• Wimbledon, Day 11

Djokovic defeats Del Potro in decider

ESPN staff
July 5, 2013
Novak Djokovic came through a thriller © PA Photos

Novak Djokovic is through to a second Wimbledon final after the world No. 1 navigated his way past Juan Martin Del Potro in five sets in a pulsating last-four encounter on Centre Court.

The champion of 2011 had effortlessly made his way to the semi-finals, but was given a stern examination by Del Potro as he overcame a serious challenge to win 7-5 4-6 7-6(2) 6-7(6) 6-3 and book his place in an 11th grand slam final - in the greatest match seen at Wimbledon since the 2008 classic between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

The Serb claimed the opening set when forcing Del Potro - troubled by a knee problem throughout the Championships - to serve to stay in it at 6-5 down, but former US Open champion Del Potro refused to lie down and took the second 6-4.

Unable to find a way beyond Del Potro in the third set, Djokovic squandered three set points but recovered to take it in the tiebreak. However, he then blew two match points in the fourth set tiebreak as Del Potro hit back to force a final set - which was one that Djokovic took 6-3 to progress to the final.

Playing in his 13th consecutive semi-final and with an 8-3 winning record over Del Potro, Djokovic had the edge over his opponent, but it was Del Potro who won their only meeting on grass to claim the bronze medal at London 2012, and the Argentine who triumphed in their previous encounter at Indian Wells earlier in the year.

Djokovic put the knee of Del Potro to the test in the opening game by forcing the Argentine around the court. After the Serb comfortably held serve to the loss of one point, Del Potro replied in kind to get on the board.

Del Potro continued to match Djokovic as the pair breezed through love-service games, but after the latter moved 3-2 in front, he put the pressure on his opponent to get the first break point of the match.

However, following plenty of hard hitting in lengthy rallies and a couple of incredible angles from the racket of Djokovic, Del Potro finally took the sixth game to level the set once again.

From 40-0 to 40-30, Djokovic escaped from trouble and produced a fine kick serve out wide at 90mph to seal a 5-4 lead.

With the next two games being shared, Del Potro appeared to be taking the set to a tiebreak at 30-0. However, after Djokovic made a brilliant backhand winner on the stretch down the line and perfected a delicate drop shot, he claimed four points on the spin to take the opening set.

Up on serve after five games in the second set, Djokovic made his move in the sixth game and had four break points to seize the initiative.

But with a couple of serves at 116mph and 122mph, Del Potro was able to save them, and it was the Tower of Tandil who secured the break in the following game to love to go 4-3 in front - taking the first point with a similar shot to his match winner against David Ferrer and then the second chasing down a drop shot.

Djokovic looked to hit back in the next game, but Del Potro continued to play the break points against him superbly, and the world No. 1 could not avoid dropping his first set of the tournament as Del Potro clinched it 6-4 to level the tie.

Djokovic demonstrated the champion he is by producing three quality serves from 0-30 and break point down to take a 3-2 advantage in the third set.

The Australian Open champion struggled to find a way past the defence of Del Potro but managed to fend off two more break points in taking a 4-3 lead.

The play of both men began to reach new heights as they each chased down lost causes - with Del Potro ending up near the spectators and delighting the crowd with his antics on court.

Juan Martin Del Potro pushed Novak Djokovic all the way © PA Photos

Del Potro responded to the question Djokovic posed to stay in the third set with a couple of destructive forehands for 5-5, and saved three set points which included a blistering forehand winner to force a tiebreak.

However, all of his hard work was undone as he handed the mini-break thanks to an overhead smash which found the net - with Djokovic slipping and completely out of the point - and with four more set points Djokovic sealed the set to retake the lead.

The level of the third set was raised in the fourth as the players exchanged brutal hitting from the baseline and took it in turns to invite one another to the net, but it was Djokovic who got the break in the seventh game.

But not for the first time in the contest Del Potro would not throw in the towel and reclaimed the break in stunning fashion with a backhand down the line, and from 0-30 held serve to go 5-4 in front.

Twice Djokovic stayed in the set when trailing as the Serb took it into a tiebreak, but with two match points to his name - and one on his serve - he could not clinch the tie, and instead it was Del Potro who won it to take the thrilling encounter into a fifth and final set.

Break points came and went for both players in the fifth and sixth games of the final set - but Djokovic cut a frustrated figure on court as he made uncharacteristic errors.

After over four and a half hours of play, Djokovic and Del Potro were still full of running, and some in the crowd were up on their feet as they continued to take chunks out of one another.

The break came for Djokovic to enable him to go 5-3 in front, and the top seed on his third match point finally closed out the win with a brilliant backhand winner down the line.

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