7:11 PM CDT, July 5, 2013
WIMBLEDON, England — After a series of upsets had scrambled both halves of the draw, after an epically riveting and sportsmanlike men's semifinal Friday was followed by a semifinal soured by whining, it all came out right, anyway. No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia will face No. 2 Andy Murray of Great Britain for the Wimbledon men's title Sunday, and that's how it should be.
Djokovic, the 2011 champion, and No. 8 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina graced Center Court for 4 hours 43 minutes — a Wimbledon semifinal record — before Djokovic prevailed, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3. They congratulated each other on good shots. They patted one another on the back. They brought honor to the event and to each other.
"It was one of the most thrilling matches that I have ever played, especially here in Wimbledon," said Djokovic, who fired 22 aces to Del Potro's four but was often frustrated by his clever opponent.
"It was very high-quality tennis from the first to the last point."
That it was. "It was unbelievable to watch, but of course I'm sad because I lost and I was close to beating him," Del Potro said. "I think this match is going to be memory for a few years."
Murray's 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz of Poland will be remembered for other reasons.
Those who adore Murray — and that's nearly everyone here, including media that had built up the 6-foot-8 Janowicz to be a long-armed monster — will recall the match because it gave Murray another chance to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. He missed his first chance by losing to Roger Federer in last year's final.
It will also stand out for Janowicz's repeated complaining about the growing darkness and demanding the roof be closed and lights turned on, which ultimately seemed to break his concentration.
Murray argued "there are no rules" when referee Andrew Jarrett said after the third set, at about 8:40 p.m. local time, that the roof would be closed. Murray had just won the last five games to win the third set and thought play could have continued for 45 minutes.
"You've got all the momentum. It's still light," he said. "I just feel that Wimbledon is an outdoor event and you should play outdoors until it is not possible to do that anymore. It worked out OK for me in the end."
Mostly because Janowicz, 22, lacks the big-match experience owned by Murray, a seven-time Grand Slam finalist and the 2012 U.S. Open champion. Murray committed no unforced errors in the fourth set and 15 overall; Janowicz committed 13 in the fourth set and 43 overall. "Such a shame I didn't play my best tennis today," said Janowicz, who double-faulted 11 times.
Despite their earlier friction, the two exchanged friendly words at the net afterward. What did Janowicz say? "I don't feel like losing against [the] runner-up, so I wish him good luck," Janowicz said.
Murray is 7-11 in his career against Djokovic, who was pushed but lifted by Del Potro. Although the Argentine had hyperextended his left knee last week and sometimes seemed slow, he generally covered the court well.
Djokovic broke Del Potro's serve to win the first set but couldn't convert break points in the sixth or eighth games of the second set, and Del Potro won that set by holding serve at love. When Del Potro appeared to be fading in the third set during rallies that drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, he found the strength to continue fighting. Djokovic was up, 5-4, and won the first two points of the next game but Del Potro, the crowd favorite, extended him to a tiebreaker. Several unforced errors, including an overhead Del Potro hit into the net, helped Djokovic win.
"I should win the third set, but then you never know what's going on after that set," Del Potro said.
He went on to win the fourth set after saving two match points, but even that wasn't enough against the supple, powerful, sliding Djokovic. "He play here like clay courts or hard courts," Del Potro said. "That's one of the reasons he's the No. 1 of the world. He can play very good tennis on all surfaces."
And describe it well, too. "It was a cat-and-mouse game, in a way, throughout the match," Djokovic said. "Sometimes I was in control and more aggressive, and sometimes him. That's why it was a lot of tension, you know.
"You needed to stay committed and concentrated in order to wait for the chance. When it's presented, you have to grab it. I managed to do that in the fifth."
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