Novak Djokovic brushes aside Richard Gasquet to keep Wimbledon defence on track
Novak Djokovic dismissed Richard Gasquet to seize the chance to match Boris Becker's three Wimbledon titles 30 years on from his German coach's SW19 breakthrough triumph.
Top seed Djokovic stormed past Frenchman Gasquet 7-6 (7/2) 6-4 6-4 to book his 17th grand slam final appearance, and the opportunity to defend his 2014 title.
Djokovic will now meet either Andy Murray or Roger Federer in his fourth Wimbledon final, arriving largely unruffled in his third successive major tournament showdown.
Novak Djokovic claimed first blood in his bid to reach a 17th grand slam final by claiming the first set of his semi-final against Richard Gasquet 7-6 (7/2).
Djokovic has ploughed the year's Wimbledon field always with the achievements of mentor and super coach Boris Becker in mind.
The Serbian is not only aiming to retain his 2014 title - he can also draw level with ever-popular German Becker's three career victories at SW19.
There are those who would view such proximity to Becker's greatness as overbearing, but Djokovic has long since approached any challenge by confronting it square-on.
Becker is inspiration not intimidation then, and Djokovic certainly feeds off his aura.
Djokovic can also mirror another of Becker's Wimbledon exploits by retaining the title - but extra motivation still comes from chasing the great exploits and legion of fans boasted by rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
A ninth major title would draw him closer to Nadal's 14 and Federer's 17 grand slam triumphs - and maybe even win him some new followers in the process.
"Novak's maybe not as loved as Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal, but he can change that just by winning," said 1997 Wimbledon finalist Cedric Pioline.
"I have a feeling he's more and more popular, because he's winning, winning, winning, so he's improved on that part.
"And if he just keeps on winning, then that level of support will come along with it too."
Djokovic set about that planned victory march by opening the match with an immediate service break, but Gasquet underlined the tenacity that dragged him past French Open winner Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals by responding in kind.
The man who won the battle of the backhands with Wawrinka in the last eight turned the first set into a real contest, even forcing a tie-break during which Djokovic took early control on his way to edging ahead in the match.
Djokovic wrestled an immediate break to start the second set, flummoxing Gasquet - who had thrown everything at the opening exchange but to no avail.
The top seed fended off two break points to hold serve as Gasquet was again unable to find any telling breach of Djokovic's armour.
After that the set stayed on course, Djokovic taking control and the honours 6-4, eyeing a quick resolution to this last-four battle.
Djokovic came under fire for shouting "Towel" at a ball girl during his testing fourth-round victory over Kevin Anderson, before seeking her out and apologising after defeating Marin Cilic in straight sets in the quarter-finals.
The 28-year-old had to fend off allegations of cheating in Wimbledon's early stages after Becker admitted sending signals to the Serbian from the players' box during matches.
Those two incidents aside however, Djokovic has remained largely untroubled en route to another Wimbledon final.
Offering Gasquet precious little opportunity, he sealed the third set 6-4, and with it the match.
Gasquet fended off two match points deep into the set, but by that stage Djokovic already had one service break, so was left to serve out the contest without issue.
Arriving at the showpiece contest effectively by sneaking under the radar is extremely tough going at a major tournament - especially after blowing his third chance for a career grand slam at Roland Garros.
Djokovic's fuss-free procession to the final offers worrying portent that his eventual opponent - whether Murray or Federer - will do well to heed.