Tennis

Wimbledon 2018: Djokovic downs Nadal in a match for the ages

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during the epic semifinal against Spain’s Rafael Nadal at the Wimbledon 2018 tennis championship in London on July 14, 2018.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, who seemed as if they had never stepped off Wimbledon’s Centre Court on that frenetic Friday night, sparkled once again on Saturday afternoon to produce a truly epic and delightful semifinal.

It was the Serb, who was leading two sets to one when the match was discontinued, who prevailed, though only narrowly, in a contest that consumed 5 hours and 15 minutes 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that in terms of sheer quality, as well as edge-of-the-seat excitement, this was the best match of Wimbledon 2018.

The first game, which took a long 16 minutes, set the tone for the match, with Djokovic severely testing the Nadal serve, but after five deuces and two break-points, the Spaniard managed to hold. However, the momentum shifted instantly with Djokovic dropping his serve thanks to some good returning, particularly down the line.

NUMBERS GAME
  • At 21, Djokovic, is the lowest-ranked man in a Wimbledon final is 15 years
  • For the first time since 2001, both men’s singles semifinals were stretched to five sets
  • At 5 hours 15 minutes, Djokovic-Nadal is the second-longest semifinal at Wimbledon after Isner-Anderson
  • The Djokovic-Nadal fifth set (10-8) is the longest between the two (previous 9-7, French Open 2013)
  • Djokovic leads the head-to-head 27-25 but trails 5-9 at Majors. The two have however split the last 10 matches at Slams 5-5

Leading 3-1, Nadal seemed comfortable but handed back the break, making some uncharacteristic errors in a poorly executed game.

But as the set progressed, Djokovic, who seemed weighed down by the fact that he had overcooked some groundstrokes, chose to be somewhat cautious. As a result, there were longer rallies, which suited Nadal well, and he broke once more to go up 5-3.

In this match of many twists, Nadal found himself down 0-40 when serving out the set, but pulled himself out of trouble and then tided things up with an imperious ace down the middle.

Both players were strong on serve in the fifth set, with Nadal perhaps a nose ahead on the brilliance quotient, threading the needle with down-the-line strokes from both flanks. Djokovic had a break point when up 4-3, but Nadal saved it with a snarling serve and then shut the game out with a couple of stunning forehands.

After they were locked 5-5, both players, perhaps recognising that it was aggression rather than restraint that was going to make a difference at that stage, upped their games, producing some of the finest moments of the match.

There were moments when Djokovic hung by a very slim thread but Nadal was unable to convert any of the five break-points he had in this set. Djokovic would have his first break-point — and match-point — when the score was 8-7, but Nadal saved that with a courageous and cheeky drop shot. However, three more presented themselves when he was up 9-8 and a forehand pulled long and wide gave Djokovic the game.

Djokovic

 

Nadal

23

Aces

9

4

Double faults

4

71

First serve (%)

71

4/19

Break points

4/11

30/44

Net Points won

37/50

73

Winners

72

42

Unforced errors

42

195

Total points

191

6.05

Dist. covered (km)

6.39

The victory felt more like a draw, something that the statistics bore out. Almost uncannily, both players hit 73 winners each and both made the same number of unforced errors — 42. And of course each of them won four break-points. Of total points won, Djokovic had 195 to Nadal’s 191.

Given that the last tournament he won was in Eastbourne in 2017, Djokovic has been in anything but good form. Given that, this victory represents a big comeback; on Sunday he will have a crack at another Wimbledon title when he goes up against Kevin Anderson, a men’s final that nobody could have predicted.


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Printable version | Jun 5, 2021 7:08:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/tennis/all-england-lawn-tennis-championship-wimbledon-2018-day-13/article24421126.ece

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