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The Early Lead
Posted at 08:01 AM ET, 07/01/2011

Wimbledon 2011 live blog: Novak Djokovic beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga; Rafael Nadal tops Andy Murray


Rafael Nadal is pumped to be back in the Wimbledon final. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP)
Men’s scoreboard | Women’s scoreboard | The Murray microscope | A Sharapova-Kvitova final | Photo gallery

This is a live blog of the Wimbledon men’s semifinals. Hit refresh for updates throughout the two matches. Times are EDT.

2:42 p.m.: Rafael Nadal beats Andy Murray, 5-7, 6-2, 6-2, 6-4, and earns a return trip to the Wimbledon final, this time against Novak Djokovic on Sunday.

Nadal, who will be playing for the championship for the fifth time, won the tournament last year and in 2008 and last month beat Roger Federer in the French Open final.

“It’s a dream to be back in the final another time. I’m very happy for everything,” Nadal said in a BBC interview. “The thing is I feel bad for Andy. He deserved to be in this final, too. It’s tough for him to lose this match today, but I wish him all the best for the rest of the year, especially for the U.S. Open.”

Nadal will try to make Djokovic’s hold on the world’s No. 1 spot, which he earned today with his semifinal win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a brief one. Nadal is 16-11 all-time against Djokovic, who is 47-1 this year. Four of those 47 victories have been against Nadal.

“He’s tough, really difficult to play against,” Nadal said. “He’s playing fantastic this year. He’s lost only one match all season and I’ve lost already four times this year against him. It will be very difficult for me, but I will try my best, as always.”

2:37 p.m.: Murray is serving and Nadal, up 5-3, fires a searing winner from the baseline, just out of Murray’s reach. Hope Murray’s outfit is flame-retardant.Murray manages to hold, but now Nadal is serving for the match.

2:26 p.m.: Murray gamely holds at 2-4, but Nadal is flicking what should be winners back at Murray, hitting them just out of reach.

2:20 p.m.: Murray holds, but Nadal quickly goes up 4-2.

2:15 p.m.: Murray plays nicely, but can’t stop Nadal from holding to go up 3-1. That’s got to be deflating for Murray.

2:05 p.m.: Rafa goes boom! Nadal’s feet slip out from under him, he lands on his bottom, the racket flies up out of his left hand and he catches it with his right.

1:59 p.m.: Cruising along, Nadal kindly acknowledges the ridiculousness (“Sorry, I cannot help being so awesome”) of his net-skimming cross-court winner to Murray. Which is nice.

1:53 p.m.: Nadal is playing really, really, really well and Murray continues, hobbled. Win this game, get this crowd going and maybe there’s a chance for him. (“So you’re saying there’s a chance ...”)

1:50 p.m.: Nadal is up two sets to one now, with a 6-2 third-set win.

1:44 p.m.: Rafael Nadal breaks Andy Murray, who continues to favor his right groin, and takes a 5-2 lead in the third set.

1:21 p.m.: Nadal opens the third set with a break and serves up a second-game win to lead 2-1.

1:13 p.m.: Winning his fifth straight game, Nadal takes the second set (6-2) and evens the match at a set a piece. John McEnroe is questioning why Murray isn’t seeking treatment. Which would seem like a good idea before the match gets away from him. “He’s not showing the [mental] toughness he needs to right now to get to a final,” McEnroe said.

Vamos Rafa.... Come on Andy.... I don't know what to shout!!!less than a minute ago via Twittelator Favorite Retweet Reply

1:09 p.m.: Murray hits the ball into the net and Nadal, energized, goes up 5-2 and is serving for the set. Murray clearly is in pain and Nadal has won 15 of the last 19 points.

McEnroe on Murray; “He should call the trainer and get every legal form of pain medication he can get.”

1:05 p.m.: Nadal’s now up 4-2, Murray looks like he’s limping a bit and he’s making mistakes, hitting shots into the net and just missing on others.

