LONDON • Defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic withstood a brave effort by Roberto Bautista Agut as he wore down his opponent 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 yesterday to reach the Wimbledon final for the sixth time in his career.
The 32-year-old world No. 1 was pushed harder than expected by the No. 23 seed, but the Serb pulled away to move within one win of a fifth Wimbledon title.
"I had to dig deep," said Djokovic, who will be playing for his 16th Grand Slam in 25 final appearances tomorrow. "It's the semi-finals and Roberto was not overwhelmed.
"First set he was managing his nerves but later on, he established himself, played better and placed his serves nicely.
"I got a bit tight and it was a very important first four or five games of the second set. That was where the match could have gone both ways, but thankfully, it went my way.
"This has been the dream tournament for me since I was a child so to be in another final is a dream come true. Regardless of how many finals I've been in, I will definitely enjoy that experience."
Djokovic played a near-flawless first set but his level dipped slightly at the start of the second and Bautista, 31, who seemed nervy early on, grew in confidence.
After breaking early, he held the advantage, dropping only four points in five successive service games to level the match.
The Centre Court crowd realised they had a real match on their hands and they were treated to a superb third set.
Shots in one rally, won by Novak Djokovic, during the seventh game of the third set against Roberto Bautista Agut. It was the longest rally officially seen at Wimbledon since records began in 2005.
That set, and probably the match, hinged on the seventh game as Djokovic, a break to the good, served at 30-40. Facing two break points, he won a 45-shot rally, much of it a mesmerising exchange of identical cross-court backhands, to extend his lead. The Serb went on to win that set.
It was the longest rally officially seen at Wimbledon since they were recorded in 2005 and losing it knocked the belief out of Bautista.
Although the underdog, making his first Grand Slam semi-final appearance, saved four match points, the favourite finished things off to book his place in another final.
Bautista, however, can be pleased with his efforts in what is turning out to be the best year of his career, with the Spaniard now free to embark on a belated stag break, having had to postpone his plans to jet off to Ibiza after his unexpected progress to the last four in London.
With Djokovic's victory, it also means that tennis' "big three", including the other semi-finalists Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, will again contest a Slam final.
According to a tweet from the ATP Tour, the trio have now won 11 straight Grand Slam titles since the 2017 Australian Open, highlighting the gulf that exists between them and the rest of the chasing pack.
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN