Novak Djokovic relentless in straight sets against Denis Shapovalov

Novak Djokovic relentless in straight sets against Denis Shapovalov

As Novak Djokovic finished his final stretches down the lane before entering center court on Friday, he glanced at his left for a long time at the names of every former Wimbledon champion inscribed on the wall near the entrance to the court. There, his own name was indelibly engraved in gold letters five times on the board. When he ironed it just over two hours and 44 minutes later, he was one win away from adding his name again.

He did so without even playing particularly well for long stretches of the tough first two sets, instead taking on the challenge of almost any big point and producing his typically resolute and nerve-racking tennis when it came to defeating Denis Shapovalov 7-6. (3), 7-5, 7-5 and reach his seventh career final at Wimbledon. He will face 7th seed Matteo Berrettini in a clash many anticipated ahead of the tournament.

In the process, Djokovic tied Pete Sampras’ seven-finals tally at Wimbledon for second on the all-time list and reached 30 major finals, the second man in history to do so after the tally of 31. by Roger Federer.

The task through the net this time took the form of a dynamic and gifted ball forward in Shapovalov, still just 22 years old, whose ballistic shooting and athleticism are often limited by erratic serve and volatility. He set the tone early, landed 15 serves in a row and took an early break. Each successful match seemed to deploy another layer of fluidity in Shapovalov’s shot as he pushed Djokovic around the pitch with heavy cross forehands and tricky drop shots.

As he served for the set at 5-4, however, the complexion of the match changed. Djokovic had missed returns and misinterpreted Shapovalov’s serve, but he set the tone by opening the game with two brilliant and deep comebacks on solid first serves. At 30-30, Shapovalov hesitated, sending a long easy forehand. He lost the game with four unforced errors, then played a bad tie-break, ending with a double fault.

Novak Djokovic returns a volley shot to Denis Shapolavov. Photographie : Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

The bigger players would have surrendered obediently, but Shapovalov continued to kick the ball wonderfully until the bottom of the third set. He generated five break points in the second set, but every time Djokovic was threatened his level soared as he played with consistency and depth or worked his way into the net. In the second and third sets, he got up at the most tense moment just before the tiebreaker to take control.

“I don’t think the score says enough about the performance and the game,” Djokovic said after the fact. “He was serving in the first set, he was probably the best player for most of the second set and had plenty of chances. I would like to give him a big applause for everything he has done today and also for these few weeks.

It wasn’t Djokovic at his best, but it is so often the point of his success. While Shapovalov has been accused of boldly hitting the ball at the height of his abilities for three sets with the knowledge of Djokovic’s resilience ingrained in his mind, Djokovic was at ease throughout. His base level and the extent of his strength are so complete that he is completely assured on the biggest points. As for so many players before him, it was way too high a challenge for Shapovalov.

Djokovic puts his clutch ability to experience and he describes it as an ongoing process that he continues to improve in worrying ways: “I think this experience definitely favors me every time, next time I go to work. on the court knowing that I have been through everything I have experienced as a tennis player, ”he said. “I know my strengths. I know what I’m capable of. I’m counting on that.

Denis Shapovalov in his loss to Novak Djokovic Photographie : Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

As Shapovalov left the pitch after his first Grand Slam semi-final in tears, he cried as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. In the locker room afterwards, Djokovic approached him with heartwarming words: “He just told me that he knows how difficult it is for me at the moment,” Shapovaloov said. “He told me everything would come. For me that’s great – it’s huge coming from someone like him. He doesn’t have to do that. It just shows the type of person he is.

Shapvalov said he was saddened to lose so close to the title game, but eventually he will reflect positively on how he played in the best tournament of his life.

However, no one in the history of the sport has mastered the ability to play well in pivotal moments as much as Djokovic. There will be few career moments as transformative as playing for his record-breaking 20th Grand Slam title on Sunday.


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