Wimbledon: Djokovic fights back Nishikori to advance to semis
Novak Djokovic kept himself as the frontrunner at the championships at Wimbledon Wednesday. The three-time champion got his way back into the semifinals taking down Kei Nishikori in four sets 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Centre Court at the All England Club in London. It was the first time he reached the semifinals since 2015 during his last tournament win.
The sixteenth edition to their rivalry commenced with the Serb looking to get back to the high points of the tournament. This was their first meeting on grass making it an interesting moment for their careers. While the former world number one has the best experience, he also carried a near perfect run to this point dropping only one set so far.
The Japanese star hasn’t been so lucky going four sets three times including his win over Ernests Gulbis. Though Nishikori has taken Djokovic to four sets at the most, he would try to put his best foot on centre court to try for his first Wimbledon semifinal.
They went on serve through three games until Djokovic broke his opponent in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. The 28-year old put together a break of his own pulling off an inbetweener return before returning another for the win. He made it two straight levelling back with Djokovic returning them to serve after six. The Serb held serve and took it upon himself to get another break which was helped out by a wide return from Nishikori.
The 24th seed knew the mistake would cost him the set as Djokovic served it out in the ninth. Though he had to play it on deuce, the 12th seed laid down the only ace of the set before a four-shot rally ended with a ball going wide of the court ending 37 minutes. Djokovic landed 12 of 15 on the first serve despite it being under 60 percent. His actions were enough to trouble Nishikori on his second serve that scored two seven from it.
He improved in the second breaking early on Djokovic who took a penalty after the third for smashing his racket into the grass. The Serb lost his cool during the break arguing the call that he let Nishikori get out to a 4-1 lead. A hold by the 12th seed got him back within two but couldn’t recover the entire deficit as Nishikori stayed out front serving out the set in the ninth to even the match after 42 minutes. While he didn’t overtake the strength that Djokovic contained, his second serve improved winning almost half the points and getting ten winners in the process.
He stayed in the third for as long as he could serving with Djokovic through four games before the Serb achieved the first break. He controlled the set from that point on taking the sixth on serve before making it a 5-2 lead with Nishikori on serve to extend the set. He couldn’t get on point as he lost the first from the forehand before Djokovic took the next one and opened to two set points that gave him back the lead after 34 minutes.
He showed no intent on letting the fourth set get out of his hands with the semifinals sitting closer than ever. After letting Nishikori earn a break to begin the set, he answered back with a break of his own before conducting a solid strategy to shut the Japanese star down. Djokovic earned the double break in the fourth before taking a 4-1 lead holding the 24th seed back two points. Unwilling to give the Serb a triple break, Nishikori made good to bring together some winners to notch a second win on an unforced error from his opponent.
The Serb didn’t let that bother him as he was on a mission to get the match over a done with. He made his statement clear on serve scoring a solid service hold in the seventh before playing Nishikori who was down three games. He lost all the ground he built up before letting the Serb get to deuce. The 12 seed needed only two breaks to land a final winner away from Nishikori to end the battle in 2 hours and 34 minutes.
"It feels great to be in the last four of a slam," Djokovic said to the BBC. "I've been building on the last couple of weeks on a level of tennis that I've played in the last couple of months. It was kind of looking like and felt like it was getting better and better as matches and time went on and feel like I'm peaking at the right moment."
Djokovic outscored his opponent winning 27 more points landing more winners while keeping the unforced errors in check. With him taking another step in the right direction, he'll await the winner between Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro on Friday.