Djokovic takes 2-1 lead against Nadal before semi-final halted

Novak Djokovic takes 2-1 lead against Rafael Nadal before semi-final halted at 11.02pm due to Wimbledon curfew

  • First match since the roof was added in 2009 to be stopped due to 11pm curfew
  • Strict curfew imposed by Merton Council to avoid disruption to local residents
  • Great rivals will resume at 1pm on Saturday with Djokovic leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 
  • Djokovic vs Nadal, LIVE: Wimbledon semi-final continues at 1pm (BST), 14 July

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic face the ordeal of a quickfire semi-final shootout on Saturday after a brilliant late night tiebreak handed the Serb the advantage.

Djokovic packed up a two sets to one lead in his racket bag after stealing it 11-9 to earn himself potentially a better night sleep than the world No 1, after both men treated the Centre Court to a brilliant display until just after Wimbledon’s 11pm curfew.

They will resume at 1pm on Saturday with him leading 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 after two hours and 54 minutes of superb combat which could barely separate them. A measure of that is each player having won 107 points so far.

Novak Djokovic started brightly and took the first centre on Centre Court on Friday night

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The match will reach its conclusion under the roof unless both players agree otherwise, and the likelihood is that the scheduled 2pm start for the women’s final will be delayed.

There was the odd whistle from the crowd upon Friday night’s suspension but most were sated by one of Wimbledon’s longest days. In the middle of a residential area, the local authority have a long agreed cut-off time for night sessions under the translucent cover.

Nadal will feel like a football team who have conceded a goal just before half-time, because he really should have won the third set, and had it taken from under his nose by some resilient serving under pressure from the number twelve seed.

Rafael Nadal ralled to take the second set and level the match after an early break of serve

If anything it was Djokovic who looked the more tired towards the end, despite the Spaniard having spent four hours and 48 minutes getting through his quarter final against Juan Martin Del Potro.

The Serb, starting to make poor tactical decisions, had to cling on to force the tiebreak. He forged a 5-3 lead in the tiebreak which was eroded by two deft dropshots that wrongfooted him, and then needed to save three set points from 5-6 down.

On two of these he pulled out service winners and on the other played a dropshot of his own. Having got to 9-8 he was beaten by a service winner but then rifled a ball to Nadal’s feet which he could not control.

The Serbian gives his great rival Nadal a challenge no other player can

Then, at 10-9, he produced a trademark backhand down the line to force a final error and promptly walked to his chair without a hint of celebration.

The sheer length of the first semi-final raised the stakes for both players, as it is hard to believe that Kevin Anderson will not be wrecked by what he had put his body through earlier.

This is likely to turn out to be the de facto final unless the South African makes a miracle recovery, a chance for Nadal or Djokovic to win a Wimbledon title after a season which has seen both of them either injured or well below their best.

The match did not start until 8.09pm due to epic tie between Kevin Anderson and John Isner

You would hardly have known that from the quality of these three sets, which featured two breaks of serve for each player, in contrast to what had gone before. Everything remains to play for today, and whoever wins will be clear favourite to win the final, providing it is not another marathon.

Their meeting at May’s Italian Open, where Djokovic was in the middle of his long climb back to this sort of standard, was the only previous meeting of the so-called Big Four this year. None of the celebrated quartet had met each other at a Grand Slam since the Australian Open eighteen months ago.

This is a strange figure when one considers the sheer amount of times these two have played – 51 – the most meetings of any two players in the modern era.

As the clock ticked to 11pm but on the final lung-busting rally, it was Nadal who faltered first

Having waited around in the locker room for such an eternity, one might have expected some sluggishness at the beginning. However, the Centre Court crowd who had dug in for this day-nighter might have thought they were watching a different sport.

Two relatively normal size athletes were scampering around the court carving out articulate rallies immediately, although there were some poor choices of direction early on from Nadal.

He was under more pressure of the two, and at 2-3 was broken when he was forced into a netting a forehand.

Announcement of the curtailment of play was greeted with understandable disappointment

Djokovic’s deep returns of serve were causing problems and he missed a break chance at 1-1 in the second before he played his first wayward game to go behind 3-1, damage which he immediately repaired in the next game.

The satisfying pop of the ball under the roof was only added to by the beautifully clean ballstriking. Both men were pushing the other to a higher level and Nadal broke again with a forehand to restore his lead.

He comfortably held to take the set, showing no ill-effects from his four hours and 48 minute quarter final against Juan Martin Del Potro.

It was actually Djokovic who started to look the more fatigued in the third set, taking some wrong tactical options that Nadal almost converted into breaks. 

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