Novak Djokovic delivered an object lesson in silencing a partisan crowd, recovering from a shaky start to outclass Cameron Norrie in what ultimately became a one-sided semi-final.
The fans on Centre Court were less than universally delighted with the result, mixing in a few boos with the cheers at the end of Djokovic’s 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory.
There was an element of pantomime villainry here. By the later stages of the fourth set, Djokovic had started picking out noisy Norrie supporters in the crowd and glaring or pointing at them, as if to say – “You’re the ones helping to motivate me”.
With two games to go, he held serve by firing down a perfect ace, then threw his shoulders back, jutted his chin out, and stalked across the baseline like a territorial tom-cat. On match point, he puckered his lips in a kiss aimed at one heckler in the corner of the stands, before walking to the net to shake hands with Norrie.
The overall effect was reminiscent of Russell Crowe’s Maximus in the movie Gladiator, when he turns to the spectators and yells “Are you not entertained?”
This was Djokovic’s 38th straight victory on Centre Court: an astonishing sequence stretching all the way back to the 2013 final against Andy Murray. Ending that run will take some serious heroics, and some thunderous strokeplay. Norrie fell short on both counts.
While Norrie might be a worthy contender, he is a Steady-Eddie sort of player – a man who likes to construct long, lung-bursting rallies and hang in matches until the other guy cracks. Djokovic, unfortunately, is built from rubber. He bends, but never breaks.
Djokovic did at least give the crowd some early excitement as he threw away the opening set in just 32 minutes. His racket arm was stiff and heavy, and he admitted later that he was struggling to swing smoothly as he racked up 12 unforced errors in a rush. “I’ve played many semi-finals,” he told Rishi Persad later, “but it’s never easy walking out. There is pressure and expectation from yourself and from others.”
It seems plausible that the peculiar shape of Djokovic’s season might have added to the psychological tension. He is unlikely to be welcome at next month’s US Open, nor January’s Australian Open, because of his rejection of the Covid vaccine. Which, when Rafael Nadal now holds a two-trophy lead on the all-time table, must add extra weight to his racket.
The fans on Centre Court – who had been denied a second men’s semi-final because of Rafael Nadal’s abdominal injury – made the most of Norrie’s first-set dominance by offering a standing ovation at its conclusion.
Talk about going too early. Because no sooner had the second set started than Djokovic simply stopped donating freebies.
Now Djokovic began to control the court like the maestro that he is. It wasn’t that Norrie was striking the ball badly; the problem lay more in the different shapes, the varied patterns of play, that Djokovic was able to conjure up.
He was moving so seamlessly, reaching every ball with time to spare, and coming forward to pick off the volleys with the most immaculate timing. The decision making was rarely less than perfect, and perhaps the most significant statistic was his winning percentage of 81 per cent when he came to the net.
Having broken Djokovic’s serve three times in that uncharacteristically shaky first set, Norrie never had so much as a break point in the rest of the match. Meanwhile his own serve was under constant pressure from the game’s most reliable returner.
In his on-court interview, Djokovic singled out the 4-3 game in the second set as the turning point. At 15-15, Norrie came rushing in for what should have been an easy volley putaway, but got his feet in a tangle and blared the ball wide.
As Djokovic put it, “He gifted me that game, and the momentum shifted.” Tennis can be a cruel game, and never more so when you’re playing the master of Centre Court.
Djokovic beats Norrie in Wimbledon semi-final, as it happened
Two more days to go!
It’s been a long two weeks but we can approaching the closing stages now.
Three of the four finalists will attempt to win their first grand slam. The other will be going for their 21st.
Recap Djokovic’s win below and stay with Telegraph Sport throughout the weekend for coverage of the finals.
Djokovic previews the final against Kyrgios
The job is not finished. One thing is for sure there are going to be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both. It’s going to be his first Grand Slam final. Obviously he’s very excited and he doesn’t have much to lose.
He’s playing so freely. He has one of the biggest serves in the game. We haven’t played for some time. I’ve never won a set off him. Hopefully it can be different this time. It’s another final for me at Wimbledon so hopefully the experience can work in my favour.
I didn’t start off well. He was the better player for the first set. I’ve had many semi-finals in Grand Slams in the past but it’s never easy walking out on court. You have a lot of pressure and expectations on yourself and from others.
Cameron didn’t have much to lose. I wish him all the best. He’s a great player. I have a lot of respect for him.
Finals weekend is set
Women’s final: Ons Jabeur vs Elena Rybakina.
Men’s final: Novak Djokovic vs Nick Kyrgios.
I can’t wait for it!
The winning moment for Djokovic
Boos for Djokovic
After winning the match, Djokovic glared at someone in the crowd who had been shouting before his serve.
