WIMBLEDON — After a five-setter, a closed roof, a curfew, a night’s sleep and a sunrise, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal found themselves down the rabbit hole of a fifth set on Saturday in their Wimbledon men’s semifinal match on Centre Court. With long points, full of variety and intrigue, in the end Djokovic, somewhat surprisingly, pulled it out.
After 5 hours and 15 minutes across two days, Djokovic got the 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8 win over second-seeded Nadal, who was tested mightily on Wednesday by Juan Martin del Potro in five-set quarterfinal.
“I can say (Djokovic) deserve it, because he deserve it,” Nadal said. “In my opinion, he deserve it. I deserve it, too. Both of us deserve it. As I say the other day against del Potro, anyone could win. Today I say the same. The other day was for me, today was for him. That’s it.”
The final between Djokovic and No. 8 Kevin Anderson is scheduled for 9 a.m. ET on Sunday. For No. 12 Djokovic, the result is welcome after a prolonged recovery from elbow surgery, off-court issues and mixed results in recent tournaments.
“Now I’m in the finals,” Djokovic said. “I’m really, really pleased. I was very emotional after the match, as well, because it’s been a long 15 months for me, you know, trying to overcome different obstacles. So to be where I am at the moment is quite, quite satisfying.”
Djokovic’s semifinal started on Friday, after Anderson took 6 hours and 36 minutes to defeat No. 9 John Isner 26-24 in the fifth. There was a further delay in the Djokovic-Nadal match as the roof over Centre Court was closed and the lights turned on. The match didn’t start until after 8 p.m. and came to a halt at 11 p.m., the tournament’s curfew. Djokovic had a 2-1 lead in sets.
“Kevin also had quite a few hours on the court in the last couple matches,” Djokovic said. “But he had a day off, which is quite, so to say, necessary at this stage. I wish I can have a day. But it is what it is. I’ll just have to accept the circumstances and try to recover as best as I can.”
As Nadal and Djokovic played on Saturday, Anderson was getting some much-needed rest. He has had a recurrent hamstring issue, and wears specially-approved compression shorts on the court. When Anderson left the court on Friday, he said his feet were swollen and his legs felt like jelly.
“I mean, all I can do is control what I can control, do my best at getting as recovered as possible,” said Anderson, the inaugural New York Open champion this past February at Nassau Colisuem. The tournament has already announced he will return to defend his title.
“Starting this week off, I came in here with a goal of firstly beating my best result, but at the same time putting myself in this position,” said Anderson. “At the U.S. Open I was in the finals. Maybe I felt sort of my crowning achievement was actually getting to the finals. Definitely hungry to go one step further.”