Novak Djokovic was forced to overcome an “absurd” controversy as he made more history at Wimbledon in a crushing semi-final victory over Jannik Sinner. The 23-time major winner booked his spot in a record-breaking 35th grand slam singles final after the 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-4) win.
Djokovic will have the chance to make more history in the final against Spanish young gun Carlos Alcaraz, who dominated Daniil Medvedev in the other semi-final, winning 6-3 6-3 6-3. One more win for Djokovic in the decider will see him equal Roger Federer’s all-time record of eight Wimbledon titles and Aussie great Margaret Court’s record 24 career major singles titles.
The Serb’s latest triumph at Wimbledon – where he has now won 34 consecutive matches and not lost on Centre Court since 2010 – was far from straightforward. Djokovic had to brush off a contentious point penalty handed down to him at a crucial point in the second set, when umpire Richard Haigh pinged him for “hindrance” after judging that the Serb had grunted for too long and distracted his opponent.
Djokovic was leading 2-1 at the time but the point penalty put Sinner up 15-30 in the game and offered him a window of opportunity. The seven-time Wimbledon champion was clearly stunned by the call as approached the umpire and yelled: “What are you doing?” Tennis great John McEnroe called it an “absurd” moment, while other tennis greats and fans hit out over the questionable call.
“He handled it admirably – way, way better than most players,” McEnroe said on BBC TV. I would have hated if that was a turning point. Horrible, horrible call. Sinner’s ball went back in court and dropped foot from baseline. How much of a hindrance could it have been?
— marto_petkov14 (@marto_petkov14) July 14, 2023
“It is one thing if Sinner lifts his game, that’s great, but not when the umpire gets in the middle of it. Obviously, this umpire wanted his name in the paper. Fortunately, Novak held. It would have been a shame.”
Former British tennis star Tim Henman said on the BBC’s coverage: “I’ve never seen that before” and Aussie doubles legend Todd Woodbridge added: “I feel like (the umpire has) been waiting to make that call for a while.”
This Umpire really called “hindrance” on Djokovic. What a ridiculous call in semi-final of Wimbledon. Hate when Refs or Umpires try to make the match about them.
— Whoa (@IAmWhoaa) July 14, 2023
— Anukram Adhikary (@AnukramAdhikary) July 14, 2023
Djokovic is a mentality monster. Even with awful calls from the chair umpire he goes on to consolidate the break. Can’t take his shine no sir #Wimbledon
— I, Otchere (@atusjnr) July 14, 2023
Novak Djokovic pushes past controversy
To his credit, Djokovic was able to brush off the controversy, regroup and ultimately seal his passage through to another Wimbledon final. He did address the hindrance call after the match and said it “could have changed the course of the match” as he “felt really nervous after that call”.
“It’s never happened to me, I don’t normally have an extended grunt,” he said. “Maybe it was an echo from the roof or something like this,” he added to laughs from the crowd. I don’t actually feel like I was causing any hindrance to my opponent, but OK. But it’s a call I have to respect”.
In the other semi-final, World No.1 Alcaraz looked even more dominant than Djokovic as the reigning US Open champion dismantled No.3 seed Medvedev 6-3 6-3 6-3 to set up a dream final between the two biggest stars in men’s tennis. “I think this is probably the best final that we could have,” said Djokovic, who’ll take the No.1 ranking back off Alcaraz with a victory.
“He’s in great shape. He’s very motivated. He’s young. He’s hungry. I’m hungry, too – so let’s have a feast!” Sixteen years separate the two finalists, with 20-year-old Alcaraz the youngest man to reach the final since fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal in 2006 and the one figure who stands in the way of Djokovic equalling Court’s all-time record of 24 major singles titles.
“This is a dream for me to be able to play a final in Wimbledon. I can’t believe it,” Alcaraz told the Centre Court crowd.” Of his opponent, who’ll be seeking a fifth successive Wimbledon crown, the 20-year-old added: “What can I say? Everybody knows the legend he is, it’s going to be really, really difficult – but I will fight, I will fight. He is invincible since 2013 on this court, but I will believe I can beat him here.”
Medvedev’s exit also spared Wimbledon chiefs the uncomfortable scenario of the Princess of Wales having to hand the trophy to a Russian player, after players from that country and Belarus had been banned from the 2022 championships over the Ukraine war.