Hello, and welcome to Sports Mole
's live coverage of the Wimbledon
semi-final between Novak Djokovic
and Richard Gasquet
There are a number of days that stand out on the tennis calendar, but outside of the major finals, men's semi-final day is usually anticipated more than most, and that's no different this year. The top three players in the world plus a rejuvenated Richard Gasquet will all take to Centre Court this afternoon as they look to earn a place in Sunday's final.
Later this afternoon, Roger Federer and Andy Murray will lock horns for the 24th time, but first up is world number one Novak Djokovic, who is looking to defend the title that he won in some style 12 months ago. The Serbian will be delighted to have avoided facing Stanislas Wawrinka
, the man who he lost to at Roland Garros, but this tournament has represented somewhat of a renaissance for Richard Gasquet, who has recorded three significant scalps in a row.
Aside from his struggle against Kevin Anderson
, Djokovic has looked superb. Many will point out that he shouldn't be requiring five sets to see off the South African, but both sets that he dropped were in tie-breaks, and it says a lot about him champion mentality that he was the better player for the remainder two hours of that encounter. As for Gasquet, his wins over Grigor Dimitrov
, Nick Kyrgios
and Wawrinka suggest that he is relishing having no pressure on his shoulders at this year's SW19, and if that backhand is in full working order, who knows, maybe he could witness a huge shock.
HEAD TO HEAD! As you would expect, Djokovic dominates the head-to-head record between the two with 12 wins in 13 matches. Gasquet's one victory came all the back in 2007, while he has only won one set in his last 24 against the Serbian. However, the one positive that he can perhaps take is that they've never played each other on grass, his favourite surface.
They are a couple of minutes later than scheduled but here comes Gasquet, closely followed by Djokovic. They get a polite reception from the crowd, who are probably already anticipating the Federer and Murray match.
It looks as though Novak Djokovic won the toss and elected to serve, which is interesting because it may have been worthwhile putting the pressure on Gasquet in his opening service game.
Despite his five-setter against Anderson, Djokovic has only spent 10 hours and 43 minutes on court since the start of the tournament, whereas Gasquet has competed for 11 hours 13 minutes. Not much of a difference, but Gasquet's five-setter came less than 48 hours ago.
The warm-ups are complete and we are ready to go. Can Gasquet pull off a monumental upset? Let's find out. It's Djokovic to serve first.
It's an imposing start from Djokovic, who races to three game points thanks in part to two serves that aren't returned by Gasquet. However, the world number one makes two errors to give his opponent a look at 40-30, but he eventually comes through when Gasquet sends a return long.
BREAK! Gasquet drops the opening point, but replies with two well-directed first serves to earn himself a narrow lead. He reaches two game points, but back from Djokovic who, after a delightful drop volley, displays his power off his forehand wing to earn the break.
BREAK! Djokovic looks at ease with his game at the start of this match, but a poor volley gives Gasquet 30-30. However, an outswinging serve out wide gives him his first ace of the contest before the Frenchman responds with a super passing shot. An unforced mistake from the world number one allows Gasquet a break point, and although it's saved by Djokovic, the 21st seed gets another chance and takes it with an excellent backhand winner.
Gasquet is beginning to look confident behind his backhand and a stunning winner helps him to 30-15. The forehand is firing too, and it's a welcome hold to 15 for the 29-year-old.
Gasquet is warming to the task in the early stages, but at 15-30, he fails to put away a forehand inside the court after chasing down a drop shot. The world number takes the next two points to complete a solid hold.
Djokovic opens with a sharp first-serve return and gets to 40-30 with a backhand winner, but it's a decent game from Gasquet, who continues to look settled.
A double fault allows Gasquet to reach 30-30, but Djokovic pulls through comfortably enough after the Frenchman blazes a backhand marginally wide.
The danger signs are there for Gasquet when he falls 0-15 and 15-30 behind, but a phenomenal backhand winner helps him to game point before his opponent goes long. Some interesting games coming up, you feel.
Gasquet opens the game with a backhand passing shot, but it's disaster for the Frenchman when he misses an easy smash. Some sublime play at the net earns Djokovic the next point, before two timely first serves ensures that Gasquet must serve to remain in the set.
Both men unleash backhand winners to take the score to 30-15 before Gasquet catches the line with a serve out wide. Djokovic looks in control of the next point, before Gasquet lets rip with his favoured shot for the umpteenth time.
Djokovic concedes the opening point, but he maintains his composure to reel off four points in a row to once again put the pressure on his opponent. Can Gasquet step up to take the set to a tie-break?
After the opening two points are shared, Djokovic misses out on a second-serve return to hand the advantage to Gasquet, who catches the line with a backhand winner for two game points. Gasquet commits a double fault, but a big first serve takes us into a tie-break.
Djokovic opens the breaker with an ace, before Gasquet levels up when the Serbian goes long with a forehand. The Frenchman concedes the mini-break when he goes for too much from the baseline, but it's handed straight back to him when Djokovic nets. Gasquet gets a look at a backhand down the line but misses, and he hands the mini-break back to Djokovic after spraying a forehand long.
