Novak Djokovic steps up Wimbledon title bid with victory over Nishikori: Resurgent Serbian approaching his best ahead of semi-final against Nadal

Leye Aduloju in Wimbledon 11 Jul 2018
  • Novak Djokovic moved into the Wimbledon semi-finals with a four-set victory over Kei Nishikori
  • Resurgent Djokovic evoked some of his old powers to take down Nishikori, setting up a semi-final meeting with Rafael Nadal
  • Watch and bet on tennis live from Wimbledon at bet365 > live streaming > tennis (geo restrictions apply; funded account required or to have placed a bet in the last 24 hours to qualify)
Novak Djokovic. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic dug into his legendary powers of recovery, and then exhibited his famous ruthlessness in dispatching Kei Nishikori 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2 in their Wimbledon quarter-final in what may be the clearest sign yet that the former world number one is ‘back’.

Djokovic was irritable and petulant; frustrated at times during his four-set victory over Nishikori, but the overriding note to take away from the match was how he turned around a desperate situation; and left his foot on the jugular once he re-established a position of control. It was like the Djokovic of old, springing from the dead, and sprinting away from a dispirited opponent. Those questions about his hunger for success can now be put to bed. There is fire in this man’s eyes- a burning desire to get back to where he belongs.

Djokovic and Nishikori are two of the finest ball strikers in the sport, but the problem for Nishikori has always been that Djokovic is just that much better in every little thing, which is a major reason why the Serbian had won their last 12 matches heading into Tuesday’s contest. The former world number one seemed well on his way to 13th straight victory when he took the opening set of their Wimbledon quarter final 6-3.

One major mismatch was Nishikori’s dodgy serve against Djokovic’s immaculate returning, and the three-time champion went on the attack again at the start of the second set. Nishikori survived the onslaught but something desperately needed to change, else he was a sitting duck.

The Japanese realized he wasn’t going to beat Djokovic from the back of the court, and so made the alteration by attacking the forecourt in the second set. That, along with a code violation for racket abuse, seemed to throw Djokovic off his game, and Nishikori profited from a lull in the Serbian’s play to get back into the match. Completely against the run of play, Nishikori broke for the 3-1 lead, and played with more confidence for the rest of the set, whipping away a forehand winner on his first set point to even the match at one-set all.

Djokovic had the first break point of the third set at 2-1, but more forecourt excellence from Nishikori got him out of trouble, and a wrongfooting forehand down the line sealed the hold against the three- time champion.

The pivotal moment of the match came in the next game, when a rattled Djokovic sank into a 0-40 hole following a forehand error. Threatening a mini-implosion, the Serbian regained his composure just in time, and battled back magnificently to secure an almighty hold. That moment redirected his focus on the job, and what a job he did on Nishikori. Djokovic reeled off the last four games to take the third set. The 12-time Grand Slam champion dropped his serve in the opening game of the fourth set, but the former world number one corrected that aberration, breaking back immediately before pulling away from an increasingly despondent opponent. This was Djokovic in full flow, unyielding from the back of the court, and stifling his opponent with the quality and depth of his returns and groundstrokes- unplayable in offence; inpeneterable on defence. Djokovic, who finished the match with 40 winners and just 21 unforced errors, moves into his first Grand Slam semi-final since the 2016 US Open, and he did not hold back in his self-assessment, as if determined to send a message to the rest of the tour.

“I feel [that] if I have to compare the game that I've played, the level of tennis that I've had those years and today, I think it's pretty close,” said Djokovic. “I like the level of tennis that I'm playing right now. I really do. I think with the performances I've had, I deserve to be in the semi-finals. I don't want to stop here. I hope I can get a chance to fight for a trophy.”

Djokovic now has 63 match wins at Wimbledon, tied amazingly with the great Pete Sampras, and he will get the chance to improve that number when he plays great rival, Rafael Nadal in a blockbuster semi-final on Friday.

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Novak Djokovic steps up Wimbledon title bid with victory over Nishikori: Resurgent Serbian approaching his best ahead of semi-final against Nadal

Novak Djokovic showed some of his old form in battling past Kei Nishikori on Tuesday. Serbian to play Rafael Nadal in blockbuster semi-final

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