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Novak Djokovic wins 20th straight match at Wimbledon to advance to men’s finals

  • Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after defeating Canada's Denis Shapovalov during the men's singles semifinals match on day eleven of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London on Friday. AP

  • Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays a return to Canada’s Denis Shapovalov during the men’s singles semifinals match on Friday. AP

  • Australia’s Ashleigh Barty returns against Germany’s Angelique Kerber during her women’s singles semifinals win. AP

Associated Press
Published: 7/9/2021 7:34:43 PM

We know, of course, that Novak Djokovic can lose matches at Wimbledon, and he can lose at other Grand Slam tournaments, too, because it has happened — and actuality proves possibility.

And yet he keeps showing, over and over again, that it is foolhardy to doubt his supremacy at the moment.

The top-seeded Djokovic stretched his current runs to 20 consecutive victories at Wimbledon, dating to 2018, and 20 in a row at all majors this season, working his way in and out of trouble against a much younger, much-less-experienced opponent until eliminating No. 10 Denis Shapovalov 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5 on Friday night to reach the final at the All England Club.

Each set was tight and intense. Each appeared to be within Shapovalov’s grasp. Until it was in Djokovic’s.

“I don’t think that the scoreline says enough about the performance and about the match,” said Djokovic, who saved 5 of 5 break points in the second set, then 3 of 3 in the third.

Then, talking about Shapovalov, a 22-year-old from Canada, Djokovic said: “We’re going to see a lot of him in the future, definitely.”

And now, if he can beat another new-to-these-stages foe, Matteo Berrettini, in Sunday’s final, Djokovic will collect a sixth championship at Wimbledon — third straight — and, more importantly, a 20th Grand Slam title, which would tie his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most by a man in tennis history.

And then there’s this: He already won the Australian Open in February and the French Open in June, so a Wimbledon triumph would put him three-quarters of the way to a calendar-year Grand Slam, with only the U.S. Open remaining.

First things first. This will be Djokovic’s 30th major final, Berrettini’s first. Much as it was Djokovic’s 41st major semifinal, Shapovalov’s first.

Women’s final

Ash Barty will be trying to win a second trophy in her past seven Grand Slam tournaments when she faces Karolina Pliskova at Wimbledon on Saturday.

Pliskova seeks her first major championship, five years after losing in her only previous Slam final.

In matching up against No. 1 seed Barty after eliminating No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals, Pliskova hopes to do something only three women managed to accomplish since the Open era began 53 years ago: beat the top two seeds en route to the title at the All England Club.

Venus Williams pulled that off twice, actually — in 2000 (defeating No. 1 Martina Hingis in the quarterfinals, then No. 2 Lindsay Davenport in the final) and in 2005 (defeating No. 2 Maria Sharapova in the semifinals, then No. 1 Davenport in the final).

The only other examples go back at least a half-century: Ann Jones in 1969 and Evonne Goolagong in 1971.

Goolagong’s second Wimbledon title in 1980 was the most recent for an Australian at the All England Club. Like Goolagong, Barty has indigenous roots; they’ve known each other for more than a decade and Barty is wearing a skirt-and-shirt outfit this fortnight inspired by Goolagong’s dress from 41 years ago.

“Evonne has guided the way,” Barty said. “She’s created a path for all of us as Australians, but as a family, and for our heritage to know that there is an opportunity to chase after your dreams and to do what you love.”

Pliskova came close to the 1-2 double at the 2016 U.S. Open, too, eliminating No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals before getting beaten by No. 2 Angelique Kerber in three sets in the final. Kerber’s victory at Flushing Meadows pushed her up to No. 1 in the rankings.

“So far, my second final, second time I’m playing against a player (who is) No. 1,” Pliskova said Thursday after coming back to top Sabalenka 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 in a match with 32 combined aces, the most for a women’s match at Wimbledon since at least 1977.

“But, no, I think it can’t be any better than that. You want to play the best player in the final,” said Pliskova, who led the WTA rankings herself for eight weeks in 2017. “Of course, I don’t want anybody else but her there.”

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