1 p.m.: Nadal breaks to go up 3-2 in the second set. Is this where Rafa turns it around or is Murray for real?

12:52 p.m.: Andy Murray, up 2-1, is making Rafael Nadal runrunrun all around the court. That can’t be good for his foot. Murray is in a zone; Nadal is in the Twilight Zone.

I don’t want to jinx Murray, but he stands to earn a bundle — perhaps 300 million pounds in endorsements, according to one report — if he can become the first British male to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry 75 years ago.

12:44 p.m.: Murray opens the second set by holding serve ... Murray has served seven aces already.

12:38 p.m.: On Murray’s second set point, Nadal whacks the ball into the net and Murray has won himself a set at Wimbledon. John McEnroe calls the first set the best Murray has played. Now he just has to replicate it two more times.

Among the celebs — evidently almost every golfer not named Tiger Woods has been to Wimbledon this year — is Ian Poulter.

12:36 p.m.: Murray has triple set point ...

12:31 p.m.: Andy Murray, looking for all the world as if he plays in a Wimbledon semifinal every year, keeps Rafael Nadal running around and goes up 6-5.

12:24 p.m.: 5-all in a fascinating first set.

12:18 p.m.: At the moment, Andy Murray is hitting the ball harder than Rafael Nadal ... and leads 5-4.

12:10 p.m.: I’m no podiatrist, but Nadal’s left foot — on which he had an MRI on Tuesday — seems fine, although he says it still bothers him and is a concern. (Kind of like Eddie Murphy in “Trading Places:” I’ve got legs!)

Murray leads 4-3.
Nadal. (Alastair Grant / AP)

12:03 p.m.: In a victory for sports as God intended them to be viewed, NBC is showing the match live. No 17th hour of “Today.” Kinda miss Hoda and Kathie Lee.

11:59 a.m.: The first set is scarcely underway when Andy Murray, the great British hope who has a 2-1 lead, chats with the trainer. Is it his hip? He’s been bothered by a hip flexor. Nadal has a sore left foot.

11:45 a.m.: Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray open with each holding serve. This should be live on NBC at noon. Over at ESPN, it’s a Maria Sharapova replay for the gentlemen fans. Yay.

Nadal is 11-4 against Murray, by the way.

11:40 a.m.: There’s a break before Rafael Nadal meets Andy Murray in the other semifinal, which offers the perfect opportunity to point out that Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe kicked off the day by announcing that they’re entering the underwear business together. No doubt their skivvies will be very cool and very, very loud.
Novak Djokovic advances to his first Wimbledon final. (Clive Brunskill / GETTY IMAGES)

11:16 a.m.: On his third match point, Novak Djokovic puts away Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 6-7 (9-11), 6-3, advancing to his first Wimbledon final and securing the No. 1 ranking in the world.

Djokovic, 47-1 on the season, will play the winner of the upcoming Rafael Nadal-Andy Murray match for the championship Sunday.
(Clive Mason / GETTY IMAGES)

“It is one of the best feelings I’ve had on a tennis court,” Djokovic said. Indeed, so happy was he that he kissed the Centre Court turf. “I’m so happy to be in my first final and I’ve been working all my life for this moment since I started playing tennis aged 4.”

11:13 a.m.: Tsonga delivers on his serve, forcing Djokovic to serve to try to win the match. Of course, this is exactly what happened in the third set, with disastrous results for Djokovic. More deja vu-ousness.

11:08 a.m.: Tsonga holds, but Djokovic, with a 4-2 lead, holds as well and keeps chipping and chipping away, getting closer and closer to a berth in the final and that No. 1 ranking.


(Clive Mason / GETTY IMAGES)

11 a.m.: After Tsonga and Djokovic each hold to take the set to 3-1, Djokovic fends off an energized Tsonga for a 4-1 lead. Again, though, Tsonga seems to play best with his back against the proverbial wall.

