Novak Djokovic prepares for his Wimbledon semi-final against Cameron Norrie, knowing his biggest rival Rafael Nadal is no longer standing in the way of a 21st Grand Slam victory.
The Spanish second seed had to withdraw on Thursday from his last-four game against Nick Kyrgios with a stomach injury, admitting he suffered a defeat in his race to be fit.
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Nadal’s withdrawal deprives the tournament of a blockbuster semi-final against Kyrgios, who has been on the map since Australian defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in an ill-tempered third-round match.
Kyrgios will be on a forced break before Sunday’s final, while the top-class Djokovic now faces the path to a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title.
The Serb had to come back in his quarterfinals from two sets behind the Italian tenth seed Jannik Sinner. But the 35-year-old finished the game looking fresh, even pulling off an outrageous winner doing the splits.
Djokovic is on a 26-game winning streak at Wimbledon as he aims to equalize with Pete Sampras on seven All England Club titles – just one behind Roger Federer’s men’s record. He is also bidding for a record 32nd Grand Slam final in singles, which would give him an edge over Federer.
If he wins the title, he would reach 21 Grand Slam titles, past Federer and just one behind Nadal in the race to be crowned the greatest of all time.
The British ninth seed Norrie had never progressed beyond the third round of a Grand Slam for Wimbledon this year.
The 26-year-old has vowed to bring it to Djokovic and hopes for a wave of home support, but he has an uphill task to bring down the champion.
Djokovic, who defeated Norrie in their only previous encounter, braces himself in front of a partisan crowd.
“There’s not much to lose for him,” he said. “Any win from now on is a big deal for him.
“I know that. But, you know, I’ve practiced a few times. I know his game well. He’s been around. Of course I’ll do my homework and get ready.”
Kyrios is kicking his heels on Friday, bereft of a chance to repeat his famous 2014 win over Nadal at Wimbledon, which the Spaniard avenged five years later.
Kyrgios’ tournament was marked by breathtaking shots, as well as his familiar tirades on the field, including a demand that Tsitsipas be ejected from the championships for hitting a ball into the crowd.
The 40th player in the rankings has been fined a total of $14,000 and now has the added distraction of an imminent court appearance in Australia over an assault charge.
Kyrgios, who has beaten Djokovic in both encounters, will take his chances against whoever he plays on Sunday.
Meanwhile, he has to watch and wait.
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