Wimbledon preview: Norrie, Kyrgios face Grand Slam greats
Defending champ Djokovic closes on final as Nadal pursues return to decider
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) v Cameron Norrie (GBR x9)
While only eight places separate this duo in the seedings, the chasm in experience at this end of a major is substantial.
Ninth seed Norrie had never passed the third round at a Grand Slam until last week but after breaking that hoodoo, the South African-born, New Zealand-raised Briton played with considerably more freedom on the grass.
Like the top-seeded Djokovic, he was taken the distance in the quarter-finals, in his case against former world No.7 David Goffin.
Djokovic is riding a 26-match unbeaten streak on Wimbledon’s grass and is through to his 11th semi-final in SW19.
The 35-year-old’s exemplary record in five-set matches was on full display on Tuesday, when he surged back from two sets down to deny 10th seed Jannik Sinner.
It marked the third time this tournament the Serbian had dropped a set.
Djokovic completely dominated the left-handed 26-year-old in their only prior encounter in the round-robin stage of the ATP Finals in London last year.
On that outing, the world No.3 allowed his opponent just three games.
The home crowd is expected to lift Norrie that extra notch and he is likely to need it, without a powerful first serve to pick off cheap points against one of the greatest returners of all time.
The top seed has held 91 per cent of his service games to Norrie’s 86 per cent this fortnight, winning 82 per cent of first-serve points, 11 per cent more than his semi-final foe.
The duo is more evenly matched in return games, with both claiming 34 per cent.
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID
Djokovic: “I know what to expect… in terms of the crowd support. For him, not much to lose. Every victory from now onwards is a big deal for him. I know that. But, you know, I practised few times. I know his game well. He's been around. Of course I will do my homework and get ready.”
Norrie: “I think it's obviously one of the toughest tasks in tennis. I'd say grass is his favourite surface and his record is unbelievable here at Wimbledon. It's going to be tough. I'm going to have to improve a lot of things.”
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) v Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Some 14 years to the day since he toppled Roger Federer in an epic contest deemed the greatest Wimbledon final seen, Rafael Nadal conjured a five-set triumph to keep his 2022 campaign alive.
The Spaniard, on track for his third straight major title of the season, denied 11th seed Taylor Fritz in a match tie-break on Wednesday to set a much-anticipated showdown with Australian Nick Kyrgios.
Fritz had snapped Nadal’s 20-match winning start to the season in the Indian Wells final but was unable to capitalise on a two-sets-to-one lead on the grass.
Having been stretched the distance in two of his four opening matches, the firebrand Kyrgios cut a composed figure as he comfortably took down Chilean Cristian Garin in straight sets.
It was his first Grand Slam quarter-final appearance since the 2015 Australian Open.
The seventh man in the Open Era to notch eight or more semi-finals at Wimbledon, Nadal leads the pair’s head-to-head 6-3, including once already this year in a tightly contested Indian Wells quarter-final.
Kyrgios has the artillery to beat anyone on his day and Nadal will need to recover in time for round 10 in this enticing rivalry, after expressing concerns of an abdominal injury, following his four-hour, 20-minute heroics against Fritz.
A 19-year-old then 144th-ranked Kyrgios sprung one of the greatest Wimbledon upsets over then No.1 Nadal to reach the quarter-finals in 2014 but the Spaniard squared the SW19 ledger in the second round in 2019.
Kyrgios has clocked a tournament-leading 120 aces, to Nadal’s 33, claiming 94 per cent of his service games to his opponent’s 82 per cent, but has claimed only 19 per cent of return games, 11 per cent lower than the Spaniard’s tally.
WHAT THE PLAYERS SAID
Nadal: “First thing, I hope to be ready to play… Nick is a great player, on all surfaces but especially here on grass. He’s having a great grass-court season. It's going to be a big challenge. I need to be at my 100 per cent to keep having chances and that’s what I’m going to try to do."
Kygrios: “I just never thought I would be at the semi-final of a Grand Slam, I thought my ship had sailed. Honestly, I didn't go about things great earlier in my career and may have wasted that little window. I am just really proud of the way I have come back out here with my team and been able to put on a performance.”