Third set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 5-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
However a tennis player is always at their most vulnerable just after they’ve broken and the world No 1 is no different. 15-40. Two break-back points for Bautista Agut. The first comes and goes. The second is a more drawn-out affair, neither is willing to budge, neither wants to pull the tigger … it goes on … and on … and on … I’m not sure how they’re still breathing, I’m not. Djokovic eventually settles matters on the 45th shot! And has the energy to turn to the crowd and put his finger to his ear. Deuce. After the longest rally of the match, Djokovic is grateful for a free point on his serve. His advantage. Bautista Agut rifles his return long and Djokovic roars once more. He maintains his breathing space.
Third set: Djokovic* 6-2, 4-6, 4-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
David Beckham is in the Royal Box this afternoon, after all. Perhaps Fergie has gone for a break. Djokovic, with his elastic limbs at full stretch, gets to 15-30 on Bautista Agut’s serve. He’s kicking himself when he lets Bautista Agut recover to 30-all. Djokovic always seems in control of the fifth point, setting it up for a simple put-away at the net. A first break point of the third set. And Djokovic’s first since the first set. Djokovic carves Bautista Agut up with several slices before sticking the knife in with a one-two punch and a defiant smash. He roars in delight. He’s managed to ride out the storm and has the break.
Third set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 3-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
My colleague Jacob Steinberg and I were just wondering whether that ankle Djokovic rolled in the fifth game of the match is causing him problems. Something is awry. As if to illustrate the point, Djokovic then misses a forehand he could make in his sleep. It’s 40-30. Make that deuce. A defiant Djokovic takes the next two points to hold.
Third set: *Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 2-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Djokovic holds to 30, though the highlight of the game was a brilliant backhand from Bautista Agut, perhaps his best of this contest so far. With the score level at one set all, this is effectively a three-set match now. And we know Bautista Agut’s already won two of those this year against Djokovic. What Djokovic would give for Bautista Agut’s friends to jump out of the box and bundle him on to a plane for that stag do right now. But I’m rambling. Bautista Agut holds to 15, showing no signs of dropping his level from the second set.
Third set: *Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 1-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Having let out a bit of frustration on the crowd, Djokovic then releases some more with a dismissive hold. He’s soon pushing on Bautista Agut’s serve, but at 30-all Bautista Agut pulls off a forehand winner down the line with laser-like precision. 40-30. Djokovic goes long, before almost taking a chunk of grass out of the court with his racket. He pulls away at the last moment, which is probably wise given Serena Williams’s fine this tournament for damaging the sacred grass. There again what’s a $10,000 fine to a man who’s earned more than $130m in prize money?
So Bautista Agut is serving for the set. This is usually the moment when Djokovic laughs in the face of danger and breaks. But he slaps into the net at 15-all. A nervous-looking Bautista Agut fails to land a timid first serve, makes the second, before Djokovic takes the point by wrong-footing his opponent and blocking the ball for a winning volley. 30-all. 40-30, set point, with Bautista Agut allowing himself a little fist pump. That’s probably the first emotion we’ve seen from the Spaniard today. And he’s both celebrating and apologising moments later when his shot clatters into the top of the net and just trickles over! Djokovic, meanwhile, is bizarrely telling the crowd to applaud. We’re all square.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 4-5 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
This is such a crucial game. If Djokovic can hold and find a way to break Bautista Agut and go on to win the set, this will surely be over in three. But if Bautista Agut seizes the second, then we may be here for some time. Djokovic comes through to 30. The crowd, it has to be said, are rather quiet. Perhaps they’re thrown by the way this match has changed. Perhaps they’re not sure who to support. Or perhaps they’re saving themselves for Federer and Nadal. Whatever it is, it won’t help Djokovic feel loved. And all he wants – well, apart from another grand slam title – is to be as loved as those two.