10:50 a.m.: Djokovic comes out angry and refocused and quickly takes a 2-0 lead. Tsonga needs to find a way to maintain the level of play from the third set. Sounds so easy...

10:42 a.m.: After Djokovic’s shot goes long and gives Tsonga a 10-9 lead, the Frenchman capitalizes in a big way, winning the tiebreak on the next point (11-9) and forcing a fourth set.

Tsonga fought off two match points in the tiebreak ... anybody else getting a sense of deja vu? Djokovic can’t be gagging on the No. 1 ranking and berth in the finals, can he?

10:41 a.m.: Tsonga opts not to stretch for Novak’s line-hugging shot. This is a mistake as the ball is in, the point goes to Djokovic and it’s 9-9.

10:39 a.m.: ’Nother match point for Novak.’Nother winner from Jo-Wilfried. In fact two winners. 9-8 Tsonga. Seesaw city.

10:36 a.m.: Tsonga fends off defeat with a forehand volley for a winner that takes the tiebreak to 6-6. Just as you’d expect with this tiebreak, Tsonga takes the next point for a 7-6 lead.

10:33 a.m.: Djokovic, serving at 4-5 in the tiebreak, wins his two points — the second on a stunningly well-played baseline rally — and leads 6-5.

10:30 a.m.: Tsonga, at the net, hits a quick volley for a winner and a 3-2 lead. This makes A-Rod, er, Tsonga’s brother happy. 10:27 a.m.: Tsonga up 2-0 in the tiebreak.

10:26 a.m.: Tsonga, staring into the abyss of a three-set loss, smacks a ferocious winner to force the third-set tiebreak.

10:25 a.m.: Tsonga has triple break point. Really bad idea to ditch the cap, Novak.

10:21 a.m.: It’s the cap.

Djokovic — continuing to wear the cap that’s been on and off his head all match — jumps on the first of two break points against Tsonga and takes a 6-5 lead in the third set.

Then, after the changeover, he comes out to serve for the match and is capless! He’s tempting the gods.

10:18 a.m.: Djokovic dominates on serve, tying it up at 5-5. Tsonga broke him last time with a stunning display of return shots. None of that this time.

10:16 a.m.: Djokovic seems to player better with his cap on (he was capless when he dropped the last two games). And it’s on now as he serves.

10:14 a.m.: This is getting most interesting. Tsonga holds to go up 5-4. What will we see from Djokovic?

10:11 a.m.: Tsonga breaks to knot this set at 4-4...and does a mini-version of his victory dance. Suddenly, he’s a little more relaxed and happy again. Seems unlikely that he’d start another epic comeback for a stunning upset, but you never know.

10:06 a.m.: Tsonga holds as both players end up planking on the grass and Djokovic is leading 4-3.

10:04: Djokovic is up a break and leads 4-2...back to Tsonga’s serve now.

9:59 a.m.: One of the best rallies of the year features both players going to the grass and, this time, Tsonga’s shot goes long. It’s great theater, but doesn’t change the momentum of the match.

Tsonga holds serve, but Djokovic leads 3-2 in the third.

9:47 a.m.: And, just like that, Tsonga wins the first game of the third set.

9:46 a.m.: Djokovic wins the second set 6-2. You know what that means. It’s Tsonga Time. Or, perhaps, not.

9:41 a.m.: A small victory for Tsonga, who wins the game and makes Djokovic serve to try to win the set. He leads 5-2.

9:38 a.m.: Tsonga serving, trying to keep Djokovic, who’s up 5-1, from taking the second set. It would be a bad thing for Tsonga to lose this set on his serve and then have to face Djokovic serving to start the third set.

9:36 a.m.: Djokovic serving with a 4-1 lead and his cap back on in the sunshine. Tsonga looks adrift, but, refresh my memory, didn’t we see him like this earlier this week? Perhaps Tsonga is thinking that if he trails two sets to none, he’ll have Djokovic just where he wants him. This would seem to be ill-advised.

