LONDON — One semifinalist is rebounding from a taxing five-set comeback. Another was so overwhelmed to reach the final four, he sat on the court and wept. One more has a knee that’s being kept in action through the miracles of ice baths, athletic tape and painkillers.
And then there’s Novak Djokovic.
Of the four men preparing for Friday’s semifinals at Wimbledon, nobody has had skated through a less-taxing road than the top-ranked and top-seeded Serb, who remains the odds-on favorite to win his seventh Grand Slam title.
“Coming into the semifinals, I feel physically fresh,” said Djokovic, who has won all 15 sets he’s played and averaged less than two hours per match, the lowest total of any of the final four.
“And I’m ready. Plenty of motivation to win every match that I play here.”
Djokovic will play eighth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who also hasn’t dropped a set in his first five matches at Wimbledon, but is the opposite of “fresh” — dealing with the effects of hyperextending his left knee twice: First in a match last Saturday, then again in his quarterfinal victory over David Ferrer.
The other men’s semifinal pits No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz, a 22-year-old from Poland who is making his deepest run at a Grand Slam, against No. 2 Andy Murray, who came back from two sets down to beat Fernando Verdasco and advance to his fifth straight Wimbledon semifinal.
Murray got himself into quite a bind in the Verdasco match, but slowed things down to make a meticulous comeback. He was on the court for 3 hours, 27 minutes to bring his total to 11 hours, 59 minutes, the most of the four semifinalists.
How big a toll will all that take?
“You never know,” Murray said. “The next match will be different from the one today. Who knows? Some of the guys, like Novak, (haven’t) lost a set yet. I’m sure he’s pretty happy with where his game is at just now. I’m happy to be in the semis. Regardless of whether it’s been five sets or the first matches were in three sets, it makes no difference.”
Murray is trying to reach the final in the fourth straight Grand Slam he’s played. (He missed this year’s French Open with a back injury). He carries the hopes of a nation with him every time he steps on the court at Wimbledon. No British man has won the country’s Grand Slam since Fred Perry in 1936.
Janowicz is well aware of that.
“I hope Andy will feel some kind of pressure,” he said. “I’m sure he’ll feel some kind of pressure because Great Britain is waiting for the (British) champion in Wimbledon.”
Janowicz knows all about the feeling of playing for a country.