Andy Murray raises the roof to reach final
Novak Djokovic defeats Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro in four hours and 44 minutes
Andy Murray of Britain celebrates after defeating Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in their men’s semi-final tennis match at Wimbledon. Photograph: Reuters
All that was left when they departed was the buzzing of chatter, the overturned paper cups by the vacant chairs and that empty feeling left behind when the carnival leaves town.
But last night Murray brought his own party that lasted long into the night, where he earned a final date with Djokovic.
He even constructed a hill to climb when the big swinging 6 ft 8in Janowicz took the first set in a tiebreak, going up 4-0 and never looking back. But nerves showed and the 22-year-old Pole double-faulted in his first service game of the second set for Murray to go a break up and hold out for 1-1.
The third also looked unsteady for Murray early on as Janowicz earned two break points. But the Scot rattled in three straight aces to dig himself out. He then fell behind for 4-1 but with inspired returning of the 140 mph deliveries, he broke back twice and served for the set 6-4. It was then the referee arrived at courtside to deliver the news that had Murray seething. Because of the fading light at 8.40pm, it was decided to close the roof and turn on lights. That required at least 20 minutes. With momentum on his side the number two seed fumed at the referee.
“It’s not even dark,” he pleaded. “I don’t understand these rules, there are at least 40 to 45 minutes or an hour left of tennis. This is not fair.”
Few would have disagreed. The light from a cloudless sky was perfect. “How long had he been complaining about the darkness. It’s not even dark,” added Murray pointedly. Janowicz had been in constant conversation with the umpire about when the roof would be closed.
In the end they broke play for 28 minutes. But the more experienced 26-year-old returned even more bullet proof and shot to a 3-1 lead as a frustrated Janowicz entirely lost poise. He doubled faulted for match point before Murray murdered the final ball with a forehand return winner, 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
“I was delighted with that. It was a very tough match, completely different from the others. He was very unpredictable. He hit huge serves and gave me little rhythm. I was very happy to get it done. The third set was huge I was 4-1 down and won five games in a row,” said Murray.
“This year has been different for me. because I was expected to get to the final. After last year’s semi-final I was very emotional. Today I was just delighted to come through.”
The, other semi-final, the longest in Wimbledon history at four hours and 43 minutes could have been a marathon for the wrong reasons of game mismanagement, unforced errors or fragile temperaments. But not this one. And its length is what made it a lion hearted classic. Of another era and an antidote to the instant gratification in a text age, the Wimbledon dinosaurs are still alive and can continue to enthral. Even the enamelled Djokovic knew as soon as he had beaten Del Potro 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3 that the match had been, in its way grandiose.
The Argentinean broke the Djokovic serve for the first time in the competition, demanded that he scramble for five sets on the hottest day and handle 120 mph forehands. The game’s elastic man did it all, his sliding returns bringing him out wide of the tramlines and almost into the splits.
“It was one of the best matches that I have been a part of,” said Djokovic. “It was a very high level of tennis today. I’m just very proud to go through, privileged to be a winner.”
The previous longest semi-final was in 1989 when Boris Becker beat Ivan Lendl in four hours and one minute. Since then the strings and the racquets have evolved and so too have the players with Djokovic going five hours 53 minutes against Rafa Nadal to win last years Australian Open.
But Del Potro was an almost equal partner, an ideal foil for Djokovic to colour the afternoon with a returning game that confounded spectators and opponent alike.
“I know that I have been pushed to the limit today. It was one of the most thrilling matches that I have ever played,” said Djokovic.