“36 is the new 26” – Djokovic defies age, umpire, Centre Court crowd and Sinner to reach another Wimbledon final

Djokovic once more played the pantomime villain for the Centre Court crowd, who hailed yet another one of his monumental achievements

Novak Djokovic Novak Djokovic (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/SIPA)

Novak Djokovic is into a ninth Wimbledon final – a fifth consecutive one in SW19, and 35th Slam final overall, the most of any player – after a straight-sets victory over Jannik Sinner, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4), where he overcame plenty of obstacles that were not necessarily coming from his opponent’s racquet.

First off, Djokovic was angered by the umpire calling a hindrance in the first set after he made a noise hitting a shot, and then by a time warning on his serve. Then he was riled by the Centre Court crowd – mostly firmly and noisily on Sinner’s side – and mimed tears after saving set points in the third, suggesting they should, perhaps, cry harder.

“The hindrance early on today in the match could have changed the course of the match. I felt really nervous out there after that call from the chair umpire,” Djokovic said on court afterwards.

“I don’t normally have an extended grunt, maybe it was an echo from the roof,” he added with a grin.

Djokovic: It’s great to be part of the new generation!

Djokovic has now won his last 34 grass-court matches – a streak stretching back to 2018, when he lost to Marin Cilic in the final of Queen’s.

He must have been confident of victory after he won the first set – he has now won 28 of his 29 Grand Slam semi-finals when he won the opener. The only one he lost was in 2007, when he had to retire against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon (3-6, 6-1, 4-1 ret.).

But he was generous to Sinner in his post-match comments.

“Semi-final was always going to be very close, very tense match. Three very close sets, the scoreline doesn’t give the reality of what was happening on the court – it was super close. The third set could have gone his way…just a lot of pressure in the third, specially,” he said.

“He has proven why he’s one of the leaders of the next generation and one of the best players in the world. It’s great to be part of this new generation – I love it!”

Djokovic: I feel a lot of motivation

Sinner, for his part, knew this would be by far his toughest test of the fortnight; prior to Friday, he had not faced a seeded opponent – only the second player in the last twenty years to reach the men’s semi-finals without beating a seed, after Nadal in 2019.

The Italian turns 22 next month, making him more than 14 years younger than Djokovic, which the Serbian wryly referenced.

“We are part of an individual sport. You have to rely on yourself and put yourself in the best possible state, physical, mental, emotional, before going out on the court. I try not to look at the age as a hindrance or a factor.

“36 is the new 26, it feels good! I feel a lot of motivation and I’m inspired to play the tennis that I truly love.”

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