Nadal’s fury over ‘dumb’ decision
A FEROCIOUS fightback from Rafael Nadal wasn't enough for the Spaniard to fight off Novak Djokovic in a thrilling finish to Wimbledon's two day, five-set semi-final.
Nadal took the fourth set shortly after play resumed on Saturday night (AEST) and looked set to continue his stellar run at Wimbledon.
A collection of jaw-dropping rallies treated fans as two of the sport's greatest stars battled it out on the British grass.
Djokovic's path to victory was thrown a curveball as Nadal served his way back to 5-5 in the fifth, but a handful of unforced errors from the clay court king handed momentum back to the Serbian to race through his service game and take the score to 6-5.
By 7-6 in the fifth, both players had won exactly 175 points for the match.
Djokovic began to grow increasingly agitated as Nadal broke back to 7-7, screaming up towards his box before the Spaniard aced him for the game.
The match continued its fiery back-and-forth with Nadal escaping match point 16 games into the final set, bringing spectators to their feet.
A number of signature crosscourt forehand winners from Nadal looked to keep him from losing his first semi-final at the historic tournament, but the Djoker had the last laugh with the final break after the five hour mark.
The clash will go down in history as the second longest semi-final match in Wimbledon's history behind Kevin Anderson and John Isner's thrilling six hour, 36 minute meeting earlier in the week.
The final scorecard was 6-4 3-6 7-6 3-6 10-8 in Djokovic's favour.
"To win against the best player in the world, the longest match I've ever played … I'm overwhelmed," said Djokovic, who is bidding for a fourth championship at the All England Club and 13th Grand Slam title overall.
"It really could have gone either ways.
"Basically until the last shot, I didn't know if I was going to win."
Nadal however was left angered by the decision to leave the roof closed, despite there being no hint of rain on the radar.
As their epic semi-final was brought to a halt, the roof was closed and so the game had to begin with the same circumstances. But the world No.1 still wasn't happy.
"It's an outdoor tournament. OK, we start indoors. What I don't understand is, today, we could have started outdoors.
"Today we continued undercover because we started undercover. I don't think it's right. It's an outdoor tournament.
"If the previous part of the match started with the roof on, there was logic but I don't understand why it had to be closed."
The temperatures inside the stadium soared and left Nadal drenched after only three games into the fourth set.
Event organisers had approached both men prior to the match getting back underway about the decision and Djokovic gave his honest feedback.
"The tournament organisers and referees said that the roof has to be closed because we started the match with the roof closed," Djokovic said.
"They told us we had to play under the roof. I was for the roof because we started to play under it. I wanted to play in the same conditions."
Nadal however didn't want the call to sour the incredible match.
"Of course I am not happy with the final result. Of course, I am happy about being part of this match that has been a great one.
"Normally I am very critical with myself. I hit great shots. I played aggressive. I missed balls, not too many, but I missed some.
"When you play with that intensity, with that level of risk, that level of passion, sometimes you go over, no?
"I have nothing to complain about. I think I played a great match and I do not much more inside me. I give it my best, and that's it.
"It's fair to say that was a great match and he beat me. Well done for him. That's all. That's sport.
"These kind of matches between probably two great players, playing so well both of us, anything could happen. That's it. Today was for him. Well done."
Djokovic hasn't won a major in more than two years, dealing with an injured right elbow that was so painful in 2017 he quit his quarterfinal at Wimbledon and sat out the rest of the season. He had surgery in February, but his results were still shaky.
Until now, that is. His defence and returning are as good as ever and made the difference in his 52nd career tour-level meeting with Nadal, more than any other two men have played.
"In my opinion, he deserved it," Nadal said. "I deserved it, too." Undaunted by losing a lead and being forced to an extra set, Djokovic saved break points at 4-all and 7-all in the fifth, before breaking Nadal at love to end things.
"It's hard to pick the words," said Djokovic, who has won his past eight five-setters at Wimbledon.
"I'm just going through things, flashbacks of the last 15 months, and everything I've been through to get here."
- With AP