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July 6, 2013

Djokovic takes 5 sets to top del Potro

LONDON — Novak Djokovic might win Wimbledon this year. Juan Martin del Potro will not.

No matter how it ends, both men will always have their spot in one of the most memorable matches in the storied history of the All England Club.

Slugging back and forth over 4 hours, 43 minutes of backbreaking tennis Friday, top-seeded Djokovic emerged with a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (6), 6-3 victory to move one win away from his seventh major title.

“One of the best matches I’ve been a part of,” Djokovic said. “One of the most exciting, definitely. It was so close. You couldn’t separate us.”

It was the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history and was only five minutes short of the 2008 five-set final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal that’s generally considered the greatest match played on Centre Court — and perhaps anywhere.

Djokovic moved into his 11th Grand Slam final, where he’ll play the winner of the late semifinal between No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz and No. 2 Andy Murray.

And, yes, that one did begin late — around 6:15 p.m., London time, after Djokovic and del Potro spent the entire, sundrenched afternoon exchanging huge groundstrokes, long rallies and even a few laughs during their marathon, which covered five sets, 55 games, two tiebreakers and 368 points.

“I think this match is going to be memory for a few years,” del Potro said. “We play for four hours and a half on a very high level. We didn’t make too many errors. I don’t know if the rest of the players can play like us today.”

Eighth-seeded Del Potro, back in a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time since winning the 2009 U.S. Open, saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreaker, then won the final four points to take it 8-6.

Shortly after, the match hit the 4-hour mark, guaranteeing it would surpass the 1989 match between Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl — a 4-hour, 1-minute affair — as the longest semifinal in Wimbledon’s long history.

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