Second set: *Djokovic 6-2, 3-5 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
A massive miss from Djokovic on the opening point, that was so far out it probably landed on Wimbledon Common. He quickly puts it out of his mind for 15-all. Djokovic has taken his cap off as he tries to get down to business, but it’s just not happening for him in this second set. An error-strewn game from the Serb and Bautista Agut remains in charge of this set, holding to 15.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 3-4 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic appears in control at 40-15. But Bautista Agut scraps to 40-30, and then strikes his way to deuce when the pair trade forehand after forehand after forehand, with Djokovic then hitting beyond the baseline. Djokovic runs to his chair, hoping a change of racket will change his fortunes. It does the trick, but he needs another deuce before advancing.
Second set: *Djokovic 6-2, 2-4 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Oohs and aaahs and cheers after a drop shot/lob showdown on the second point. Bautista Agut emerges victorious, much to the delight of his stag do friends in his box. They probably thought they’d be catching a flight back to Ibiza at 3pm given the way the first set went. But Bautista Agut is determined to make a match of this and holds superbly to love.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 2-3 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Bautista backs up the break with the minimum of fuss, one netted shot the only blot in an otherwise perfect game for the Spanish 23rd seed. However there’s a risk his momentum could be checked, when a spectator is taken ill. Both players sit down for a few minutes. But when they’re back under way, Bautista Agut starts exactly where he left off, with a ferocious forehand. 0-15. Which is soon 15-40! Two points for a double break. Well, well. Bautista Agut blazes a backhand well wide. Djokovic drills down an ace. Deuce. The pair are moving each other this way and that way and t’other way on the next point, it’s the longest rally of the match at 23 shots, and Bautista Agut blinks first. Djokovic’s advantage. Djokovic’s game. The world No 1 dug himself out of a hole there but he’ll still have to find his way out of a bigger one if he’s to win this set.
Second set: Djokovic 6-2, 1-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Distracted by Federer’s sweat, I look up and realise Bautista Agut has not only one but two break points. He had a bit of luck to get there, with Djokovic’s string breaking at 15-30. There’s nothing fortunate about the way Bautista Agut breaks though. He flashes a forehand winner past a stranded Djokovic and the stag do crew are on their feet. Their man has his first break!
Second set: Djokovic* 6-2, 1-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Two straightforward holds get the second set under way. Meanwhile in far a more newsworthy development: proof that Roger Federer does actually sweat. Such is the effort he’ll put in on the practice courts before his meeting with Nadal later.
Djokovic looks ready to pounce at 30-all. But instead of going straight for the jugular, he bides his time on the next point, eventually working his way to the net. It puts Bautista Agut off and the Spaniard nets. 40-30, set point. A strong serve, but a Djokovic return on the spin bamboozles Bautista Agut, who fires out!
First set: Djokovic 5-2 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Time for some emails. “Although it feels like the same-old same-old, this is the first time the Big Three have reached the semis of the same Wimbledon since 2007. The heart wants Federer or Nadal, but the head says Djokovic. As for a Big Three name, I rather like Fedalvic,” writes Greg Phillips. And this from krishnamoorthy: “I wrote this blog in June 2011 after Nadal destroyed Federer yet again. Eight years on, Federer is still playing and Nadal is still playing, and they are competing as fiercely as ever. Only one word for them: respect. And one word for me, having written this blog eight years ago: moron.”
A lightning hold from Djokovic, meanwhile, leaves Bautista Agut needing to hold serve to detain the world No 1 in this set for any longer.
First set: *Djokovic 4-2 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
With the sun shining brightly, both players have got their caps on, which makes it slightly difficult for spectators to differentiate between them. Djokovic’s trademark spinning and sliding helps them out on the second point though, however his defensive scrambling isn’t enough to prevail. 30-0. Djokovic comes back at Bautista Agut for 30-all. Bautista Agut produces a big first serve just when he needs it, surely 5-1 would be too big a mountain for him to climb. 40-30. Deuce, Djokovic finishing off an absorbing point with a stop volley. Advantage Baustista Agut. Game BA.
First set: Djokovic 4-1 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Gasps from the crowd when Djokovic slips on the grass while attempting to charge towards the net. 15-30. A glimmer for Bautista Agut? No, because Djokovic slams the door shut with a brutal backhand down the line backed up by a colossal cross-court forehand. 30-all. 40-30. Game.
