Cussed, complaining and in full siege mentality, the Serb cuts an entirely different figure to the one who, only in late March, questioned his own future after a dismal early exit from the Miami Open.
Listless, and barely able to land a backhand in the court while playing Frenchman Benoit Paire, Djokovic was unsure afterwards whether he would even turn up for the clay-court season.
Novak Djokovic shows off his football skills before a practice session at Wimbledon
He has since rediscovered his mojo, thanks to what has come across at times this fortnight as a persecution complex, with claims that he has been the victim of various slights. These have ranged from umpires picking up on time and racket-abuse violations to his treatment from the Centre Court crowd when playing Kyle Edmund.
The time of his semi-final on Friday against Nadal will be earlier, but you wonder if this could be last Saturday evening revisited as one of these players is much more popular than the other.
During his superb quarter-final win over Juan Martin del Potro on Wednesday evening — which sadly clashed with England’s semi-final at the World Cup — Nadal leapt into the crowd after trying to retrieve a wide ball.
The Serb cuts an entirely different figure to the one who questioned his own future
The delighted woman on whom he landed got a kiss on the hand, and it was one example contrasting the crowd’s evident love for the Spaniard with how they have viewed Djokovic.
So there is little doubt whose side they will be on, but Nadal is surely going to be handicapped by what Del Potro took out of him in the course of a four-hour-and-48-minute battle which finished just before 9pm.
While it would be wrong to cast Djokovic as entirely the pantomime villain, he managed to squeeze in another moan after his victory over Kei Nishikori on Wednesday.
This was in reference to the forthcoming US Open’s plans to introduce a 25-second shot clock on court for the main draw this year.
‘I don’t like the shot clocks between the points,’ he said. ‘It’s something the US Open is going to introduce this year without consulting players. That’s really not nice and not fair.’
Rafael Nadal apologises after falling on to a woman during his win over Juan Martin Del Potro
While Wimbledon has little enthusiasm at present for replicating the idea, the topic is relevant today as the match features two of the game’s serial offenders for slow play.
At least Nadal is too experienced and hard-nosed to be distracted by Djokovic’s deliberate tactic of bouncing the ball interminably before serving it, and he is not above a bit of stalling himself, Nishikori and Edmund were both bothered by it.
What is indisputable is that the Serb is definitely ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation at the top, so soon after the nadir of Miami.
‘We didn’t expect that much from Wimbledon,’ admitted his coach Marian Vajda. ‘I know Novak is a great champion, but he was not sure if he was ready. It would probably be more surprising to all of us if he wins Wimbledon in a way, because he is not ready yet for that.
‘It would be something which he accomplished much faster (than expected). I am expecting him to play much better on the hard courts (later this summer).’
Whoever wins between these two all-time greats will be heavily favoured for the title, although neither John Isner nor Kevin Anderson should be taken for granted, especially with the firepower at their disposal.
This is a match pitting 6ft 10in against 6ft 8in respectively. Some may portray it as a terrifying glimpse of the future, but that would ignore the fact that the American is 33 and his South African opponent 32.
This has got tiebreaks written all over it, with them having hit 284 aces between them so far in the tournament.
It may not be pretty, but if it is decided on who is the better tennis player then Anderson is the one who should prevail narrowly.
Source: MailOnline | Copyright © MailOnline, All Rights Reserved