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Friday, June 21, 2024

Djokovic passes Rublev test to face Sinner in Wimbledon semifinals

Date:

 Novak Djokovic stayed on track for a record 24th Grand Slam title, rallying from one set down to overcome Andrey Rublev of Russia 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.

The Serbian will play Italy’s eighth seed Jannik Sinner for a place in the final. Sinner booked his first Grand Slam semifinal appearance by beating Russia’s Roman Safiullin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.

However, Djokovic will play his 46th major semifinal, equalling Roger Federer’s men’s singles record.

25-year-old Rublev was playing in his eighth major quarterfinal, but remains in search of his maiden Slam semifinal. No man has contested as many Grand Slam quarterfinals without a win in the Open Era.

Rublev was also beaten by Djokovic this year in the Australian Open quarters, with the 36-year-old going on to win the title.

“He was the best I faced him in a Grand Slam. It’s also something that is expected from a player like him, who is a very hard worker, very dedicated to the sport, always tries to improve,” said Djokovic of Rublev.

“I can see the improvement, without a doubt. I think today he played terrific tennis. He was putting a lot of pressure, playing very quick, standing close to the line, and trying to push me back in the court. He was managing to do that in some stages of the match.”

A tension-filled third set proved decisive, with both players summoning their best tennis for much of the hour-long set. Djokovic prodded the Rublev backhand throughout many punishing rallies, but Rublev hung tough and still found plenty of opportunities to attack off both baseline wings.

The seven-time winner was forced to face five break points in the set but erased all, of which three in the eighth game when he served for a two-sets-to-one lead and finally won the longest game of the match after fighting through six deuces.

Djokovic’s semifinal showdown with Sinner will be a rematch of the pair’s quarterfinal last year at Wimbledon when Djokovic rallied from two sets down for a 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. They have not met since then.

21-year-old Sinner is just the third Italian man to make the final four at the grass-court major following Nicola Pietrangeli and Matteo Berrettini.

“It feels good. It means a lot to me. Obviously, there is a lot of work behind this. Very happy that I can play my first semifinal here in this special place, a special surface. So let’s see how it goes the next match,” said Sinner.

Safiullin was making his Wimbledon debut and produced an array of attacking performances to become the lowest-ranked man to advance to the quarterfinals since then-World No. 144 Nick Kyrgios in 2014.

Sinner fired 36 winners, against 27 from his opponent, to claim the victory after two hours and 14 minutes.

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