The rest of the crowd senses this and boos ring around the stadium.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Forehand unforced error by Norrie, 15-0. Deep Norrie return and Djokovic shanks his forehand, 15-15.
13th Djokovic ace, 30-15. Djokovic forehand long, 30-30. HUGE POINT COMING UP.
Norrie return long, match point. GAME SET MATCH DJOKOVIC. Norrie’s dreams are over after he fails to make a backhand return.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-4 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Too good from Djokovic as he shows great feel and touch at the net again, 30-15. Djokovic return long, 40-15.
Another Djokovic return error and Norrie holds.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 5-3 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic ace, 30-15. Djokovic drages Norrie left then right and left again to hit a forehand winner, 40-15.
Djokovic ace to hold.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-3 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Norrie backhand winner wrong foots Djokovic, 30-15. Norrie backhand pass, Djokovic angled volley, Norrie hustles and whips a forehand up the line for a wiinner.
Norrie holds when Djokovic forehand is long. The Brit is hanging on.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-2 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Norrie backhand long, 30-0. Norrie gets a look at a backhand up the line but nets, 40-0.
Ace from Djokovic to hold. He glares at someone in the crowd. He means business.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-2 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Relief for Norrie as Djokovic nets a drop shot. Huge point coming up.
Car and mouse rally, Djokovic reaches the Norrie drop shot and Norrie puts a volley long, break point.
Norrie forehand winner, deuce. Djokovic volley winner, second break point.
Big backhand down the line by Norrie and he finishes off the point with a forehand. He hasn’t played a point like that for a while.
Djokovic with an angled forehand and Norrie can’t get his backhand into play, break point. Norrie overhead winner after great defence from Djokovic.
Norrie backhand wide, another break point for Djokovic. Norrie holds on again with an ace.
Longest game of the match this one. A few Tim Henman-esque fist pump from Norrie as he holds with a forehand winner.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-1 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Another straight forward service game for Djokovic. Norrie is making no impression in the Serbian’s service games.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-1 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Norrie with a swift hold to love. Djokovic seemed quite happy to let that game go to be honest.
Hottest day of the tournament so far!
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 2-0 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Lovely touch by Djokovic on the half volley, 30-0. He’s been too much for Norrie ever since dropping the first set.
The crowd here on Centre are very subdued.
Fourth Set: Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 1-0 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Must win set for Norrie now and he is stretched to deuce by Djokovic, who is looking ominously good with his return.
Way too much height on a drop shot by Norrie and Djokovic makes him pay with backhand, break point.
Norrie forehand long. Djokovic breaks. Yikes.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Wild Djokovic backhand goes wide, 0-15. Norrie gets a look at a second serve but nets his backhand return, 15-15.
Djokovic puts away a volley winner, 30-15. Ace No 7 for Djokovic gives him two set points.
Norrie forehand into the net. Djokovic leads two sets to one!
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 5-2 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Poor drop shot by Djokovic and Norrie punishes him with a backhand winner, 40-30. Big ‘come on’ from Norrie as he holds when Djokovic return goes long.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 5-1 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Norrie nets a backhand return off a Djokovic second serve, 15-15. Djokovic overhead winner, 40-15.
Norrie return wide and Djokovic holds. The crowd tries to rally Norrie but this set is all but done.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 4-1 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Djokovic volley winner, 15-30. Norrie finds a first serve and Djokovic’s return flies long, 30-30.
Norrie forehand into the net, break point. Norrie backhand long and Djokovic breaks for the second time in the set.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 3-1 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Back-to-back aces for Djokovic to hold. He’s up to 80 per cent of first serve points won and 22 winners.
He’s going to be hard to stop now.
Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 2-1 Norrie (*denotes next server)
A better game from Norrie as he holds to 15 but he’s definitely on the ropes at the moment.
Djokovic is in full control right now.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3, 2-0 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is coasting through his service games at the moment and he holds here after a terrible overhead flies wide.
Third Set: Djokovic* 2-6, 6-3, 1-0 Norrie (*denotes next server)
More pressure on the Norrie serve as he puts backhand into the tramlines, 15-30. Norrie overhead winner, 30-30.
Norrie forehand long, break point. He saves with another overhead winner.
Another break chance after a 24th unforced error from Norrie. Norrie forehand down the line after Djokovic slips, deuce.
Norrie backhand into the net, third break point. Norrie shanks a forehand way into the air and long.
Djokovic 2-6, 6-3 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic double faults to start the game, 0-15. Djokovic nets a drop shot with Norrie standing beyond the baseline, 0-30.
Mis-hit return by Norrie, 30-30. Norrie backhand long, set point. Tense rally, neither player ready to pull the trigger until Norrie goes for it and puts a backhand long.
One set a piece on Centre!
