British No.1 Cameron Norrie is all set to “take it to” Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon semi-final. He now joins Andy Murray, Tim Henman, and Roger Taylor as the only British men to make it to the semi-finals in the singles event at the All England Club in the Open Era.
Meanwhile, it’s sad news for Rafael Nadal fans as the legendary Spaniard was forced to pull out due to abdominal injury. This means Nick Kyrgios receives a walkover to the final.
Norrie believes that he is now facing the ultimate test at Wimbledon – battling it out against the World No. 1, who is also gunning for a fourth successive title.
The other semi-final that was supposed to be between Nadal and Kyrgios was scheduled on Centre Court on Friday. But Nadal announced on Thursday evening that he had to withdraw from the tournament.
Nadal miraculously survived a four-hour and 21-minute quarter-final against Taylor Fritz. But after going through a scan and practice on Thursday, he decided that he will not be playing.
Norrie, who made it past the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time, has certainly broken new ground at Wimbledon. He has won numerous titles on the ATP Tour, but he must have been concerned about his record at majors and is now savoring an extended run at a Slam.
His reaction towards facing Djokovic in the semi-final was positive and Centre Court is expected to rally behind him, just like the crowd on No 1 Court did on Tuesday.
Of course, Norrie is well aware of Djokovic’s record on Centre Court – the mighty Serbian hasn’t lost on the main show court since Andy Murray beat him in the 2013 final.
Norrie isn’t fazed, however.
“It’s obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis, I’d say grass is his favourite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon. It’s going to be tough,” Norrie said.
“But, I’m looking forward to taking it to him and seeing the level he brings. The last time I played him was in Turin, in another big tournament. He played very well but I think I learnt a lot from that.
“I’m going to approach it a little bit differently, tactically. It’s going to be a good challenge, and I’m ready for that.”
Norrie also said that he was likely to reach out to Murray to “see what he’s got” about the world No 1 in the days between his quarter-final and semi-final. It’s a smart decision since Murray is one of the few who beat Djokovic at Wimbledon.
Aside from perfecting his tactical approach, Norrie will also need to figure out how he starts faster than he did in his quarter-final. Regarding his match with David Goffin, he admitted that he “couldn’t feel the ball” early on and it was just in the fourth set that he really found his flow.
But there’s very little time to do that before his match against Djokovic. Whether he has to do some mental practices such as self-talk in his locker, or deciding to speed or slow things down, he has to nail it from the first ball on Friday.
Speaking of self-talk, Djokovic is also aware of its impact. He revealed that a ‘pep talk’ during a bathroom break helped him turn things around during his quarter-final against Jannik Sinner.
The world No. 1 lost the first two sets, but went on to win sets three, four and five, 6-3 6-2 6-2 to reach his 11th Wimbledon semi-final.
It shows that Djokovic already knows just what to do at this stage of a major, having been through this period of strife. It could prove ominous for Norrie, since nothing is new anymore to Djokovic.
However, Djokovic will be playing against a Brit in a major knockout match at Wimbledon again, something that he has played in his mind already.
“We played indoors at the ATP Tour Finals [last time],” Djokovic said. “Of course, that’s different conditions, a different tournament and environment than playing here in Wimbledon on Centre Court in the semi-finals of a Slam in his country.
“I know what to expect if that happens, you know, in terms of the crowd support. For him, there’s not much to lose. Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him. I know that.
“But, I know his game well. He’s been around. I will do my homework and get ready.”
Djokovic aims to reach his eighth Wimbledon final and become the third player in the Open Era aged 35 or older to reach the Wimbledon men’s singles final.
As for Norrie, he will be bidding to become just the second British man in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon final.