WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — As Novak Djokovic pursues more history-making victories and more milestones, he is well aware that every opponent he faces would love nothing more than to stop him.
“I know they want … to win. But it ain’t happening, still,” he told the crowd at Wimbledon on Tuesday after reaching a 46th Grand Slam semifinal to tie Roger Federer’s record for men.
Hearing the spectators’ loud reaction to that boast, Djokovic laughed and observed about himself: “Very humble.”
His 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Andrey Rublev was the 33rd in a row at the All England Club for Djokovic, moving him closer to a fifth consecutive championship and eighth overall there — which would pull him even with Federer on both counts.
“I feel,” Rublev said about Djokovic, “like he’s playing better and better.”
Djokovic, a 36-year-old from Serbia, is also pursuing a 24th career major trophy. He already set the men’s mark in that category by collecting No. 23 at the French Open last month, pulling ahead of Rafael Nadal. Federer is next on the list with 20.
The only real blip for Djokovic came when the No. 7-seeded Rublev broke him with a forehand winner to lead 5-4 at the outset, then served out the opening set.
From there, Djokovic saved all seven break points he faced and pulled away, dropping Rublev to 0-8 in Grand Slam quarterfinals.
“Every time when he had a chance, this little chance,” Rublev said, “he (made) them. All of them.”
Well, not quite. Djokovic failed to convert any of his three break points in the opening set. After that? He went 5 for 9.
Next up for Djokovic is a matchup against No. 8 seed Jannik Sinner, who made it to the semifinals at a major tournament for the first time by beating Roman Safiullin 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 earlier Tuesday.
Djokovic has won both previous head-to-head meetings against Sinner, a 21-year-old from Italy. That includes in last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals, when Djokovic dropped the first two sets before coming through in five.
“It’s for sure one of the toughest — if not the toughest — challenge,” Sinner said about playing Djokovic.
The other two men’s quarterfinals are Wednesday: No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz vs. No. 6 Holger Rune, and No. 3 Daniil Medvedev vs. unseeded Chris Eubanks.
On Friday, Sinner will be the latest to attempt to stop Djokovic, who is two wins away from heading to the U.S. Open in August with his sights on the first calendar-year Grand Slam for a man since Rod Laver accomplished the feat in 1969.
“Any tennis player wants to be in a position where everyone wants to win against you on the court. … Pressure is part of what we do. It’s part of our sport. It’s never going to go away, regardless of how many Grand Slams you win or how many matches you won or how many years you are playing professionally on the tour,” Djokovic said. “The pressure is paramount every single time I come out on the court, particularly here, the Centre Court of Wimbledon. But at the same time, it awakens the most beautiful emotions in me and it motivates me beyond what I have ever dreamed of, actually, and inspires me to play my best tennis.”
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