Novak Djokovic fashioned a second consecutive comeback victory at Wimbledon, this one less daunting than the previous round but just as painful for the loser Cameron Norrie, who missed out on a home soil final.
Top-seeded Djokovic beat No 9 seed Norrie 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 in the semi-final, extending his winning streak at the All England Club to 27 matches in a row, as he pursues a fourth straight championship there.
On the steamiest afternoon of the tournament so far, with the temperature reaching 30°C and the air still, the Serb got off to a slow start and often looked displeased, shaking his head and gesticulating towards his guest box.
But unlike in the quarter-finals, when he dropped the opening two sets against No 10 seed Jannik Sinner before winning in five, it took little time for Djokovic to assert his dominance.
When it ended, Djokovic curled his lips as if sending a kiss to someone in the stands who had been backing Norrie during the match.
“The job,” Djokovic said, “is not finished.”
He will face first-time major finalist Nick Kyrgios for the trophy on Sunday.
The unseeded Kyrgios, 27, a combustible Australian who drew jeers for the mere mention of his name during Djokovic’s on-court interview, did not need to play on Friday because 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from their semi-final with a torn abdominal muscle.
“Well, one thing is for sure,” said Djokovic, who has lost both his previous matches against Kyrgios. “There’s going to be a lot of fireworks, emotionally, from both.”
It will be the 32nd Grand Slam title match for Djokovic — breaking a tie for the men’s record he shared with Roger Federer — and gives the 35-year-old from Serbia a shot at a 21st major title and seventh at Wimbledon.
Only Federer, with eight, owns more at the grass-court tournament among men.
Djokovic versus Norrie began auspiciously enough for locals hoping to see one of their own get to a men’s final, something only two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has accomplished for Britain since the professional era began in 1968.
Roars came when the left-handed Norrie, 26, arose first from his seat — Djokovic was pouring some water on his hand and rubbing it in his hair to cool off — and headed to the baseline to receive serve in the first game.
More arrived when Djokovic missed a backhand to cede the opening point, when he pushed a forehand long on the second and when Norrie’s volley winner completed the break to grab that game. Norrie hopped and skipped and threw an uppercut. Some Union Jack flags waved in the stands.
For Norrie, this was his first Grand Slam semi-final, 42 fewer than his opponent. Indeed, until this tournament, Norrie never had been past the third round at a major, going 0-5 at that stage previously.
By the conclusion, the disparity in skills was obvious, too.
Just one tiny example of how versatile and superb Djokovic is came on one particularly marvellous point. He hit a spinning half-volley on the move, but Norrie replied with a lob.
Djokovic ran back towards the baseline, the net behind him, and conjured up a between-the-legs, facing-the-wrong-way, high-arching lob of his own that somehow landed in.
Norrie ran to that, twisted his body to reply with a forehand, and Djokovic ended the 14-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner.
Even the partisans on hand cheered with approval. Djokovic raised his right index finger to the sky.
Still, it took him a full set to get going.
Norrie, meanwhile, grew less sharp as Djokovic increased the pressure — within points and on the scoreboard. A particularly sloppy service game by Norrie, with a trio of unforced errors, helped Djokovic break to lead 5-3 in the second set.
Djokovic broke to open the third and again to open the fourth.
Only one of Norrie’s previous five foes this fortnight was even seeded, No. 30 Tommy Paul. Needless to say, Djokovic represented quite a considerable step up in quality.
He is not one to ignore chances presented to him, not one to casually allow gifts to go unopened, and so it was on this day.