London (AFP) – Novak Djokovic admits he can see a lot of Jannik Sinner in himself as the pair face off for a place in the Wimbledon semi-finals on Tuesday.
Six-time defending champion Djokovic is in familiar territory, targeting an 11th semi-final at the All England Club and 43rd at the Slams.
Italian 20-year-old Sinner is yet to get past the quarter-finals of a major.
“I kind of see a little bit of myself in his game from the back of the court, playing flat backhand, constantly staying on the back of the line, trying to put pressure on opponents,” said Djokovic.
The Serb easily won the pair’s only previous meeting in straight sets on clay in Monte Carlo last year.
But beanpole Sinner impressively dismissed Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz in the last 16 on Sunday, saving all seven break points faced.
Before this Wimbledon, he had never won a grass court match.
Sinner has been breaking new ground since his teens.
In 2021, he became the youngest player in the year-end top 10 since Juan Martin del Potro in 2008.
Earlier in the year, still 19, he became the first teenager to win an ATP 500-level event in Washington.
He was also the first Italian finalist in the history of the Miami Masters last year.
Physical frailties, however, are never far away.
He had to retire from his fourth-round match against Andrey Rublev at the French Open last month with a knee injury.
In Miami, foot blisters forced a pull-out when facing Francisco Cerundolo while illness in Indian Wells meant he handed a walkover to Nick Kyrgios.
By making the last eight at Wimbledon, Sinner follows in the footsteps of Matteo Berrettini, who was runner-up to Djokovic last year.
Berrettini was the first Italian man to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals since Davide Sanguinetti in 1998.
“It’s going to be a tough match against Novak, of course. I mean, he’s playing very, very good. I will try my best. That’s the minimum I can do,” said Sinner.
Djokovic will hope the Wimbledon schedulers are kind to him after he hit out at having to play the last match on Centre Court on Sunday.
His four-set win over Tim van Rijthoven ended just in time to avoid the 11:00 pm local curfew.
Had the match gone on, Djokovic would have had to return on Monday.
“I don’t see a reason why there wouldn’t be an earlier start,” said Djokovic of a Centre Court programme that starts at 1:30 pm.
“If you’re scheduled last on the Centre, you’re going to end up a match under the roof, which changes the conditions, the style of play, the way you move on the court.
“It’s more slippery. The lights. It’s really an indoor tournament.”
In Tuesday’s other quarter-final, British ninth seed Cameron Norrie tackles David Goffin of Belgium.
Both men are attempting to make the semis of a Slam for the first time.
Norrie is the last British player left in singles.
Goffin defeated Frances Tiafoe of the United States in the longest match at this year’s Wimbledon — four hours and 36 minutes — to reach the quarter-finals for the second time.
Goffin missed Wimbledon in 2021 after suffering an ankle injury before a knee problem forced him to shut down his season after the US Open.
Before this year, his most recent match at Wimbledon was a sobering 2019 quarter-final defeat to Djokovic, who allowed him just six games.
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