Wimbledon, England – In one of the greatest semifinal matches in Wimbledon history, former champion Novak Djokovic outlasted Juan Martin del Potro in a five-set classic, while last year's runner-up Andy Murray secured a berth in his second straight final at The Championships.
The world No. 1 Djokovic pulled out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 victory over the eighth-seeded del Potro in a Wimbledon-semifinal-record 4 hours, 43 minutes on a warm, sun-filled Friday afternoon, while the reigning U.S. Open champion Murray overcame 24th-seeded rising Polish star Jerzy Janowicz 6-7 (2-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in the other final-four encounter.
Djokovic and Murray will square off in a blockbuster men's final on Sunday, with the winner taking home a cool $2.4 million.
In one of the finest semifinals, or tennis matches for that matter, that you'll ever see, Djokovic and del Potro slugged it out, displaying powerful groundstrokes and amazing court coverage. The incredibly physical match featured 64 rallies of nine points or more, most of which were actually won by the formidable Argentine.
Djokovic pulled out a very tight first set, but del Potro proved that he was here to stay on Day 11 by leveling the bout with a hard-fought second-set victory. He broke Djokovic for a 4-3 lead in the second and then held on from there to claim the stanza.
In the third set, Djokovic blew a 40-love lead in the 12th game and lost a chance, for the time being, to take the stanza that eventually went to a tiebreak, which the world No. 1 Serb won easily. Both players failed to break serve in the tense frame.
The fourth set was simply a battle of attrition.
Following a break by Djokovic, del Potro broke back to level the fourth at 4-4, and the set was on its way to a tiebreak.
In the extra session, del Potro saved a match point when Djokovic floated a forehand long to cap a long, brilliant rally. The Serb had another match point after that, but del Potro saved that one as well with a forehand winner to even the tiebreak at 6-6.
Two points later, del Potro forced a deciding fifth set when Djokovic netted a backhand, prompting the crowd at Centre Court to come to its feet in amazement.
The fifth set stayed on serve until the eighth game, when the ferocious Djokovic broke a tiring del Potro for a 5-3 lead. The match came to an end in the next game when Djokovic held serve, converting on his third match point with a backhand winner.
"It was one of the best matches I've been a part of," Djokovic said. "One of the most exciting, definitely. It was so close. You couldn't separate us. That's why he's a Grand Slam champion. Every time he's in a tough situation, he comes up with some unbelievable shots. I didn't think I played wrong when I was match points up in the tiebreak. Credit to him for fighting."
The Serbian star swatted 22 aces and broke del Potro three times, while the Argentine settled for only four aces and two breaks in defeat. Djokovic also tallied 32 more winners (80-48) in advancing.
Djokovic is now 9-3 lifetime against the hard-luck loser del Potro and the Serb is 4-0 in their career Grand Slam matchups. Friday marked their first- ever Wimbledon clash.
The 6-foot-7, 2009 U.S. Open champion del Potro upset Djokovic in last year's Olympic bronze-medal match on the famed grass here at the All England Club.
The 26-year-old Djokovic will appear in his ninth final at the last 12 Grand Slam events. He owns six major singles titles overall, including this year's Australian Open and the 2011 Wimbledon championship.
The 26-year-old appeared in his 13th straight Grand Slam semifinal and is now 2-3 in his career Wimbledon semis.
The 24-year-old del Potro dropped to 1-2 in his major semifinals.
In the Murray-Janowicz affair, Murray double-faulted to end the first-set tiebreak as the mostly British faithful looked on.
The second-seeded Dunblane, Scotland native, however, would right the ship en route to claiming the next three sets.
The 6-foot-8 Janowicz, the tallest-ever Grand Slam semifinalist in the Open Era, broke Murray for a 3-1 lead in the third and then held for a 4-1 advantage, but a determined Murray charged back by winning five straight games to grab a two-sets-to-one lead. He broke Janowicz to pull within 3-4, broke again for a 5-4 edge, and then held in the 10th game, which came to a close with a resounding ace by the Brit.
Officials then decided to close the retractable roof over Centre Court, delaying the match for about 30 minutes, much to the chagrin of Murray, who wanted to play on and build on the momentum he'd created over the second half of the third set.
The fourth set was dominated by Murray, who broke the big-serving Janowicz for a 2-1 lead and never looked back. Murray would convert on his first match point when he struck an easy forehand return winner.
The match ended in just over three hours, as Murray drilled 20 aces, while Janowicz was piling up 11 double faults. Murray broke his Polish counterpart five times, while Janowicz settled for only one break in defeat.
Murray was asked how he felt to reach his second straight Wimbledon final.
"I'm obviously delighted with that," he said. "It was a very tough match today ... I'm glad to get it done.
"This year's been a little bit different for me because I was expected to get to the final."
The 6-foot-3 Murray, who skipped last month's French Open due to injury, is now 25-2 in his last 27 Grand Slam matches.
He appeared in his fifth straight Wimbledon semifinal (2-3). Murray lost to Roger Federer in last year's marquee final, but then upset the seven-time Wimbledon champ in the Olympic gold-medal match a month later here on the famed Centre Court.
The 26-year-old Murray is trying to give Britain its first male Wimbledon champion in 77 years, or since Fred Perry turned the trick back in 1936.
The 22-year-old Janowicz, who became a regular on the ATP World Tour just last season, fell to 1-2 lifetime against Murray. He also became the first-ever Polish man to play in a Grand Slam semifinal on Friday.
Djokovic and Murray will meet for a 19th time, with the Serb holding an 11-7 lifetime advantage. The good friends have met in four Grand Slam matches, with Djokovic going 3-1. This will mark their first-ever Wimbledon meeting.
"Tough match," Murray said of the upcoming battle.
Djokovic is 37-19 in his career ATP finals, with a perfect 3-0 mark this year, including Aussie Open and Monte Carlo Masters titles. He's 6-4 in his career Grand Slam finals.
Murray is 27-14 in his career finals, including a 3-1 record this year, but is a disappointing 1-5 in his career major finals, including an Aussie Open loss to Djokovic back in January.