Rafael Nadal sadly said goodbye with the wish to return to Wimbledon next year, Novak Djokovic can hope for the next tennis triumph without his big opponent. After a bumpy start, the top-seeded defending champion won his semi-final against British Cameron Norrie 2: 6, 6: 3, 6: 2, 6: 4 and will be playing for his seventh title at the grass classic on Sunday. Djokovic goes into the final as a favorite against unseeded Australian Nick Kyrgios, who celebrates his premiere in a Grand Slam final after Nadal’s withdrawal.

Djokovic could come close to Nadal with his 21st Grand Slam title and fourth Wimbledon triumph in a row. The 36-year-old Spaniard had canceled for the semi-finals with a torn abdominal muscle and wants to start training again for the US Open at the end of August in a week. Before Nadal finally disappeared in a box-like shuttle car in Wimbledon, he shook hands with numerous employees on the facility and announced goodbye: “I hope to see you next year.”

So there is an unexpected chance for Kyrgios against Djokovic that robbed him of his night’s sleep. “I had a shocking sleep, to be honest,” said the Australian, who was controversial for his antics and debates with referees. He only slept for an hour. “I was so scared, I was already feeling so nervous, and I’m not usually nervous.”

Kyrgios said he was connected to Djokovic by a kind of “bromance”, a friendly relationship between men. “I think everyone knows that there was no love between us for a while. That was healthy for the sport. Every time we played against each other, there was a hype,” the feisty Australian recalled.

Should Djokovic play on Sunday like he did at the beginning of the semifinals, everything would point to a surprise success for Kyrgios. Djokovic gave up the serve three times in the first round and made many mistakes from the baseline. With a solid performance, Norrie secured the opening set with an ace after just 32 minutes.

The fans on Center Court loudly drove on their British darling. But slowly Djokovic also stabilized, but without initially letting his brilliance flash. After a completely unsuccessful volley, Norrie lost his concept and had to accept the break to 3:5 and a little later the loss of the set.

Djokovic no longer allowed himself any weaknesses in his own service, and not much came together with Norrie. Under the pressure of the audience, who wanted to celebrate the second British Wimbledon winner in the history of professional tennis after Andy Murray, the 26-year-old seemed increasingly overwhelmed. So Djokovic pulled away and was allowed to cheer after 2:34 hours.

For the still unvaccinated 35-year-old, it could be the last chance for a Grand Slam title this year if the USA does not change its entry requirements after all. Kyrgios initially criticized Djokovic for his behavior during the corona pandemic. However, when the Serb was denied entry to Australia, he received support from Kyrgios. “I was almost the only player and someone had to stand up for him about the drama at the Australian Open,” said the Australian. “There is respect there. Not on the tennis court, but when there is a real life crisis and someone stands up for you.