Novak Djokovic will feature in the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time in three years after beating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 on Centre Court on Wednesday.
The No. 12 seed grew into the match and showed more shades of his old stamina that led him to Grand Slam triumphs, and he'll next face either Rafael Nadal or Juan Martin del Potro, who meet later on Wednesday.
Friday's fixture will be Djokovic's first major semi-final since he finished runner-up at the 2016 U.S. Open, which also happens to be the last Grand Slam in which Nishikori made it past the last eight.
Up against a testing opponent such as Nishikori, Djokovic was likely delighted with some of the tennis he produced in the opening stanza.
As noted by Christopher Clarey of the New York Times, both men were conjuring up some brilliant winners:
Yet Djokovic appeared to have more control over the ball than his opponent, and when the set was tied at 3-3, he found another gear. Having served to go 4-3 in front, the Serbian forced his opponent into mistakes on serve, was able to secure the break and then eventually the set.
At the start of the second, Djokovic was putting Nishikori under immense pressure again, but the Japanese held firm on serve in a 10-minute game. Frustrated, Djokovic threw his racket to the floor and received a warning from the umpire. The 12-time Grand Slam winner made it clear he didn't agree with the call.
Nishikori capitalised on this lapse in concentration, putting together his finest game of the match to break and then consolidate. Per sports reporter James Gray, all of a sudden the 24th seed looked a different player:
He continued to set high standards for the remainder of the set, and despite flurries from Djokovic, Nishikori made the most of his advantage and levelled the match.
After serving his way to a 2-1 lead in the third set, Djokovic ramped up his efforts and was met head-on with Nishikori's increase in tempo, but the No. 24 seed missed three break points at 2-2 and was soon trailing. There began a four-game streak in Djokovic's favour, and it looked as though Nishikori's ship had sailed:
Those fears dimmed when Nishikori broke Nole in the opening game of the fourth set, but again the balance tipped in the Serb's direction when he broke back in the follower.
Nishikori aired his frustrations by bouncing his racquet into the ground, and BBC Sport reported on Djokovic's objection to his opponent's not receiving the same treatment he did for an identical incident:
It didn't show in Djokovic's play, though, as he embarked upon another swing of four games in succession, holding Nishikori to three points in his next two service sets as he soared into a 4-1 lead.
Nishikori put up an admirable fight but was not clinical enough to hold back Djokovic's tide—finally collapsing 6-2 with a third break of the set.
Forced to fight back from 15-40 down, Djokovic saved a set point and showed a quick pair of hands to swap onto his forehand from left court and fire across Nishikori and into the last four of the competition.