First set: *Djokovic 3-1 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
Bautista Agut’s players’ box is looking rather crowded, with the friends who had flown to Ibiza for his stag do arriving en masse here to watch him in action. But Centre Court must feel like a lonely place for the Spaniard right now, he really needs a game on the board. And that he does, squeezing through from deuce to get off the mark after the longest game of the match so far. Brad Gilbert, though, has already written this set off:
First set: Djokovic 3-0 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Djokovic doesn’t have it all his own way, with Bautista Agut getting to 30-all, but yet another failed forehand and it’s game point for the Serb. Bautista Agut’s favoured shot is his forehand so he really needs to get that going if he’s to stand any chance this afternoon. He shows fight to get to deuce, but then chops wide. Advantage Djokovic. Game Djokovic, after a delightful angled half-volley.
First set: *Djokovic 2-0 Bautista Agut (*denotes next server)
The crowd are appreciating Bautista Agut’s effort early on, as he sprints forward to Djokovic’s drop shot, putting it away with a tightly angled winner. 15-all. But Djokovic is already applying the pressure on the Spaniard’s serve at 15-30, and he gets two break points when Bautista Agut slaps into the net. That’s four forehand errors from the Spaniard already, who may well become known as BA for RSI-preventing purposes if this match is long. No indication yet that that’s going to happen; Djokovic gobbles up the first break point and the defending champion’s already making it clear who’s the boss.
First set: Djokovic 1-0 Bautista Agut* (*denotes next server)
Bautista Agut wins the first point for 0-15 on Djokovic’s serve. “He’d like the match to end right there,” parps John Inverdale on the BBC commentary. A longer second point plays out, and the Spaniard eventually makes the error. Expect plenty of long rallies; Bautista Agut loves nothing more than scampering around, getting everything back, much like his now-retired fellow Spaniard Daveeeed Ferrrerrrrrr and much like the opponent he’s facing this afternoon. But can he out-Djokovic Djokovic? He can’t in this opening game, which Djokovic wins to 15 with a forehand winner.
Bautista Agut says: “The difference to previous years is that I’ve put in even more hard work. I have always had a will to progress, to improve my game. My goal has always been to become a more complete player. Not wanting to stop being a better player has brought me here now.
“[Djokovic] is very solid from the baseline. He likes to play a lot of rallies. Well, I like to play against opponent like this, to play a match with a lot of rallies. Against Novak, that’s what we do.”
Djokovic says: “I’ve been playing [my] best tennis in this tournament in the last two rounds, fourth round and [quarter-final]. The ball all of a sudden looks and seems larger than it actually is. It’s a good feeling, I must say.
“[Bautista Agut’s] been definitely playing some very, very high-quality tennis in this tournament. He has won twice against me so far this year. That’s certainly going to give him confidence.
“Obviously playing on grass, it’s different. [It is the] semi-finals of grand slam, [so I am] going to try to use my experience in being in these kinds of matches, get myself tactically prepared. Hopefully I can execute everything I intend to do.”
It may seem as if Bautista Agut is here to make up the numbers today, but he has beaten Djokovic in both of their meetings this year and in three of their past five. So perhaps he’s Superman’s kryptonite. Though those were best of three, this is best of five on the biggest stage of all. And Djokovic has had an aura of invincibility this fortnight.
Here they are, Bautista Agut making his way on to Centre Court for the match of his life with his head down, perhaps looking a little nervous, just a few steps ahead of the defending champion and world No 1, who is smiling and appears extremely relaxed.
It’s one o’clock. No sign of Djokovic and Bautista Agut yet.
Laver’s among the big guns in the Royal Box this afternoon. The names include Sir Alex Ferguson, Sir David Attenborough, Hugh Grant, Bear Grylls, Jude Law, Nick Faldo, Gary Player, Michael Stich and Pat Cash. David Beckham was also on the list originally handed out in the press centre but his name has now mysteriously disappeared. Maybe Fergie came armed with a flying boot.
