LONDON: Novak Djokovic recovered from a shaky start to beat Cameron Norrie in four sets at Wimbledon on Friday and reach a record 32nd Grand Slam final, where he will play Nick Kyrgios.
The Serbian top seed was broken three times in the first set but turned the tables dramatically on his British opponent to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the Centre Court sunshine to reach his eighth final at the All England Club.
The six-time Wimbledon champion’s new mark of 32 finals at the majors is a record for men’s tennis.
It puts him one ahead of Roger Federer and two clear of Rafael Nadal, who pulled out of the tournament injured on Thursday.
“He was the better player in the first set,” said Djokovic. “Semis of a Slam, I played them a lot, but there is always pressure, from yourself and from the outside.”
Djokovic and Norrie both dropped serve at the first time of asking, with the crowd offering vocal backing to the ninth seed.
But while Norrie quickly found his rhythm, Djokovic — apart from a stunning “tweener” lob — was strangely off-key, losing his serve twice more in the set, which Norrie sealed with an ace.
The Serb landed just 55 percent of his first serves and made 12 unforced errors against his left-handed opponent in the opening set.
Djokovic looked more composed at the start of the second set, finding more rhythm on his serve and cutting out the errors.
A single break for the 35-year-old in the eighth game changed the complexion of the match, putting him 5-3 up.
That was part of a run of eight games out of nine for the 35-year-old, who took the second set and then rocketed into a 5-1 lead in the third, giving Norrie a mountain to climb.
Djokovic again broke early in the fourth set and did not concede a single break point as he cantered to victory.
Djokovic is now on a 27-match winning streak at Wimbledon as he seeks to draw level with Pete Sampras on seven titles at the All England Club — just one behind Federer’s men’s record.
If he wins the title he would reach 21 Grand Slam titles, moving past Federer and just one behind Nadal in the race to be crowned the greatest of all time.
Djokovic already knows he will be playing 40th-ranked Kyrgios after Nadal quit the tournament ahead of his semi-final against the Australian because of an abdominal injury.
Kyrgios, 27, will be playing in his first Grand Slam final but has a 2-0 winning record against Djokovic.
“The job is not finished,” said Djokovic, chasing his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title. “One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both sides.
“He is playing freely, has a big game and a lot of power in his shots. I’ve never won a set off him — hopefully it can be different this time. He doesn’t have much to lose.”
Earlier on Friday, Kyrgios said he was disappointed not to face Nadal, proclaiming that “everyone did want to see us go to war out there”.
Kyrgios, one of the sport’s most talented yet divisive characters, is in his first final at the majors at the age of 27.
Had he faced Nadal, it would have been their third clash at Wimbledon.
Kyrgios won the first in 2014 as a 144th-ranked wild card before Nadal gained revenge in a stormy clash three years ago.
“We’ve had a lot of run-ins, a lot of battles,” said Kyrgios, who has won three of their nine encounters. “I’m sure at the end of the day everyone did want to see us go to war out there. I hope he just gets better.
“Obviously you never want to see someone like that, so important to the sport, go down with an injury like that. I’m sure I’ll play him again on a big stage.”
Kyrgios admitted that the prospect of playing in his first Grand Slam final had left him anxious.
“I probably got an hour’s sleep just with everything, like the excitement. I had so much anxiety. I was already feeling so nervous, and I don’t feel nervous usually,” he said.