It says a lot about Novak Djokovic that a two-sets-to-none hole at Wimbledon on a day he was hardly at his best never seemed insurmountable.
A lot about his history of overcoming that sort of deficit. A lot about his ability to adjust, adapt and to right himself quickly. A lot about his preeminence at the All England Club in recent years. A lot about what might happen if — or, rather, when — he got back into the match and it eventually went to a fifth set.
Djokovic spotted 10th-seeded Jannik Sinner of Italy the huge lead Tuesday, then worked his way back to win 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 at Centre Court, earning an 11th semifinal berth at Wimbledon with his 26th consecutive victory at the grass-court Grand Slam tournament.
“I always believed,” Djokovic said, “that I could turn the match around.”
Among men, only Roger Federer has made more semifinal appearances at Wimbledon with 13 and more championships (eight) than the seven Djokovic could reach by lifting the trophy Sunday for what would be a fourth year in a row.
Djokovic managed his seventh career comeback in a match in which he trailed by two sets — he last did it in the 2021 French Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas — and improved to 37-10 in five-setters. That includes a 10-1 mark in matches that go the distance at Wimbledon, including nine straight victories; the lone loss came in 2006.
In the semifinals Friday, the top-seeded 35-year-old Serbian will meet either No. 9 Cameron Norrie of Britain or unseeded David Goffin of Belgium. The men’s quarterfinals Wednesday: No. 2 Rafael Nadal of Spain vs. No. 11 Taylor Fritz of the U.S., and Nick Kyrgios of Australia vs. Cristian Garin of Cile.
The first player into the women’s semifinals was 103rd-ranked Tatjana Maria, who defeated Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in an all-German matchup. Maria is 34, making her only the sixth woman at least that old to get this far at Wimbledon in the professional era, which began in 1968.
The others? It’s quite a list: Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
This is Maria’s 35th Grand Slam tournament; only once had she made it as far as the third round.
She’ll take on No. 3 Ons Jabeur of Tunisia or Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic for a spot in Saturday’s final. The other women’s quarterfinals: 2019 champion Simona Halep of Romania vs. No. 20 Amanda Anisimova of the U.S., and No. 17 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan vs. Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia.
Of the women’s quarterfinalists, only Halep owns a major title (she has two).
That sort of edge in experience certainly aided Djokovic, who is seeking his 21st Grand Slam trophy. Tuesday’s match brought Sinner’s major quarterfinal appearance total to three, which is exactly — checks notes — 50 fewer than Djokovic’s.
Djokovic is 14-plus years older than Sinner, 20, which made for the third-largest age gap in a Wimbledon men’s quarterfinal.
Sinner has shown enormous potential, reaching the quarterfinals at the 2020 French Open before losing to Nadal and the 2022 Australian Open before losing to Tsitsipas.