Djokovic* 2-6, 5-3 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Awful backhand volley by Norrie, 15-30. A truly terrible shot.
Two break points for Djokovic after Norrie nets a backhand. First break of the match to Djokovic after Norrie puts a forehand down the line long.
A gift for Djokovic and he will serve for the set.
Djokovic is keeping his cool so far…
Djokovic 2-6, 4-3 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Absurdly good drop volley by Djokovic, 15-0. He’s playing very well at the moment. Djokovic forehand winner followed by an ace, 40-0.
Norrie backhand return long and Djokovic maintains his lead.
Djokovic* 2-6, 3-3 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Norrie nets an ugly looking forehand, 15-15. Another poor shot by Norrie, this time a overhead into the net, 15-30.
Norrie backhand up the line, Djokovic stretches to meet it but nets, 30-30. Big point coming up.
Norrie forehand into the tramlines, break point. Wide Norrie first serve and Djokovic’s sliced return just misses the baseline.
Norrie forehand into the tramlines, second break point. Djokovic gets a good look at a forehand pass but nets, deuce.
Norrie escapes when Djokovic slices a backhand long. That was a big hold.
Djokovic 2-6, 3-2 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic with a trademark backhand up the line, 30-15. He completes the hold when Norrie puts a return long.
Nothing to separate the two players in this set.
The Hill is pumped
Djokovic* 2-6, 2-2 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Third ace of the match for Norrie, 30-0. Norrie gets a short ball after a Djokovic return, he hits a big forehand but Djokovic reads it and passes him with a forehand winner, 30-15.
Norrie forehand into the tramlines, 30-30. Norrie nets a drop shot, break point Djokovic.
Saved by Norrie when he finishes with a volley winner after going on the attack. Djokovic gets a look at a Norrie second serve but nets the return.
Djokovic 2-6, 2-1 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic is finding his rhythm on serve now and he holds to love with an overhead winner. He hasn’t dropped a point on serve in his opening two service games.
It has been a complete opposite start to this set.
Djokovic* 2-6, 1-1 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Norrie gets a short ball but nets his backhand, 30-30. He responds with a forehand down the line and finishes with a backhand volley winner, 40-30.
Djokovic forehand long and Norrie holds.
Second Set: Djokovic 2-6, 1-0 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Better start to the set by Djokovic, who is now wearing a hat to protect himself from the sun. He holds to love.
The view from the Hill
Djokovic* 2-6 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Djokovic slices a backhand long, 15-0. Djokovic forehand hits the net tape and drops on his side, 30-0.
First double fault of the match, 30-15. Followed by an ace, 40-15. Second double fault by Norrie, 40-30.
NORRIE ACE TO WIN THE SET.
Another interested observer on Centre…
Djokovic 2-5 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Forehand into the net by Djokovic, 0-15. That is his 10th unforced error of the match already. He makes an 11th when he completely mis-hits a forehand into the tramlines.
Djokovic drop shot but Norrie reaches it and flicks a forehand winner up the line, two break points.
Longest rally of the match, a Djokovic forehand to Norrie backhand exchange and Djokovic nets a sliced forehand.
Norrie breaks for the third time and will serve for the set. Incredible tennis.
Djokovic* 2-4 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Norrie forehand winner, 15-15. Back-to-back Djokovic returns fly long, 40-15. Djokovic forehand into the net and Norrie consolidates.
Superb start from the Brit. Djokovic looks a bit rattled.
Djokovic 2-3 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Chance for Norrie he puts his forehand long, 30-15. Wild forehand from Djokovic flies long, break point Norrie.
Djokovic backhand long and Norrie breaks AGAIN!
Djokovic* 2-2 Norrie (*denotes next server)
Point of the match so far. Norrie lobs Djokovic, Djokovic responds with a tweener lob, Norrie chases back and hits an overhead but Djokovic finishes with a volley winner. Wow. 0-15.
Great backhand by Norrrie stretches Djokovic and the defensive lob goes long, 30-30.
Back-to-back first serves by Norrie and he holds.
Analysis from Centre Court by Simon Briggs
Djokovic 2-1 Norrie* (*denotes next server)
More routine service game by Djokovic has he finds his rhythm on serve and hits three winners to hold.
Djokovic* 1-1 Norrie (*denotes next server)
First sign of Djokovic today as he drills a backhand return at the feet of Norrie, who nets a forehand, 15-15. Norrie forehand into the tramlines, 15-30.
Norrie tamely nets a backhand, 15-40. Norrie forehand into the net and Djokovic breaks back immediately.
That lead didn’t last long…
First Set: Novak Djokovic 0-1 Cameron Norrie* (*denotes next server)
Huge roar from the crowd on the opening point as Djokovic nets a backhand, 0-15. Nervy start by the No 1 seed as he places a forehand beyond the baseline, 0-30.
