Wimbledon: Defending champion Novak Djokovic reached his sixth Wimbledon final Friday as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal prepared to meet at the All England Club for the first time since their epic 2008 title showdown. World number one and four-time Wimbledon winner Djokovic booked his 25th Grand Slam final appearance with a nervy 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph over Spain's 23rd seed Roberto Bautista Agut. "This has been a remarkable tournament for me and to be in another final is a dream come true," said the top seed.
"I had to dig deep, Roberto was playing his first semi-final at a Grand Slam and he was not really overwhelmed. "It was a really close opening four to five games of the third set that could have gone either way, thankfully it went mine." The 32-year-old will go into Sunday's final seeking a 16th major title with a career advantage over both his great rivals. He leads Federer 25-22 and Nadal 28-26. "I will watch Federer and Nadal. I am a fan of that match up, it's one of the most epic rivalries of all time." Watched by a Royal Box crammed with sports and movie A-listers, David Beckham, Rod Laver, Gary Player, Jude Law, Damian Lewis, Djokovic swept through the first set with breaks in the second and eighth games.
It seemed certain that Djokovic was going to spend a lot less time on court in this semi-final compared to 12 months ago when he needed five sets and five hours and 15 minutes to beat Nadal. However, Bautista Agut, who had already defeated the Serb twice this year, eventually settled and broke for 2-1 in the second set. Djokovic fought off two break points, via a 23-shot rally, in the fifth game. But the 31-year-old Bautista Agut held his nerve to eventually level the semi-final at 6-4 off a fortuitous net cord. Djokovic, increasingly irritated by a restless crowd, broke for 4-2 in the third set and held for 5-2 off the back of a lung-busting 45-shot rally. The set was secured, ironically off another net cord which fell this time in the Serb's favour.
Bautista Agut, who had planned to be in Ibiza this week for his stag party, fought off break points in the opening game of the fourth set. But Djokovic was relentless and tightened his grip, breaking twice for a 4-1 lead, and eventually claimed victory on a fifth match point. Djokovic in the process equalled Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors and Rod Laver in the fifth place on the all-time list of most men's singles Wimbledon final. Roberto Bautista Agut tried hard, held his serve, challenged Djokovic in the final service game but the world No.1 marched on and he stays on course for a title defence at the All England Club.
The world No 1 was pushed harder than expected by the No 23 seed but the Serb pulled away to move within one win of a fifth Wimbledon title. “I had to dig deep,” Djokovic said. “I got a bit tight and it was a very important probably first four or five games of the second set. That was where the match could have gone both ways, but thankfully it went my way.” Djokovic played a near-flawless first set but his level dipped slightly at the start of the second and Bautista Agut, who had seemed nervy early on, grew in confidence. After breaking early, he held the advantage to level the match. The third set was nip and tuck early on but Djokovic broke for 4-2 and then, facing two break points, he won a 45-shot rally to extend his lead, going on to win the set. That knocked the belief out of Bautista Agut and Djokovic broke for 2-1, again for 4-1 and though the Spaniard saved four match points, the world No 1 finished things off to book his place in another final.