Djokovic on Wimbledon challengers: They want to win but it ain’t happening

The Serbian’s 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory on Centre Court sent him through to the last four at a major for the 46th time.

Novak Djokovic on Wimbledon challengers: They want to win but it ain’t happening PA Media

Novak Djokovic had a message to the pretenders to his grand slam crown after beating Andrey Rublev to reach another Wimbledon semi-final – “It ain’t happening.”

The Serbian’s 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-3 victory on Centre Court sent him through to the last four at a major for the 46th time, equalling Roger Federer’s all time men’s record, and extended his winning run at Wimbledon to 33 matches.

Djokovic is now only two wins away from a 24th grand slam title and, although this performance was not quite perfect, it was another demonstration of what it will take to stop the 36-year-old lifting the trophy for an eighth time.

Asked how it felt to be the man always with a target on his back, Djokovic said: “I love it. Any tennis player wants to be in the position where everyone wants to win against you.

“Pressure is a privilege, as Billie Jean (King) said. It’s never going to go away. It awakens the most beautiful emotions in me and it motivates me beyond what I’ve ever dreamed of and inspires me to play my best tennis.

“I know they want to get a scalp, they want to win, but it ain’t happening.”

Rublev played a terrific match yet landed only a glancing blow on Djokovic, with the Russian now the first man in the open era to have lost his first eight slam quarter-finals.

He is one of the hardest hitters in the game, particularly off his forehand, while his intensity has made him a favourite of Djokovic’s five-year-old daughter Tara.

Rublev lost in straight sets to Djokovic at the same stage of the Australian Open and he knew the importance of hanging with the defending champion, which he did by saving three break points in the sixth game.

The pair were fighting fire with fire and Djokovic thrust his arm into the air after winning one particularly fierce exchange.

He dropped his level at the end of the opening set, though, and Rublev capitalised, clinching a break point to lead 5-4 and then serving it out.

It was the second set Djokovic had dropped in successive rounds after a wobble against Hubert Hurkacz but he responded in impressive fashion, racing into a 5-0 lead in the second set.

If Rublev struggles to get to sleep, it may well be because of the third set, where he certainly had his chances but could not take them.

Two break points came and went in the second game before Djokovic turned the dial to relentless in the fifth game and got the break.

Rublev did well to stay in it, saving more break points at 2-4, and it so nearly paid off with Djokovic serving at 5-4. Missing two set points seemed to set the second seed on edge and the game turned into a Wimbledon classic.

Djokovic saved one break point with a rare serve and volley only for Rublev to set up another in a brilliant net exchange.

Djokovic was wavering on second serve in particular but Rublev could not take advantage and, after saving three break points in total, he finally converted his fifth set point.

The Serbian gave a long look to his support camp before giving an extended clench of the fist towards the crowd, who had been strongly supporting his opponent – even against a Russian, Djokovic was still second favourite.

Playing here made Djokovic just the third player after Federer and Serena Williams to contest 400 slam singles matches, and he has won a remarkable 353 of them.

While Rublev continued to battle in the fourth set, another break of serve in the third game gave Djokovic the advantage and he pulled away to set up a semi-final clash with Jannik Sinner.

Rublev was left with mixed feelings, saying: “I think (it’s) my first quarter-final that I feel proud of myself. Then, of course, you wanted to win. I was doing everything to try to win this match.”

The 25-year-old was the first Russian player to make a statement against the invasion of Ukraine, writing ‘No war please’ on the camera lens after a match in Dubai last February.

He was hugely appreciative of the backing he received on his return to Wimbledon, saying: “I felt really great support during all these two weeks. To be from the country where I am, to have this support, it’s special.

“I feel sometimes I don’t deserve it or something like that. I’m really grateful for this.

“It’s not (feeling) guilty. It’s more just the situation is terrible. Of course, you don’t wish this to anyone.

“You want these terrible things to be able to finish as fast as possible for all the people in the world just to have a chance to have a good life.”

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