Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic stages fightback to survive scare
Published 03/07/2014 | 10:23
Novak Djokovic booked his sixth Wimbledon semi-final appearance and a showdown with Andy Murray's conqueror Grigor Dimitrov by edging a five-set battle with Marin Cilic.
The top seed prevailed 6-1 3-6 6-7 (4-7) 6-2 6-2 to cement his status as the hot tournament favourite after Bulgaria's Dimitrov saw off defending champion Murray.
The 27-year-old has missed just one grand slam semi-final in the last 17, but continues his quest to improve his record of just one victory in his last six major finals.
Until this match, Djokovic's biggest problem had been recovering from a heavy fall in his routine third-round victory over France's Gilles Simon.
The 2011 champion feared he had dislocated his left shoulder and would have to abandon his All England Club campaign, only to discover the popping noise he heard on impact caused minimal damage.
Czech battler Radek Stepanek had proved the only opponent to claim a set from the fuss-free Serbian on his straightforward run to the last eight.
World number 29 Cilic offered a stern examination, once he found his bearings – but even though Djokovic never found full flow, he still located enough poise to step into the final four.
Djokovic hailed his next opponent Dimitrov as this summer's form man on grass, after the 23-year-old added Murray's scalp to his Queen's Club trophy.
"It's a big win for Grigor: he's on fire these last six months, winning tournaments on different surfaces," said Djokovic.
"He's won at Queen's, he's unbeaten on grass this year, and he's the player to beat at this moment in time.
"I've seen that (Murray's loss). The first three sets we played the points and we could hear the crowd.
"Somehow you can hear Centre Court from Court One, and it was distracting to be honest for both of us – but I'm making no excuses."
Djokovic admitted frustrations with his own form, but was at least relieved to raise the tempo for a victorious finale.
"I knew Marin would play aggressively," he said.
"I had a couple of chances to break him early in the second and didn't use that.
"It was a pretty even match in the first few sets, but in the last two I felt like I regained control again.
"He raised his game but I allowed him to come back into the match.
"I allowed him to step in, he used his opportunities.
"I was frustrated, because I allowed him to come back into the match and gain control of the rallies.
"But again, I managed to find the right pace when I needed it."
On the exits of Rafa Nadal and Murray, Djokovic added: "It doesn't affect me at all because I try to focus on my own matches.
"They are the only things I can influence.
"You always expect the top guys to reach the finals and when it doesn't happen it's been a surprise.
"But, it shows you can't underestimate any opponent and new young players are beating the best.
"These guys deserve to be where they are now."
But following the big name casualties, Djokovic has an excellent chance to add to his one Wimbledon title.