in 2015.
After losing the first set, Maria fell behind in the second, but found the means to defeat her opponent who was 12 years her junior and who is participating in her second major tournament.
Maria explained that she was just “playing point by point”.
The German will play on Thursday, to book her ticket for the final, against the Tunisian Ons Jabeur, the second in the world ranking, or the Czech Maria Bozkova (66).
“It would be great to play against Ons, she is part of the family,” said Maria. “She plays with my girls all the time.”