Djokovic backhand into the net and it’s two early break points for the British No 1.
Djokovic saves the first when Norrie places a backhand just long. But not the second as Norrie places a backhand down the line return. The pair are engaged in a cat and mouse rally and Norrie finishes it with a backhand down the line.
Early mind games
TV camera captured Norrie in the hallways waiting at least five minutes for Djokovic to arrive and becoming increasingly irritated.
As Norrie left for the locker rooms, Djokovic eventually appeared and the pair walked through the hallway, down the stairs and onto court where both players received a great reception from the fans.
Norrie has spread sun cream over his nose and cheek to protect himself from the sun.
Sir Alex has arrived!
Tennis correspondent Simon Briggs previews Norrie vs Djokovic
Here we go…
… the first match of the day on Centre Court has just finished and that means it is nearly time for Norrie vs Djokovic.
Stand by folks!
Nick Kyrgios responds to Oliver Brown’s piece…
I didn’t read it, to be honest. I didn’t see it.
Look, it’s hard. It’s something I have to deal with. Like, that’s just the world we live in. Like, I’m in a Wimbledon final. I know deep down everything I’ve gone through and I’ve worked for. I just try to enjoy the ride. If that’s what they want to write, I guess that’s what they want to write. I can only control what I do.
I’m just going to go out there and enjoy the moment. Since I was born, only eight people have ever won this title, like eight people. So, like, I don’t know. I’m just going to give it my best shot.
Typically classy touch from Nadal as he left Wimbledon
‘Nick Kyrgios’ free pass to the men’s final is Wimbledon’s worst nightmare’
In a typically hard-hitting comment piece, our chief sports writer Oliver Brown says:
In many ways, Nadal’s withdrawal with an abdominal tear represents the tournament’s worst nightmare.
It is not just that the Spaniard’s pained retreat removes the subplot of his advance on a potential first calendar grand slam in men’s tennis since 1969. It is not even that officials will be forced to deal with dissatisfied Centre Court ticket-holders, wondering why, at the latest possible notice, they are paying full price for half the entertainment.
It is the fact that Kyrgios finds himself, by dint of Nadal’s physical misfortune, waved through to the game’s greatest stage. If Wimbledon were to select the first player in the Open era to receive a walkover into the final, you doubt Kyrgios would be uppermost in their minds.
You can read the rest of Oliver’s piece here.
Should Wimbledon replace Rafael Nadal with a semi-final lucky loser?
That is the question posed by my colleague Molly McElwee, which you can read here.
Taylor Fritz was beaten in five sets by Nadal and replied to someone on Instagram who said he should be allowed to play saying: “Nah not looking for handouts, if I couldn’t beat him then I don’t deserve to be in semis … simple as that.”
Can he do it?
It is very warm at Wimbledon
After what has been a rather mild Wimbledon for weather, we are set for the hottest day of the tournament so far with temperatures hitting around 29 C and humidity at 41 per cent.
It will be interesting to see how Norrie and Djokovic cope with the increased heat.
Rafael Nadal withdraws
Usually there would be a second semi-final after Djokovic vs Norrie but of course there isn’t because Nadal announced his withdrawal from the tournament late last night due to an abdominal injury.
It was a huge blow to Wimbledon as his clash with Nick Kyrgios would have been a mouthwatering showdown.
How did Djokovic find out he was playing Norrie?
Hello and welcome to coverage from Wimbledon on the biggest day of Cameron Norrie’s career so far.
The British No 1 is one win away from reaching the final of his home grand slam. The person standing in his way – defending champion Novak Djokovic. Norrie and Djokovic have only played once before, at the ATP Finals last November, where the Serbian dropped just three games.
“It’s going to be a tough one against Novak obviously, but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said Norrie. “I think I’m going to take it to him. I think last time I played him in Turin in another big tournament, he played very good and I think I learned a lot from that. I think I’m going to approach it a little bit differently tactically.”
Djokovic is currently on an incredible Centre Court streak with 37 wins in a row, the longest in the history of the tournament. He has not lost there since Andy Murray beat him in the 2013 final – his two other defeat since then were on Court 1. Djokovic’s run is also longer than any of Rafael Nadal’s winning streaks on Phillipe Chatrier at the French Open.
“We played indoors… only one encounter that we had,” Djokovic said. “Of course, different conditions, different tournament (and) environment than what it would be playing here in Wimbledon on Centre Court, semi-finals of a slam in his country. I know what to expect… in terms of the crowd support.
“Again, for him, not much to lose. Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him. I know that. But I practised few times. I know his game well. He’s been around. Of course I will do my homework and get ready.”
Stay with us for all the build-up and latest updates ahead of the match.