After five hours and 15 minutes - played over two days - Djokovic secured a berth in his first Major final since the runner-up finish at US Open 2016, beating Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8 to set up a clash against Kevin Anderson.
- Novak Djokovic is contesting his 22nd Grand Slam final. It was very clear that very few things separated the two players.
But only one of these men can move through to take on Anderson tomorrow, and they will resume today, when ticket holders for the women's final will get an unexpected treat.
For now, though, let's allow Anderson the relief and joy of having won the longest Wimbledon semifinal in history by a long shot: Friday's match easily broke the previous records for number of games (72) and duration (a measly five hours and 31 minutes).
The second semifinal then was halted when the third set ended just past 11 p.m., because of a neighbourhood curfew. The Centre Court roof was closed so that the players could continue to play under the lights.
The question since his meek loss to Sam Querrey here two years ago had been when would tennis see the real Djokovic again.
The momentum was with Nadal but Djokovic's serve, which was so disrupted by the elbow problems that prompted him finally to have surgery in February, kept him just about out of danger.
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"In my opinion, he deserved it", Nadal said.
"It was hard for me to adapt to the indoor court, I didn't see too well".
Anderson and Isner's show of brilliant serving and endurance may have become a bit tiresome as the rattled on until 26-24 in the fifth set, but I doubt many would be wishing for a quick end between Nadal and Djokovic. "I can feel the crowd (get) pretty antsy for us to get off the court. They've been watching us for over six hours". (In the marathon semifinal, he beat John Isner, who at 6-foot-10 is one of the few taller tour pros.) "Height is a amusing thing in tennis because it definitely helps the serve but it can hinder agility and movement", Anderson told zeenews.india.com. It included a 23-stroke exchange and three others of at least 11.
Friday proved to be another long day for Anderson, who said after the match that he hoped the 50-game fifth set would be "a sign for Grand Slams to change". Djokovic's semi-marathon against Nadal that ran into Saturday, will have drained him. Fortunately, he was at the end of the court farthest from the Royal Box, where the pair of visiting Duchesses, Kate and the newly married Meghan, sat in the front row.
"Djokovic needed that match more", said Becker, a three-time Wimbledon champion to BBC One. First serve drops in just twice all game and he double faults on 30-40 to give Djokovic the opening break. Djokovic disposed of the South African in straight sets in 2011, but had to come from two sets down in 2015 to prevail 7-5 in the fifth set.
Might very well have been.
In five-setter events such as Wimbledon, two factors play a key role - fatigue and fitness.
"It's been a roller-coaster ride for him the last couple rounds, but he had a day off, which means a lot", Djokovic said.