Juan Martin del Potro came into his semifinal match against Novak Djokovic in uncertain physical shape. He’d hurt his knee in a quarterfinal and it wasn’t clear just how well he could move on the grass at the All England Club.
The answer? Imagine if he were healthy. Del Potro, the No. 8 seed, engaged Djokovic, the No. 1 player in the world, in an acrobatic, searing, give-and-take match for the ages. Del Potro fought off two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker, forcing a fifth set. Ultimately, Djokovic endured, prevailing and outlasting del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, in a 4-hour, 43-minute masterpiece of a match that was the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history.
“It was one of the best matches that I have been a part of, one of the most exciting definitely. It was so close, you couldn’t separate us,” Djokovic, 17-6 in five-setters in Grand Slam tournaments, said in a BBC interview immediately after the match. ” … That’s why he’s a Grand Slam champion [U.S. Open]. That’s why he’s right at the top because every time he is in a tough situation, he comes up with some unbelievable shots.”
The Del Potro screaming down-line FH in the fourth set being clocked at 120 mph, fast FH at Wimbledon (in the Hawkeye era)
— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) July 5, 2013
Djokovic admitted that dropping the fourth set was “disappointing” but dug deep to regroup.
“It’s five sets and when I lost the fourth, of course it was disappointing because I was very close to winning it. I had two match points and a lot of opportunities. I just didn’t capitalize,” he said. “But, as I said, credit to him for fighting and for coming up with some big, big forehands, big shots. It was a very high level of tennis today. This is what I expected. I was ready to play five sets and I managed to stay tough and solid at the end.”
Djokovic will play either Andy Murray, Britain’s favorite son, or Jerzy Janowicz, Poland’s hope in the final Sunday. Imagine those two, waiting out this classic and now heading to the court for their semifinal. Djokovic said he planned to “just enjoy this victory” and think about the final tomorrow.
“I’m just privileged to be a winner in this match.”