Novak Djokovic has cemented his reputation as one of the most divisive figures in tennis after booking his place in the Wimbledon final with a come-from-behind victory over Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the last four.
Djokovic recovered from a shaky start to keep his quest for a fourth straight Wimbledon title alive, courtesy of a 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 semi-final triumph over local hope, Norrie.
The comeback victory set the stage for an enthralling championship showdown on Sunday with Nick Kyrgios, who’s hoping to become Australia’s first men’s champion at the All England Club since Lleyton Hewitt reigned 20 years ago.
Djokovic overcame a strong start from Norrie, who was riding a wave of emotion from a loud and parochial home crowd, many of whom booed the Serbian throughout the contest.
Norrie was given a standing ovation from fans at centre court after the match, with Djokovic showing his class by standing at the net and joining in the applause for his opponent, as he made his way off court.
However, it was a gesture towards the crowd from the 20-time grand slam champion after the match, that sparked furious debate on social media.
Having been booed by fans during his serve, Djokovic turned towards that section of the crowd after sealing victory and blew a sarcastic kiss towards those who had been heckling him.
Some fans insisted it was the perfect response to the animosity Djokovic had copped during the match, while others saw it as a “classless” act from the Serb.
The six-time Wimbledon champion’s new mark of 32 finals at the majors is a record for men’s tennis.
It puts him one ahead of Roger Federer and two clear of Rafael Nadal, who pulled out of his semi-final with Kyrgios due to injury.
Djokovic was full of respect and admiration for Norrie after the match.
“Cameron didn’t have much to lose, he was playing the tournament of his life,” Djokovic said.
“He’s a great player and I have a lot of respect for him.
“Cameron was dominating the play and I got lucky to break his serve in the second set.
“He gifted me a game and from then I think momentum shifted.”
Djokovic and Norrie both dropped serve at the first time of asking, with the crowd offering vocal backing to the ninth seed.
But while Norrie quickly found his rhythm, Djokovic – apart from a stunning “tweener” lob – was strangely off-key, losing his serve twice more in the set, which Norrie sealed with an ace.
The Serb landed just 55 percent of his first serves and made 12 unforced errors against his left-handed opponent in the opening set.
Djokovic looked more composed at the start of the second set, finding more rhythm on his serve and cutting out the errors.
Novak Djokovic roars back to set up Nick Kyrgios showdown
A single break for the 35-year-old in the eighth game changed the complexion of the match, putting him 5-3 up.
That was part of a run of eight games out of nine for the 35-year-old, who took the second set and then rocketed into a 5-1 lead in the third, giving Norrie a mountain to climb.
Djokovic again broke early in the fourth set and did not concede a single break point as he cantered to victory.
The Serb is now on a 27-match winning streak at Wimbledon as he seeks to draw level with Pete Sampras on seven titles at the All England Club – just one behind Federer’s men’s record.
If he wins the title he would reach 21 Grand Slam titles, moving past Federer and just one behind Nadal in the race to be crowned the greatest of all time.
Djokovic already knows he will be playing 40th-ranked Kyrgios after Nadal quit the tournament ahead of his semi-final against the Australian because of an abdominal injury.
Kyrgios, 27, will be playing in his first Grand Slam final but has a 2-0 winning record against Djokovic.
“The job is not finished,” said Djokovic, chasing his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title.
“One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both sides.
“He is playing freely, has a big game and a lot of power in his shots. I’ve never won a set off him – hopefully it can be different this time. He doesn’t have much to lose.”