14 July 2023

Novak Djokovic clashes with umpire and fans on his way to latest Wimbledon final

14 July 2023

Novak Djokovic lost his cool with umpire Richard Haigh and the Centre Court crowd but saw off Jannik Sinner in straight sets to reach a fifth consecutive Wimbledon final.

The Serbian is making history with virtually every victory and a 6-3 6-4 7-6 (4) win in his record-equalling 46th grand slam semi-final earned him a record-breaking 35th final, taking him past American great Chris Evert.

He had to save two set points in the third set but is now only one victory away from matching Roger Federer by winning an eighth Wimbledon title and Margaret Court with a 24th grand slam crown.

This was not entirely smooth sailing, though, and he was clearly annoyed by the decision of British umpire Haigh to call a hindrance against him at 15-15 in the fourth game of the second set.

Djokovic had suddenly let out a loud and late grunt after hitting a backhand down the line that he probably expected to be a winner only for Sinner to reach it.

It is unusual for a grunt to elicit a hindrance ruling and Djokovic reacted with disbelief, saying to Haigh: “You must be joking. Calling that in the semi-final of Wimbledon? What are you doing?”

To compound the situation, Haigh then gave Djokovic a time violation for taking too long on his serve in the same game but the reigning champion managed to keep his cool and chose not to initiate another confrontation.

It was a different story with the crowd, who were willing Sinner to make a contest of it, when the 21-year-old created two set points at 4-5 in the third set.

Djokovic clapped sarcastically and gave a thumbs up when noise delayed his second serve, with a man shouting ‘Vamos Rafa’, and was then booed for taunting the crowd when Sinner missed both chances.

When Djokovic held serve, he turned to the fans closest to him and mimed crying, but it was he, once again, who had the last laugh, extending his winning streak of tie-breaks to 15 at grand slams.

Sinner and Djokovic had met in the quarter-finals here last year, where the 21-year-old Italian opened up a two-set lead only for his opponent to win in five.

Both looked a little edgy at the start, with Sinner contesting his first slam semi-final after the sort of draw that players dream of.

The eighth seed could not convert two break points, though, and in the second game Djokovic took his chance.

Sinner, who struggled with his footwork throughout the contest on the slippery grass, had another break point in the fifth game only to miss with a forehand, and three aces in a row helped Djokovic clinch the set.

Sinner is one of the biggest ball-strikers in the game and he elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd at the sound made by the slap of strings on ball under the Centre Court roof.

There were too many errors to go with the winners, though, and an over-cooked forehand on break point at 1-1 in the second set put Djokovic firmly in control.

Sinner had a chance in the contentious fourth game to retrieve the deficit immediately only to net another forehand and, although Djokovic showed signs of stress, gesticulating towards his box, he found his first serve again just when he needed it most to serve out a two-set lead.

Djokovic’s biggest weapon is arguably his ability to lock in at the most important moments and that – helped by 15 years extra experience – was the main difference between the two players.

Sinner produced his own clutch serving to recover from 0-40 at 1-1 in the third set and looked the better player for much of the remainder of it but he could not capitalise on an early lead in the tie-break as Djokovic claimed a 21st win from his last 22 slam semi-finals.

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