LONDON (AP) — Defending champion Novak Djokovic is back in the Wimbledon final for the fourth time in five years after subduing Richard Gasquet in straight sets.
Djokovic overcame an early barrage of single-handed backhand winners from Gasquet, produced big serves at crucial times and pulled away to win 7-6 (2), 6-4, 6-4 on Friday in sunny conditions on Centre Court at the All England Club.
“It was a very good performance, considering the occasion,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic was twice treated by a trainer on his left shoulder near the end of the second set, but showed no sign of injury as he dominated the third set to reach his 17th Grand Slam final.
“It’s nothing that worries me, honestly,” Djokovic said. “It’ll be fine for the next match.”
The top-ranked Serb is now one win away from a third Wimbledon championship and ninth major title. Awaiting him in Sunday’s final will be either Roger Federer or Andy Murray.
“I’m definitely living the dream, being here in Wimbledon, playing in the most renowned tennis court in the world,” Djokovic said. “I try to take the best out of myself and I have a responsibility to play well and just glad to reach another final.”
Djokovic, playing in his sixth consecutive Wimbledon semifinal and seventh overall, extended his dominance over the 29-year-old Gasquet to 12-1. He has dropped just one set to the Frenchman in their last 10 meetings — none in their three Grand Slam matches.
Gasquet, who also reached the semifinals in 2007, had been trying to become the first Frenchman to reach the Wimbledon final in the Open era. Cedric Pioline finished runner-up in 1997. Instead, he wound up losing his 15th straight match to a No. 1-ranked player.
In the day’s second semifinal, seven-time champion Federer was up against 2013 winner Murray, in the 24th career match between the two.
Federer has never lost a Wimbledon semifinal and is bidding to reach his 10th final. It’s their first matchup at the All England Club since 2012 — when Federer defeated Murray in the Wimbledon final. Murray, however, beat Federer in straight sets in the Olympic final on the same court a few weeks later.
Gasquet is renowned for his one-handed backhand, one of the best in the game. The shot was on full display in the first set against Djokovic when he repeatedly ripped clean winners off that wing — including to break back after falling behind 2-0.
The two players held serve the rest of the set to force a tiebreaker, but Djokovic won five straight points from 2-2 to take control. He then broke in the first game of the second set and was in front the rest of the way.
“Richard had a great tournament, deserved to be in the semis,” Djokovic said. “Things could have gone his way, also, the first set, but I think that was the turning point for me.”
Djokovic finished with 12 aces. Down 15-30 while serving for the second set, he came up with back-to-back aces — both at 125 mph — and went on to hold.
Gasquet saved two match points to hold serve and stay within 5-4 in the third set, but Djokovic served out the match at love in the next game, closing with a forehand winner.
Saturday’s women’s final will pit five-time champion Serena Williams against 21-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, playing in her first Grand Slam championship match.
Williams will be bidding for her fourth straight major championship, which would complete a “Serena Slam” — a feat she last accomplished in 2002-03. A win would also take Williams three-fourths of the way to a calendar-year Grand Slam, a sweep of all four majors in the same year. Steffi Graf was the last to do that, in 1988.