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Djokovic vs. Dimitrov: How The Wimbledon Semi-Final Was Won

Wimbledon, England

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic advanced to his 14th Grand Slam championship final and his third at the All England Club, Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic reached the final at The Championships for the third time on Friday. The top seed and 2011 champion beat No. 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov, who was contesting his first Grand Slam championship semi-final, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(7) in just over three hours at the All England Club, Wimbledon.

If Djokovic captures his seventh major title against fourth seed and seven-time Wimbledon winner Roger Federer or No. 8 seed Milos Raonic, he would return to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday.

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ATPWorldTour.com looks at how Djokovic beat Dimitrov in the semi-finals:

FIRST SET

Dimitrov started brightly, hitting his spots on serve, but Djokovic kept plugging away at the Bulgarian’s backhand and gained three break point opportunities at 0/40, 2-2. Dimitrov got nervous and became flat-footed, striking a forehand long on approach to the net. By contrast, Djokovic did not lose a first serve through his first three service games. Not even three-time former champion Boris Becker, his coach, had served as consistently, so early in a match, in his heyday. A 15 miles per hour breeze from the northern end of Centre Court complicated matters for both players, but Djokovic won the 27-minute opener having hit five aces and eight winners. He had not lost a second service point.

SECOND SET

DimitrovDjokovic grew in confidence once he rushed Dimitrov into two unforced errors for a break in the third game. The writing appeared to be on the wall for Dimitrov, who had never won a tour-level match from two-sets to love down, when he faced break point at 1-3. However, an ace at 30/40 spurred him into action. From hanging on, the 23 year old started striking his forehand, particularly, with greater fluency and he appeared to be no longer overawed. When Djokovic dumped a backhand into the net at 3-2, 15/40, he could be seen to look into the players’ box for inspiration. None was forthcoming.

Dimitrov, who had his girlfriend Maria Sharapova playing every point with him on the sidelines, saw his energy level surge. A Hawk Eye challenge - following clever interplay near the net - that went in favour of Dimitrov in the eighth game, ensured he converted his second break point chance to take a 5-3 lead. With great assurance, Dimitrov held to 15 to wrap up the 42-minute set.

THIRD SET

Both players competed with aggression in the third set, where chances were few and far between. Each player slipped on the dusty baselines during lengthy rallies. Djokovic came under pressure at 3-3, 30/40, but pushed back a short backhand that Dimitrov could not return. At the start of the tie-break, Djokovic moved Dimitrov side-to-side and picked up points off two backhand errors. With his nose in front, Djokovic’s serve did the damage as he won four out of five points. Dimitrov looked despondent at the end, yet Djokovic had been clinical in the final 10 minutes of the 52-minute passage of play.

FOURTH SET

DimitrovThree straight double faults at 1-1 cost Dimitrov. The lapse, a crushing blow, gifted Djokovic the break and control of their pair’s fifth meeting. Dimitrov could have folded, but he ran down a drop shot for a clever pass on his second break point opportunity to clinch the fourth game. Dimitrov’s service woes continued at 2-2. Having lost his sixth straight point on serve to 0/30, he managed to salvage the game and then attacked Djokovic’s serve. Three break point chances went begging for Dimitrov, mainly due to gutsy tactics from Djokovic. Dimitrov appeared to play behind the dusty baseline, on the grass near the line judges at the back of the court. It gave him better traction, but opened up the court. Djokovic reached 4-4 with a hold to love in 64 seconds. The athleticism of both players saw the Centre Court rise in admiration. When Djokovic served at 4-5 he appeared to be in control, but Dimitrov was fleet of foot up the court to create one set point opportunity. Djokovic drew on his experience to strike an unreturned serve to Dimitrov’s backhand and minutes later vocally celebrated a big hold.  

A tie-break decided the set, which was already 49 minutes in duration. Dimitrov played with confidence and he opened up a 3/1 advantage. He could have been left to rue missing a forehand down the line, into space, which could have given him a 4/1 lead, but Djokovic got edgy. Dimitrov took a 6/3 lead, but Djokovic won both of his service points and rushed the net for a backhand volley to recoup the three set points. At 6/6, Dimitrov struck his eighth double fault of the match leaving the way for Djokovic to serve and volley. It was an unexpected tactic. With Djokovic as the target, Dimitrov ripped a backhand crosscourt winner for 7/7. Djokovic remained composed and advanced to Sunday’s final with a cross-court forehand winner – his 45th of the encounter. The last time Djokovic lost to a player ranked outside the Top 10 in the Emirates ATP Rankings at a Grand Slam championships was at 2010 Wimbledon, when he lost to then No. 13-ranked Tomas Berdych in the semi-finals.

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