9:22 a.m.: Answer to question of 9:13 a.m.: Tsonga is broken on the first game of the second set. Djokovic is now playing with far more confidence, is far more methodical with more precision now. Djokovic, serving with a 2-1 lead in the second set.

9:16 a.m.: Djokovic slides to push a winner past Tsonga ... and takes the tiebreaker, 7-4. How will Tsonga respond after seeing that first set slip away? Djokovic is gaining a little something I like to call momentum.

9:13 a.m.: Djokovic leads 6-3 in the tiebreaker with Tsonga serving to hold on.

Pippa is in the house! So is Princess Beatrice, but she’s not Pippa. (Pippa’s name should always carry an exclamation point. Pippa! See? Much better.)

9:09 a.m.: Tiebreaker.

9:02 a.m.: How will Tsonga respond? Djokovic, who’s looking more and more confident, holds serve to go up 6-5. Will Tsonga take it to a tiebreaker?

8:56 a.m.: With a horribly ill-timed double fault by Tsonga (they’re gonna be talking about that moment — when Tsonga gambled and lost on a big second serve — if this match goes toes-up for Tsonga), Djokovic breaks and it’s 5-5. Back to Djokovic serving.

8:55 a.m.: Tsonga is having some problems closing this set out...at 40-all, he has saved five break points in the last two games.

8:51 a.m.: Serving for the first set...it’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

8:45 a.m.: Djokovic, talking to himself and psyching himself, has two chances to break Tsonga’s serve ... misses (hitting his forehand wide) on the first. Then Tsonga’s serve pulls him through. He wins four points in a row and leads 5-3.

By the way, Tsonga’s brother looks awfully like Alex Rodriguez. If Cameron Diaz feeds him popcorn, we’ll know it is A-Rod.

8:40 a.m.: After Tsonga’s diving winner in the last game, Djokovic holds easily. Slightly anticlimactic.


Djokovic can only smile after Tsonga’s dive. (STEFAN WERMUTH / REUTERS)
8:37 a.m.: Tsonga falls to the court, springs back up and puts away a winner for a 4-2 lead. Tsonga celebrates by raising his arms to the Centre Court crowd and smiling. Even Djokovic does, a little. Nice theater and smart to play to the crowd.

8:34 a.m.: Both players are settling into a rhythm, with Tsonga up 3-2. Djokovic’s footwork is improving and he’s moving much better now. Tsonga’s inside-out forehand is formidable.

8:27 a.m.: Djokovic and Tsonga each hold serve and Tsonga leads 3-1.

8:23 a.m.: Djokovic finds himself in a new spot this year — playing from behind as he trails Tsonga 2-0.

8:16 a.m.: Tsonga breaks Djokovic’s serve to open the match. That’s saying something; it’s only the sixth time Djokovic has been broken in the tournament. Djokovic sent six straight serves at Tsonga’s forehand, a strategy he may rethink.

8:14 a.m.: Nice play at the net by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has a chance to break in the opening game.

8:09 a.m.: Novak Djokovic serves to open the match.

7:47 a.m.: The men’s semifinals are about to begin with Novak Djokovic playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the first match. In the second, Rafael Nadal plays Andy Murray, who would like to become the first British man to win the singles final since Fred Perry in 1936.

Tsonga, of course, shocked Roger Federer in the quarters. Asked if he can beat Djokovic in the semis, he replied: “Why not?” And the answer to his question is ... the sound of crickets. Of course, he can win — he has done so but never on grass. “Tsonga is very dangerous,” Djokovic said. “He’s been playing great in the grasscourt season.”

In Djokovic, Tsonga will face a guy who is 47-1 (that darn Federer in the French Open) this year and can ascend to the No. 1 ranking with a win over Tsonga and a trip to the final.

Hey, it’s on TV — for now.

By  |  08:01 AM ET, 07/01/2011

 
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