Marathon man Novak Djokovic outlasted Juan Del
Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 on Friday to win the
longest semi-final ever played at Wimbledon and reach his second
final at the Championships.
The world number one Serb, who won the 2011 title, will play the winner from second seed Andy Murray and Polish outsider Jerzy Janowicz. The second match was expected to stretch into the night and would come up against a potential 11 pm deadline for the end of play under the lights on Centre Court.
Djokovic's match lasted four hours, 43 minutes, shattering the previous mark for a men's semi of four hours, one minute set in 1989 by Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker.
It was the longest time Del Potro, who came to the contest with a damaged left knee but showed no signs of discomfort, had ever spent on a court in the heat of battle. Djokovic was a veteran of a record five-hour, 53-minute struggle in the 2012 Australian Open final, in which he beat Rafael Nadal.
"This was one of the best matches I've been a part of," said the winner and top seed. "It was one of the most exciting, it was so close, nothing could separate us."
Djokovic ended with 22 aces to four for his Argentine opponent, with the Serb producing 80 winners and breaking on three of 15 occasions against a ferocious Del Potro defence.
Del Potro saved a pair of match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker, the first a 34-stroke monster which left the South American leaning on his racquet and gasping for breath.
The match carried on into the deciding fifth, as afternoon turned into early evening. Djokovic secured a break for 5-3 from a Del Potro forehand that went wide, but then had to come from 0-30 as he tried to serve out the win.
The top seed, playing his 13th consecutive grand slam semi, set up a third match point and came good with his backhand winner to end it.
"I played well except for maybe when I was up two sets to one and a break and dropped serve," said Djokovic, who now leads the series with Del Potro 9-3.
"But that's why he's a champion, He fought for everything. In tough situations he comes up with unbelievable shots.
"I didn't play wrong when I had the match points, but I should have been more aggressive. Credit to him for fighting so hard. I'm very proud to go through."
Djokovic said he failed to capitalise on his opportunities to close out a quicker win, due mainly to his opponent's deadly forehand.
"It was a very high level of tennis, but it's what I expected. I came out ready for five sets. I stayed tough and solid to the end."
Neither man had dropped serve coming into the match. Del Potro was looking to become just the second Argentine man to reach the Wimbledon final after David Nalbandian in 2002, while Djokovic was aiming for a place in his 11th Grand Slam final.
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