WIMBLEDON, England — Novak Djokovic used a 10-game run to transform what was shaping up as an even, entertaining Wimbledon quarterfinal into a lopsided romp.
“I felt,” Djokovic would say later, “like I managed to dismantle his game.”
That’s a pretty accurate description of what happened Wednesday at Centre Court.
Down an early break, the defending champion grabbed control midway through the opening set Wednesday and never let go, overwhelming the 21st-seeded David Goffin 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 to reach his ninth semifinal at the All England Club.
“He was everywhere,” Goffin said.
On Friday, the No. 1-seeded Djokovic will face No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, a first-time Grand Slam semifinalist.
Bautista Agut is supposed to be on the island of Ibiza right now, having a bachelor party with a half-dozen pals ahead of his November wedding, but instead he will play on after beating No. 26 Guido Pella of Argentina 7-5, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.
“Well,” the 31-year-old Bautista Agut said, “it feels better to be here in London.”
Djokovic is seeking his fifth Wimbledon championship and 17th Grand Slam trophy overall.
The quarterfinals on the other side of the draw were held later Wednesday: No. 2 seed Roger Federer vs. No. 8 Kei Nishikori, and No. 3 Rafael Nadal vs. unseeded Sam Querrey.
If Federer and Nadal both won, their semifinal meeting would be the first match between them at Wimbledon since the 2008 final.
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Goffin started well enough against Djokovic on an afternoon that was humid and sunny, with the temperature in the mid-70s (mid-20s C).
Hoping to reach his first major semifinal, Goffin claimed three of the first four points that lasted at least 10 strokes. He won the pair’s most recent encounter, on clay in 2017, and this looked a bit like it was being contested on that slower surface, too.
Goffin was able to hang in there at the baseline and his on-the-run passing shots were dialed in. He nosed ahead after 33 minutes by breaking to go up 4-3, then jogged to the sideline with a raised fist.
Until then, Goffin was playing crisply and cleanly. He hadn’t faced so much as one break point against Djokovic, generally considered the top returner in the game.
“He was dictating the play from the baseline,” Djokovic said afterward. “Most of the rallies went his way.”
But that’s when everything changed.
Djokovic did to Goffin exactly what he does to so many men on so many surfaces and at so many tournaments: He takes their best shot, deals with it and then wears them down.
“I sincerely hope that my opponent feels like he’s got to work twice as (hard as) against any other opponent to win a point,” Djokovic said.
Serving at 30-love in the very next game, Goffin double-faulted. Then he flubbed a forehand. After limiting himself to three unforced errors through the match’s initial 49 points, the Belgian made two in a row. The next point was an odd one involving a late line call and a challenge by Goffin, who lost it and faced his first break point.
Djokovic couldn’t convert that one, but moments later, Goffin sent a forehand wide to set up a second. This time, Djokovic ended a 20-stroke exchange with a drop volley winner. And soon enough, he was on his way, sliding or doing the splits along the baseline to get to balls few others would, bending his body this way and that to repeatedly force Goffin to hit an extra shot.
It’s a dispiriting brand of tennis, and it was too much for Goffin. He would wind up going about 50 minutes until he managed to win another game.