Novak Djokovic barely got out of second gear as he swept past subdued Italian eighth seed Jannik Sinner at Wimbledon, easing into a record 35th Grand Slam final with a whirlwind 6-3 6-4 7-6(4) victory under the Centre Court roof on Friday.
Djokovic has turned the famous show court into his own personal fiefdom having not lost there in 10 years and the Serbian is one win away from a record-equalling eighth men’s title at the grasscourt major to match Roger Federer‘s mark.
Top seed Carlos Alcaraz or Russian Daniil Medvedev stand between Djokovic and a 24th Grand Slam title that would equal Margaret Court’s all-time record.
The 21-year-old Sinner was outclassed, falling flat on the big occasion and allowing Djokovic, 14 years his senior, to turn the screw at key moments in the contest.
He let break points slip through his fingers, including two set points in the third, while Djokovic was clinical as usual, applying constant pressure on the Italian’s serve and pouncing on opportunities when they arose.
The second seed wrapped up the match when Sinner dumped a backhand into the net, leaving the Serbian to accept the applause of the crowd, who had cheered his opponent throughout.
Djokovic does not appear to be slowing down as the years pass and will be a heavy favourite to become the oldest man in the Open era at 36 to win the Wimbledon title.
“I’d like to believe that’s the case,” he said when asked if he was playing the best tennis of his career.
“We are part of an individual sport so you have to rely on yourself and put yourself in the best physical and mental state before heading out on court.
“I feel 36 is the new 26, it feels pretty good. I feel a lot of motivation.”
The difference between the best and the rest is so often their ability to raise their level when it matters and while Sinner’s best moments came when the pressure was off, Djokovic produced his best when the tension was at its highest.
The first two games were a microcosm of the contest with Sinner having two break points and spurning them both, before Djokovic attacked the Italian’s serve and set up a break point that he gobbled up when Sinner sent a forehand wide.
Sinner then spurned another chance to break in the fifth game, leaving Djokovic to cruise through the rest of the opener.
Djokovic won only six points on the Sinner serve in the first set, but that was all he needed, celebrating with a clenched fist as he strolled back to his chair.
The Serbian set up three further break points in the third game of the second set, with Sinner saving the first two before sending a forehand long to fall behind again.
Perhaps the biggest contest in the second set was between Djokovic and the umpire Richard Haigh, who awarded Sinner a point in the fourth game after penalising Djokovic for letting out a roar long after hitting the ball.
The Serbian’s habit of bouncing the ball for an age before serving earned him a code violation in the same game but even these interventions failed to get his pulse racing as he stayed ice cool to wrap up the second set with little further drama.
Sinner showed some fight to save three break points to go 2-1 up in the third set but when his own opportunity to strike presented itself he was once again found wanting.
The Italian earned two set points on the Djokovic serve at 4-5, but was off target with a backhand on the first and then passed up the second when he missed with a wild forehand swipe.
He briefly moved into the box seat in the tiebreak with a mini-break but Djokovic did not fancy hanging around, eventually setting up match point when Sinner scuffed a shot into the net and then sealing the deal when the Italian netted a backhand.