Novak Djokovic was stunned by a “terrible call” that cost him a point at Wimbledon.
The seven-time SW19 champion defeated 21-year-old Jannik Sinner 3-6 4-6 6-7 on Centre Court to reach a record 35th Grand Slam final.
But the Serb’s victory was at one point in doubt while serving at 15-15 as he led 2-1 in the second set. After hitting a backhand, Djokovic made a grunt with a delay, which was ruled as a hindrance by chair umpire Richard Haigh.
A dumbfounded Djokovic crouched down to his knees before approaching the umpire’s chair and saying: “You must be joking. Calling that in the semi-final of Wimbledon? What are you doing?”
And despite recovering to close out a victory, he remained adamant the rogue call should not have been given at such a crucial point in the tournament.
He said: “It could have changed the course of the match. I felt really nervous after the call by the chair umpire but managed to regroup.
“It was probably the first time in my career that something like this happened, I don’t normally have an extended grunt but maybe it was an echo from the roof.
“I actually didn’t feel I was causing any hindrance to my opponent but okay, it was a call I had to respect.”
He added: “I thought my grunt finished before he [Sinner] hit the shot so I thought that the chair umpire’s call was not correct.”
Commentators on the BBC empathised with Djokovic over the harsh call, with Tim Henman saying: “I’ve never seen that before,” to which Todd Woodbridge added: “I feel Richard’s been waiting to make that call for a while.”
He added: “I’m not sure that it’s worth him interjecting into the match like he has just done. I think that maybe could have been a word to Novak at the changeover to just be aware before giving that. That’s rough.”
Meanwhile, former Wimbledon champion John McEnroe called it a “horrible, horrible call” adding the umpire “wanted his name in the paper.”