By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – Top seed Novak Djokovic recovered from an edgy start to deliver a devastating display that crushed the spirit of 21st-seeded Belgian David Goffin in straight sets on Wednesday and sent the defending champion surging into the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Goffin will wonder just what happened after he looked the better player in the early stages and broke for a 4-3 lead in the first set. Half an hour later he had lost 10 games in a row and the match was effectively over as Djokovic went on to triumph 6-4 6-0 6-2.
The 32-year-old Serb was at his clinical best as he soaked up the early punches without panic then imposed himself in every aspect of the contest to such an extent that Goffin, 28, was left flailing on Centre Court.
Djokovic, who has lost only once at a Grand Slam in the last 12 months, is into his ninth Wimbledon semi-final – only Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer have been in more – where he will face Spanish world number 22 Roberto Bautista Agut.
Djokovic has reached the semis having dropped one set and been broken only five times in five matches and was delighted with how Wednesday’s match eventually unfolded.
“He started well and was dictating the play from the baseline,” he said. “Things could have gone a different way – who knows what the match would have looked like if I had lost the first set?
“I think it was the turning point, it was a huge relief for me mentally. I started relaxing, going through the ball a bit more and I felt like I managed to dismantle his game and find the right shots.”
It is not an uncommon pattern for the outsider to come out swinging and look dangerous, only to fall away, but the contrast was particularly extreme on Wednesday.
The Belgian was clearly the better player for much of the first set and though Djokovic saved break points in early games he could not prevent Goffin cashing in on more in the seventh as, showing great court speed, he broke for 4-3.
The crowd settled down for what they thought might be a classic battle but it proved to be the high water mark for Goffin as Djokovic started to find his return range, broke back immediately, held without trouble and broke again to bag the set.
Goffin, from dominating the rallies, was suddenly having to work desperately hard to stay in them, usually failing.
As Djokovic’s accuracy improved, particularly his service returns, his opponent’s slipped dramatically and he played a horror game to lose serve again to love and slide to 4-0 down, and then quickly 6-0 as he conceded the second set.
Goffin then received what all pros must hate – the Centre Court sympathy clap – when he finally held serve for 1-1 in the third set.
But he was barely going through the motions after that as the Serb cruised through to finish off the match in less than two hours.
“As soon as he was a break down he started to play a little bit – everything was a little bit deeper, he served a little bit better and it was tough after that,” Goffin said.
“Even if you play well, it’s not enough because he continues to play deep, deep, close from the line, left, right. Amazing backhand down the line, as well. He was everywhere.”
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)