'It Ain't Happening!': Djokovic Denies Rublev In Wimbledon QFs
After completing his 100th Wimbledon match on Monday, Novak Djokovic returned to Centre Court for the third straight day to earn victory in his 400th Grand Slam match on Tuesday. The Serbian's four-set win against Andrey Rublev saw him through to his 46th major semi-final, equalling Roger Federer's men's singles record.
With patience and precision, Djokovic earned a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory to stay on track for his fifth straight crown on the London lawns, his record-tying eighth Wimbledon title overall and his 24th major trophy. The result also lifted him to No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, for now. He must better the Wimbledon result of Carlos Alcaraz — who will play Holger Rune in the quarters on Wednesday — to reclaim the top spot from the Spaniard in the next edition of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
All these numbers make Djokovic very much the man to beat at SW19. After a big-serving effort from Hubert Hurkacz fell short in the fourth round, the Serbian fought off a hot start from Rublev to once again deny a younger challenger a career-defining victory.
"I love it," he said of having the proverbial target on his back. "I think any tennis player wants to be in a position where everyone wants to win against you. I think it is a privilege, as Billie Jean [King] said. Pressure is part of what we do, it's part of our sport. It's never going to go away...
"I know that they want to get a scalp, they want to win. But it ain't happening, still," he added with a laugh. "Very humble!"
The 25-year-old Rublev was playing in his eighth major quarter-final, but remains in search of his first Slam semi-final. No man has contested as many Grand Slam quarter-finals without a win in the Open Era. Rublev was also beaten by Djokovic this year in the Australian Open quarters, with the Serbian going on to win the title. Djokovic now leads the pair's Lexus ATP Head2Head 4-1 behind three straight wins.
Djokovic was unsettled by the power of Rublev early on, with the seventh seed firing on his forehand throughout the opening set and converting on his first break point of the match at 4-4. That was enough to win the opening set, but Djokovic quickly settled in to dominate the second, handcuffing his opponent to take away his weapons and building a 5-0 lead to stamp his authority on the quarter-final.
"There were some thrilling rallies. Andrey is a guy a respect a lot," Djokovic said post-match. "Obviously he brings a lot of intensity on the court, you can see by the way he's grunting after his shots. Especially on the forehand, it's kind of scary — both the ball that is coming from that corner and the sound as well," he continued, drawing laughs from the crowd.
A tension-filled third set proved decisive, with both players summoning their best tennis for much of the hour-long set. Djokovic prodded the Rublev backhand throughout many punishing rallies, but Rublev hung tough and still found plenty of opportunities to attack off both baseline wings.
Djokovic stared down five break points in the set, but erased each one, including three as he served for a two-sets-to-one lead. He won the longest game of the match, fighting through six deuces, to claim set three, then quickly pressed home his advantage by claiming his fourth break of the match early in set four.
With his 33rd consecutive victory at Wimbledon, Djokovic moved into his 12th semi-final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Only Federer (13) has reached that stage more times at the grass-court major, and only Federer (40) and Bjorn Borg (41) own longer winning streaks in the men's singles event.
Next up for Djokovic is a semi-final showdown with Jannik Sinner, who defeated Roman Safiullin in four sets earlier on Tuesday. It will be a rematch of the pair's quarter-final last year at Wimbledon, when Djokovic rallied from two sets down for a 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory. They have not met since then, with the Serbian leading their Lexus ATP Head2Head 2-0. Their first meeting came in Monte-Carlo in 2021, a straight-sets win for Djokovic.