Wimbledon 2024: Djokovic watches with feet up as semi rival Musetti sweats it out

Alex de Minaur withdraws from quarter-final with seven-time champion with hip injury

Serbia's Novak Djokovic during a practice session at Wimbledon, where he advanced to the semi-finals without playing a shot (Reuters via Beat Media Group subscription)

By James Toney at Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic doesn’t need a crash course in English proverbs to know one man’s loss is another man’s gain.

Djokovic advanced to his 13th Wimbledon semi-final - equalling the record of Roger Federer - after Australian Alex De Minaur pulled out of their scheduled semi-final clash.

Progressing to the final four - where he’ll face Italy's Lorenzo Musetti - without playing a point is no bad result for the 37-year-old Serb.

While his fitness should never be questioned, such is his relentless focus on raging against the ravages of time, seven high-intensity matches in a fortnight take their toll, especially just a few weeks after undergoing knee surgery that should have made his appearance here unlikely.

De Minaur had played down the impact of a hip injury after booking his place in Wimbledon’s last eight for the first time .

However, it was clear he was struggling during a morning workout at the All England Club, with the recovery window for his injury between three and six weeks, putting his Olympic ambitions in Paris under real threat.

"It’s devastating, there’s no way to beat around the bush - this was going to be the biggest match of my career," said De Minaur.

"I knew as soon as I felt that pop, I knew something bad had happened. I have been struggling to sleep the last couple of days, I just hoped I would wake up and feel it a little bit less or feel it to a point where I can at least go on court.

"I think it's almost disrespectful for me to not go on the court close to 100% against someone like Novak because there's no point of me going out there if I'm not going out there to try and win.

"I’m trying to take some positives, I’m going deep in these tournaments now. It's probably why it hurts so much more knowing that I feel close, closer than probably ever before.

"I feel like I'm putting myself in these positions, and it's a shame that I can't go out there and play. I've made back-to-back quarterfinals in slams, and I'm getting to the deep end of these tournaments more frequently, it's where I want to be."

Djokovic claimed some spectators had disrespected him during his straight-sets win over Holger Rune and it would have been interesting to see where Centre Court's allegiances lay for this quarter-final.

De Minaur - whose girlfriend is British women's number one Katie Boulter - is a popular figure with fans, though time and time again Djokovic has proved he can be powered by negative energy.

When his name was mentioned, during Musetti's on court interview, a vocal section of the crowd made their feelings clear they'd be supporting an Italian Job.

Djokovic spent time on Wimbledon's Aroangi practice courts yesterday, ran up and down a steep hill adjacent to car park three and was even spotted in jokey conversation with Carlos Alcaraz, who beat him in last year's final and plays Daniil Medvedev on the other side of the draw.

And perhaps he had more reasons to smile, as the scoreline came through from No.1 Court. Musetti, the number 25 seed, took nearly four energy-sapping hours to beat Taylor Fritz in a rollercoaster 3-7 7-6 6-1 3-6 6-1 and looked drained both physically and emotionally after playing 22 sets in just five matches.

"I don't think I've realised yet what I've done," said Musetti, whose artistry around the court, which brilliantly negated Fritz's power game, has turned him into a rising star.

"Taylor played a fantastic match but I'm so happy to have made my first Grand Slam semi-final.

"I didn't have the best start but I saved my top tennis for the last set and I'm really proud of how I played there. I changed my mindset and attitude and it made a big difference and hopefully against Novak, I can do the same.

"Novak knows the surface and the stadium better than anyone else. He's a legend, especially at Wimbledon. He's done unthinkable things in our sport, I expect a very big fight but I'm an ambitious guy, so let's see."

Djokovic's record in the business end of Slam has no parallel, while Musetti has won just 14 matches at this level in 13 appearances, his fourth round at last year's French Open his previous best return.

It should be Djokovic’s for the taking but this has been a Wimbledon from a rare Italian vintage, Jasmine Paolini also making the final four in the women’s singles.