Cameron Norrie was proud of his “sick” Wimbledon run but left wanting more after a semi-final defeat by Novak Djokovic.
The British number one, who had never previously been past the third round of a grand slam, had taken full advantage of a favourable draw to become just the fourth home player in the Open era to make the last four in the men’s singles at SW19.
But trying to beat Djokovic, who has not lost a match at Wimbledon since 2017, was a completely different challenge and, although Norrie made a superb start, the top seed hit back emphatically to win 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 and set up a mouth-watering final against Nick Kyrgios on Sunday.
Norrie said: “I think it was a good experience obviously to play him. Especially the level he brings here at Wimbledon. It gives me a lot of confidence.
“But it doesn’t mean anything. I think I need to keep working hard and I’ve still got a lot of things I can improve in my game. To reach the semis, reach the Friday of the second week, is pretty sick. But I want to do more of that and go one further and try to win a slam.
“A lot of firsts for me this week, a lot of good experiences. Hopefully I can take them in my stride. Comparing to Novak, I think it was just the level of execution from him today was better than me. His level of focus, the way he handled his service games was better than me.”
Djokovic has won at least one grand slam title – and more often than not two or three – each year since 2010 barring 2017, when he was dogged by elbow problems.
He arrived at Wimbledon, though, knowing this was likely to be his final chance of the season after his deportation from Australia and quarter-final loss at the French Open, and with a Covid-19 vaccination certificate still a requirement of entry into the United States.
This was therefore a huge match despite all the Serbian’s experience, and it was certainly he who seemed the more nervous in the early stages.
Norrie celebrated a break of serve in the opening game with a leaping pump of the fist, and the crowd could barely believe it when he won five games in a row to clinch the opening set.
Djokovic’s usually flawless groundstrokes were flying long or into the net but the top seed settled down early in the second set and a break of the Norrie serve in the eighth game proved the turning point.
The British number one battled hard in the fourth set to try to get back into the match but the Djokovic serve kept him at arm’s length.
Norrie felt the first set score was more down to Djokovic’s nerves than anything spectacular from himself, saying: “I think I played OK. I just made a lot of returns. I hit the spots well on my serve.
“It was the biggest match of my career. I think it was a six out of 10 set. It was a good start, but it wasn’t enough.”
Norrie, who was seeded ninth, was most proud of being able to come through matches where he was the favourite.
“Coming in here pretty highly seeded, a lot of expectations from everyone around the country – and from myself especially,” he said.
“Getting through the draw in the fashion that I did, handling the occasions of playing Centre Court, playing Court One, playing guys that I’m actually favourite to beat. It’s not easy.
“Everyone got behind me. The atmosphere was incredible. Especially serving that game out against (David) Goffin to make my first semi-final was pretty crazy.
“I think it’s all happened very quickly. I’m going to have a lot of time to reflect on everything. But it’s tough right now to think about it too much.”
In extending his run of successive grass-court victories to 27, six-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic becomes the first man to reach 32 grand slam finals, while he has only lost one of his last 19 slam semi-finals.
Ahead of his eighth Wimbledon final, the Serbian said: “Of course, I’m very satisfied and pleased that I am putting myself in a position to win the trophy.
“I didn’t start off as well as I did in most of my matches here in Wimbledon, didn’t feel so good at the beginning. A lot of mistakes. Just didn’t find my rhythm. Nerves were kicking in for both of us. He handled them better and was a better player for a set and a half.
“One poor game from his side at 4-3 second set, the match turned around. I know I always expect from myself that I can play better than I did. But I have to be pleased with this win.”
Djokovic backed Norrie to have more chances to reach a grand slam final, saying: “Absolutely. He’s an all-around player. Very professional guy. I see the things that he’s doing off the court. With this kind of approach, I feel like you’re always going to get chances.”
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