LONDON – Serbia’s Novak Djokovic believes he will need to produce one of his greatest performances to win his Olympic semi-final showdown with Andy Murray.
Djokovic is bidding to win his first gold medal after taking home a bronze from the 2008 Games in Beijing and he remains firmly in the hunt after seeing off French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-1, 7-5 in the quarter-finals on Wimbledon’s Centre Court on Thursday.
Following a hard-fought win over Lleyton Hewitt in the previous round, this was Djokovic at his dominant best and the world number two’s first grasscourt clash with the in-form Murray promises to be a titanic battle.
The Serb has every reason to believe he can win after surviving an epic five-setter against Murray in the Australian Open semi-finals earlier this year to secure his eighth win in 13 meetings with the world number four.
But he is well aware that Murray is enjoying a rich vein of form at present that will make him a serious danger.
“Andy is the home hero and he played the finals at Wimbledon,” Djokovic said.
“We are all aware of his quality as he has been playing in the last two or three years in four grand slam finals and he has been at the top of the men’s game for many years.
“He has been playing better than ever on grass courts. I will have to be at the top of my game.”
After losing the Wimbledon final against Roger Federer, Murray is desperate to make amends by taking Olympic gold, but Djokovic doesn’t believe the Scot will crack under the pressure of attempting to reach another major final on home soil.
“I don’t think it can affect him the wrong way. He wants to win every match he plays,” Djokovic said.
“We’re professionals. I’m sure he is going to want to win and to get to the finals, as much as I do and hopefully we can have a good one.”
Djokovic made a superb start against Tsonga, breaking in the second game and again in the sixth before serving out the set.
Tsonga, a Wimbledon semi-finalist for the last two years, had won the longest three-set men’s singles in Olympic history in the second round and he fought back with an early break in the second set.
But Djokovic recovered from that setback to break midway through the set and then delivered the knock-out blow with one more break at 5-5.
Moments later he punched the air in delight when Tsonga’s return on match-point fell short of the net.