Novak Djokovic reaches sixth Wimbledon final; will face Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic reaches sixth Wimbledon final; will face Roger Federer

The defending champion was stretched by Roberto Bautista Agut before coming through in four sets on Centre Court.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic avenged back-to-back losses to Roberto Bautista Agut from earlier this year on Friday, beating the Spaniard, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, to reach his sixth career Wimbledon final.

"I had to dig deep," Djokovic told the BBC after coming off the court. "Roberto was playing his first semifinal of a Grand Slam, but regardless of that he wasn't really overwhelmed by the stadium or the occasion. He played really well. In the first set he was probably still managing his nerves—he had some uncharacteristic unforced errors—but from the second set he established himself, looked comfortable, placed his serves well and opened up the points.

"I got a little bit tight, and the opening four or five games of the third set was where the match probably could've gone a different way, but I'm really glad it went my way today."

Djokovic, who has now won 12 of his last 13 Grand Slam semifinals, is into the Wimbledon final for the sixth time in his career, going 4-1 in his first five finals. He captured the title in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2018, and finished runner-up to Andy Murray in 2013. 

He's now through to the 25th Grand Slam final of his career, going 15-9 in his first 24. Awaiting him in this final will be No. 2 seed Roger Federer, who edged No. 3 seed and longtime rival Rafael Nadal in the second semifinal later in the day, 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic leads Federer in their overall head-to-head, 25-22, and 9-6 at Grand Slams. They've played three times on grass, all at Wimbledon, with Federer beating Djokovic in the 2012 semifinals but the Serb beating the Swiss in back-to-back finals in 2014 and 2015.

"He played great against Bautista Agut," Federer said of Djokovic. "He's defending champion, and he showed why this week. He's been rock solid from start to finish. I hope I can push him to the brink and hopefully beat him. But it'll be difficult—he's not No. 1 by chance."

"Of course I will watch it - I'll definitely see parts of it," Djokovic said. "Federer-Nadal is one of the most epic rivalries of all time, so it's fantastic to see them playing again."

Not only had Bautista Agut won the pair's only two previous meetings in 2019, at Doha in January and Miami in March, but he had actually won three of their last five meetings, also getting the better of the world No. 1 at the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai in 2016.

Djokovic came out strong, breaking in the second game of the match en route to a 3-0 lead and eventually putting away the first set after 36 minutes, but Bautista Agut struck back early in the second set, breaking in the third game en route to a 3-1 lead - he then held serve the rest of the set, not even facing a break point, until he tied the semifinal at a set apiece.

The early stages of the third were tense, but the No. 1-seeded Djokovic broke for a 4-2 lead and never really looked back, eventually finishing off the No. 23-seeded Bautista Agut after two hours and 48 minutes on Centre Court, forcing one last forehand error on match point.

Despite the loss, it was still a phenomenal fortnight for Bautista Agut - not only did he reach the first Grand Slam semifinal of his career, but he's now projected to rise from No. 22 to No. 13 on the ATP rankings, a return to the career-high he first reached in 2016.

"Every experience I've had in my tennis career has made me a better player, and I got a lot of experience in this match - a lot of new situations, a lot of new emotions," the Spaniard said. "I'm very happy with the way I played and with the result I had here at Wimbledon."

Djokovic only had good things to say about Bautista Agut in his post-match press conference.

"I think Bautista possesses a lot of quality in his game," he said. "Also mentally he's very consistent. He stays there. He's very focused. You will not see any outbursts or any downs, so to say, in his attitude on the court. I respect him a lot. I think he's very underrated as a player. I think he really deserved to be in the semifinals. I wish him all the best."

Djokovic, who has now won 12 of his last 13 Grand Slam semifinals, is into the Wimbledon final for the sixth time in his career, going 4-1 in his first five finals. He captured the title in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2018, and finished runner-up to Andy Murray in 2013.