LONDON - Novak Djokovic powered into his first Wimbledon final here Friday with a four-set defeat of France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga which ensured he will take over the world number one ranking.
The Serbian second seed downed the 12th seed Tsonga 7-6 (7/4), 6-2, 6-7 (9/11), 6-3 to clinch a showdown with Spanish top seed Rafael Nadal or Britain's Andy Murray in Sunday's final. The win also guarantees Djokovic will be named as the new world number one on Monday when the ATP Tour releases its latest rankings, the first time in seven years that either Nadal or Roger Federer has not occupied top spot. "It's difficult to put into words," said Djokovic.
"This is one of the best feelings I've had on a tennis court. My dreams are coming true -- into my first final at Wimbledon. "I've been working all my life for this. I've been dreaming about playing the final in Wimbledon since I started playing tennis when I was four, so to be there in the final on Sunday will be fantastic." The 24-year-old had lost in five of his seven previous encounters against Tsonga, who had advanced to the last four with a stunning five-set quarter-final victory over six-time champion Federer.
But despite a spirited third set fightback from Tsonga, Djokovic maintained his composure to close out a deserved victory in 3hr 7mins. Tsonga had seized the initiative early in the first set, breaking Djokovic in the opening game when the Serb sent a wild forehand long.
It looked as if Tsonga's early break would prove decisive, but with the Frenchman serving for the set in the 10th game, Djokovic hit back to level at 5-5 to help set up a tie-break. Djokovic took three set points when an airy backhand from Tsonga drifted beyond the baseline, and the Serb converted the second when his opponent sunk a routine volley into the net. Djokovic carried his momentum into the second set, breaking Tsonga immediately and dictating play in a series of cleverly constructed exchanges from the baseline.
A double break gave Djokovic a 4-1 lead before two more held service games put him two sets up, leaving Tsonga needing to conjure another escape act. Djokovic looked to be on the cusp of victory after a break in the 11th game of the third set left him serving for the match at 6-5. But Tsonga broke to love to force a tie-break, and then fought off two match points before a thunderous serve was sent long by Djokovic to take the match into a fourth set. Yet Djokovic got back on track with an early break, and held his lead to seal victory.