Djokovic battles into semi-finals, Maria wins all-German clash

Published July 6, 2022
NOVAK Djokovic of Serbia reacts as he lies on the ground during the Wimbledon quarter-final against Italy’s Jannik Sinner on Tuesday.—AFP
NOVAK Djokovic of Serbia reacts as he lies on the ground during the Wimbledon quarter-final against Italy’s Jannik Sinner on Tuesday.—AFP

LONDON: Defending champion Novak Djokovic battled back from two sets down to reach an 11th Wimbledon semi-final on Tuesday as mother-of-two Tatjana Maria booked her first Slam last-four spot after 15 years of trying.

Djokovic triumphed 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 over Italian 10th seed Jannik Sinner, coming from two sets down for the seventh time in his career.

Maria defeated fellow unseeded German Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Djokovic, a 20-time major winner, said he had to give himself a talking to after going two sets down.

“The first two sets compared to the next three were like two different matches,” he said. “He was the better player for those first two sets.

“But at the end of the second set I took a toilet break, gave myself a little pep talk, tried to gather my thoughts.

“I broke early in the third set. I saw a little bit of doubt start to come into his movement. I have many years’ experience of playing on these courts and coping with the pressure.”

Djokovic is no stranger to Grand Slam adversity, having twice come back from two sets to love down as recently as last year’s French Open.

The second of those stunning recoveries came in the final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

A break in the fourth game of the third set on Tuesday enabled him to cut his quarter-final deficit.

In control, the 35-year-old levelled the tie with a double break in the fourth set as Sinner took a worrying tumble on his ankle scrambling to the Centre Court net.

Djokovic carved out two more breaks in the decider, the second off the back of a stunning, cross-court backhand on the stretch to go to 5-2 before calmly serving it out.

“I played well but he raised his level. I think I can be proud of what I have done here,” said Sinner who had never won a grass-court match before Wimbledon.

Maria, 34, who saved two match points in the previous round against Jelena Ostapenko, made her Grand Slam debut in 2007 and had never progressed beyond the third round at a major before this year’s Wimbledon.

“I have goosebumps everywhere,” said the world number 103, who returned from maternity leave just under a year ago.

“My two little girls, it’s a dream to live this with my family, to live this with my two girls. Almost one year ago I gave birth, it’s crazy.”

Maria was ranked outside the top 250 as recently as March.

MERCILESS NADAL DOWNS DE ZANDSCHULP

Late on Monday, Rafael Nadal swept into the Wimbledon quarter-finals, staying on course for a crunch meeting with Nick Kyrgios.

In the women’s competition, 2019 champion Simona Halep demolished Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa in just 60 minutes to set up a meeting with Amanda Anisimova.

Nadal, chasing a rare calendar Grand Slam, started his campaign at the All England Club slowly but is now in the groove as he hunts a third Wimbledon crown.

He showed no mercy to Dutch 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp in their evening clash on Centre Court, overcoming a late wobble to seal a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) win.

“I think I continued in a positive way until the end where I played a bad game,” said the Spanish second seed.

The Romanian’s match against Badosa appeared tricky on paper but proved anything but, with the 16th seed coming through 6-1, 6-2.

“In a personal way, for me to be able to be in quarter-finals after three years (away from Wimbledon) it’s amazing for me so very, very happy.”

Nadal broke his opponent five times in the match, capitalising on his fourth match point to reach the Wimbledon quarters for the eighth time.

If the 22-time Grand Slam champion beats 11th seed Taylor Fritz and Kyrgios gets past Chile’s Cristian Garin, they will meet in a mouthwatering semi-final on Friday.

Former world number one Halep is looking increasingly dangerous as she makes stately progress towards a second Wimbledon crown in a draw now short of big names.

Halep, yet to drop a set at Wimbledon this year, will face Anisimova of the United States for a place in the semi-finals.

Anisomova, seeded 20, ended the dream run of French player Harmony Tan, who shocked Serena Williams in her opening match, winning 6-2, 6-3.

Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina beat Petra Martic of Croatia in straight sets and will face Ajla Tomljanovic after the Australian ended the run of French veteran Alize Cornet.

Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2022

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