Here are the thoughts of the great man Rod Laver:
And some pre-match reminiscing:
Some pre-match reading:
A few results already:
CENTRE COURT – 1pm
1 Novak Djokovic (SRB)  1 vs Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)  56
2 Rafael Nadal (ESP)  96 vs Roger Federer (SUI)  128
No 1 COURT – 1pm
1 Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) / Yifan Xu (CHN)  48 vs Barbora Krejcikova (CZE) / Katerina Siniakova (CZE)  64
2 Timea Babos (HUN) / Kristina Mladenovic (FRA)  1 vs Su-Wei Hsieh (TPE) / Barbora Strycova (CZE)  17
3 Bruno Soares (BRA) / Nicole Melichar (USA)  or Matwe Middelkoop (NED) / Zhaoxuan Yang (CHN) 12 vs Robert Lindstedt (SWE) / Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) or Franko Skugor (CRO) / Raluca Olaru (ROU)  25
No 3 COURT – 11am
1 Jamie Delgado (GBR) / Jonathan Marray (GBR) vs Xavier Malisse (BEL) / Max Mirnyi (BLR) (RR)
NOT BEFORE 12.45
2 Jacco Eltingh (NED) / Paul Haarhuis (NED) vs Greg Rusedski (GBR) / Fabrice Santoro (FRA) (OD)
3 Cara Black (ZIM) / Martina Navratilova (USA) vs Iva Majoli (CRO) / Magdalena Maleeva (BUL) (SL)
COURT 12 – 11am
1 Marion Bartoli (FRA) / Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) vs Conchita Martinez (ESP) / Barbara Schett (AUT) (SL)
2 Arthur Fery (GBR) / Toby Samuel (GBR) 18 vs Brandon Nakashima (USA) / Valentin Royer (FRA) 23 (BD)
3 Mary Joe Fernandez (USA) / Ai Sugiyama (JPN) vs Anne Keothavong (GBR) / Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (ESP) (SL)
4 Martin Damm (USA) / Toby Kodat (USA)  9 vs Jacob Fearnley (GBR) / Connor Thomson (GBR) 15 (BD)
COURT 18 – 11am
1 Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN)  16 vs Martin Damm (USA)  17 (BS)
2 Carlos Gimeno Valero (ESP) 47 vs Harold Mayot (FRA)  56 (BS)
3 Natsumi Kawaguchi (JPN) / Adrienn Nagy (HUN)  or Polina Kudermetova (RUS) / Giulia Morlet (FRA) 11 vs Funa Kozaki (JPN) / Amarissa Kiara Toth (HUN) 13 (GD)
4 Liam Draxl (CAN) / Govind Nanda (USA)  25 vs Shintaro Mochizuki (JPN) / Holger Vitus Nodskov Rune (DEN)  32 (BD)
COURT 5 – 11am
1 Emma Navarro (USA)  1 vs Daria Snigur (UKR) 26 (GS)
2 Diane Parry (FRA)  48 vs Alexa Noel (USA)  56 (GS)
3 Kamilla Bartone (LAT) / Oksana Selekhmeteva (RUS) or Robin Montgomery (USA) / Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (COL) 4 vs Holly Fischer (GBR) / Matilda Mutavdzic (GBR) or Chloe Beck (USA) / Emma Navarro (USA)  8 (GD)
COURT 8 – 11am
1 Savannah Broadus (USA) / Abigail Forbes (USA) 26 vs Alina Charaeva (RUS) / Anastasia Tikhonova (RUS)  32 (GD)
2 Jonas Forejtek (CZE) / Jiri Lehecka (CZE)  1 vs Cannon Kingsley (USA) / Alexander Zgirovsky (BLR) or Shunsuke Mitsui (JPN) / Keisuke Saitoh (JPN)  8 (BD)
3 Hurricane Tyra Black (USA) / Shavit Kimchi (ISR)  or Aubane Droguet (FRA) / Selena Janicijevic (FRA) 19 vs Joanna Garland (TPE) / Sohyun Park (KOR)  24 (GD)
COURT 14 – 11am
1 Dylan Alcott (AUS) / Andy Lapthorne (GBR) 1 vs Koji Sugeno (JPN) / David Wagner (USA) 2
2 Diede De Groot (NED)  1 vs Kgothatso Montjane (RSA) 3
3 Stephane Houdet (FRA) / Nicolas Peifer (FRA)  1 vs Alfie Hewett (GBR) / Gordon Reid (GBR) 2 (DM)
4 Sabine Ellerbrock (GER) / Kgothatso Montjane (RSA) 3 vs Marjolein Buis (NED) / Giulia Capocci (ITA)  4 (DW)
COURT 15 – 11am
1 Stephane Houdet (FRA) or Nicolas Peifer (FRA) 6 vs Gustavo Fernandez (ARG)  8
COURT 17 – 11am
1 Shingo Kunieda (JPN)  1 vs Stefan Olsson (SWE) 4
2 Aniek Van Koot (NED) 5 vs Yui Kamiji (JPN)  8
3 Gustavo Fernandez (ARG) / Shingo Kunieda (JPN) 3 vs Joachim Gerard (BEL) / Stefan Olsson (SWE)  4 (DM)