SET! Djokovic takes full advantage of his chance and reels off three straight points to seal the first set. The wheels fell off to some extent where Gasquet is concerned and it will be a long way back from here.
BREAK! It's imperative that Gasquet begins this set with a hold of serve and he sets up an easy smash to reach 30-15. However, Djokovic fires straight back with a forehand winner, before Gasquet makes a mistake off the same wing. It's break point to Djokovic, and although Gasquet saves the first, he is helpless to save a second as Djokovic connects with a forehand passing shot to capture the break.
Djokovic is showing now that he so many different levels he can find when he requires them, and he goes up a notch to hold to 15 with the help of an ace and backhand passing shot. Gasquet needs a response and fast.
A neat volley at the nets helps Gasquet to 30-15, but Djokovic isn't finished and earns an opening for the double-break when the Frenchman frames a forehand. Gasquet plays an aggressive point and it pays off, before he comes through the next two points to stay competitive in the set.
Gasquet's mental strength has been questioned in the past, but he is showing plenty of mettle in this match. Two backhand winners and a third which forces a Djokovic earn him two break points, but the first is saved with a backhand from the Serbian. The second is saved with an ace out wide. Tremendous response. Djokovic's serve continues to get him out of trouble and he regains a two-game lead.
After the opening two points are shared, Gasquet connects with two big serves, the second of which is an ace, to progress to two game points. He throws down a double fault, but makes up for it with a second ace.
In all fairness to Gasquet, he is matching Djokovic for the most part, but it's that 10-minute spell earlier in the match that has cost him. Djokovic controls this service game with a couple of forehand winners to move to within two of the set.
A smash and well-directed second serve help the Frenchman to 40-0, before Djokovic fires a return long of the baseline to give Gasquet the love hold.
During the change of ends, Djokovic got some treatment on his shoulders but it doesn't appear to be anything too serious. Gasquet reaches 30-30, but Djokovic tests out his shoulder with an emphatic smash before sealing the game when his opponent goes wide.
A poor first point suggests that Gasquet might have thrown in the towel as far as this second set is concerned, but another backhand passing shot suggests otherwise. He holds to 30 to force the world number one to serve for a two-set lead.
SET! A one-two behind his serve gets Djokovic off to the perfect start, but a double fault gives Gasquet encouragement. The top seed when nets a forehand, and all of a sudden, Gasquet has hope. It doesn't last long though. Two aces later and it's set point before the Frenchman goes long from the baseline. He's one step closer to the final.
Gasquet looks on course for a comfortable opening hold, but 30-0 soon becomes 30-30. The Frenchman reaches game point when Djokovic misses out with a backhand, but it's deuce after a Gasquet double fault. The underdog comes through, though, after firing an ace down the middle.
A wayward backhand allows Gasquet 0-30, but Djokovic applies enough pressure to record three points in a row before an horrific backhand slice from his opponent hands him the hold.
BREAK! At 30-40, Djokovic thinks he has sealed the break when a shot from Gasquet is called long, but hawk-eye suggests otherwise. However, a volley at the net creates a second opportunity, and this time, he takes it when Gasquet hooks a backhand wide.
Djokovic will want to get this done as soon as possible now, and two forehand winners down the line get him off to the perfect start in this service game. Two mistakes from Gasquet give him the love hold and he's just three games away now.
Gasquet quickly falls 0-30 down, but a slip from Djokovic and a sharp backhand volley help him retrieve the situation at 30-30. A second-serve ace takes him to game point before the hold is confirmed when Djokovic misses a routine forehand.
Gasquet's enthusiasm seems to be on the wane now and Djokovic holds comfortably to 15. It would take something special for Gasquet to get back into this set, never mind the match.
That said, he may not have the biggest serve but Gasquet has performed relatively well behind his own delivery. A couple of neat forehand conversions help him to an easy hold, but he needs to find a way to break the Serbian's serve, something that he hasn't done since the third game of the match.
The first two points are shared before Djokovic flicks the most delightful volley over the net for 30-15. A big first serve out wide helps him reach two game points, but Gasquet stays alive with a venomous forehand winner that leaves Djokovic helpless. However, the world number one powers a backhand winner to hold.
The writing looks on the wall when Gasquet frames a forehand to concede 15-30, but a trademark backhand shot helps him get back on level terms. However, he misses with it during the next rally, handing match point to Djokovic, but he sends a backhand long after dominating the point. He gets a second chance after a backhand volley, but again, it's saved by Gasquet thanks to a well-struck forehand into the corner. Gasquet wastes a game point of his own, but he eventually holds when Djokovic nets a return.
MATCH! Djokovic eases into a 30-0 advantage before an ace registering 123mph earns three more match points. He only needs one though, as a one-two behind his second serve see him take the match.
After two hours and 22 minutes, Novak Djokovic books his place in Sunday's final with a straight-sets victory over Richard Gasquet. The Frenchman played his part in an entertaining match but Djokovic played the big points well and deserved his victory.
That will be all from Sports Mole for this match, but don't go anywhere. We will be back at 4pm for Roger Federer against Andy Murray. Goodbye for now.