4 Diede De Groot (NED) / Aniek Van Koot (NED)  1 vs Yui Kamiji (JPN) / Jordanne Whiley (GBR) 2 (DW)
MATCHES TO BE ARRANGED
NOT BEFORE 5pm
1 Wesley Koolhof (NED) / Kveta Peschke (CZE)  33 vs Ivan Dodig (CRO) / Latisha Chan (TPE)  or Evan Hoyt (GBR) / Eden Silva (GBR) 60
2 Colin Fleming (GBR) / Ross Hutchins (GBR) vs Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) / Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) (RR)
The release of Nelson Mandela. The fall of the Berlin Wall. The inauguration of President Obama. Just some of those “where were you when …” moments in history. And if any tennis match merits a place on such lists, surely it’s that Wimbledon final of 2008.
The match widely seen as the greatest of all time had it all: a five-times defending champion against a fierce rival who he had beaten in the past two Wimbledon finals but had just denied him the French Open title for the third consecutive year; the contrast in styles between the calm and artful Swiss and the punkish and piratical Spaniard, all fist pumps and jumps and whose game plan was to wear his opponent down and drive him to despair; a quite staggering level of play punctuated by two rain breaks that added to the drama; a recovery from two sets to love down and the saving of two championship points to force a decider; and a 9-7 final-set finale in near darkness in which a new champion was crowned after the longest Wimbledon final in history. This wonderful piece from Andy Bull is well worth a read if you want to relive the spectacle.
Now here Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are again, meeting at Wimbledon for the first time in 11 years. The fact they’re still going so strong, aged 33 and 37 respectively, ranked second and third in the world and having shared the past 10 grand slam titles along with Novak Djokovic (Nadal has four, Federer and Djokovic three), is almost as staggering as that final itself. For all the talk of the so-called Next Gen, this great tennis triumvirate just keep going on, and the gap between them and the rest of the field is arguably wider than ever.
Which brings us on to the great subplot to this Wimbledon finale: the battle to be the greatest of all time. A third Wimbledon triumph for Nadal, who added the 2010 title to his 2008 crown, would move him only one behind Federer’s tally of 20, which would be the closest he’s ever been to the record holder. Meanwhile victory for Djokovic would put him on 16 and, at the age of 32, with plenty of time to out-GOAT the GOAT.
In the context of all of this, spare a thought for the odd man out today, Roberto Bautista Agut, who’s appearing in his first grand slam semi-final. Being a 30-something, he does at least have something in common with Fedalovic – if SerAndy/Murena is bestowed on Serena Williams and Andy Murray, surely the Big Three deserve a combined name of their own? – while Bautista Agut will take comfort from the fact he’s beaten Djokovic twice already this year, in Doha and Miami.
Defeating a fully focused Djokovic in the best of five sets at a grand slam is an entirely different proposition, however, and the world No 1 was in devastating form in the quarter-finals against David Goffin, dropping only six games. Bautista Agut has had to rearrange his stag do to be here today, but if his opponent is in a similar mood to Wednesday, things could get just as messy for the Spaniard as a week partying in Ibiza.
Play begins at: 1pm BST.