Novak Djokovic leads Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in their Wimbledon 2018 semifinal at the All England Club, but both players will have to return Saturday to finish the contest.
Friday's match was delayed because of the semifinal on Centre Court between Kevin Anderson and John Isner, which the South African won 26-24 after a record-breaking six hours and 35 minutes.
Djokovic and Nadal did not start their match until after 8 p.m. local time. They were forced to finish at 11 p.m. due to Wimbledon's curfew.
The Serb took the first set with a single break, but Nadal hit back in the second to level the match. A tense third set followed, which Djokovic sealed on a tie break to hold the advantage overnight.
The semifinal took place under a closed roof, with both players knowing they were unlikely to complete the match because of the curfew.
Djokovic started as if he were in a rush. He put pressure on Nadal's serve from the off, and his powerful hitting forced back the second seed.
The pressure was evident at 3-3, as Djokovic earned two more break points and converted with a sizzling backhand to take the advantage.
It was enough for the 12th seed to claim the first set and take the early advantage. Tennis commentator David Law shared his view on the early exchanges:
Djokovic had chances to break at the start of the second, but Nadal displayed all of his champion qualities to grimly hang on.
The pair then traded breaks as Djokovic played a poor game midway through the set. However, it was Nadal who broke again at 4-2 with a forehand winner that put him right back into the match.
Djokovic had chances to break back as Nadal tried to serve out the second set. He could not convert and sent a forehand wide as Nadal levelled it up.
The quality of the match had risen a notch, and the tension was also growing as it moved into the third set, with both players aware they could secure a crucial advantage overnight.
Wimbledon had advice for spectators as the game headed toward curfew:
Spectators being “strongly advised” to consider their travel arrangements but there aren’t many empty seats pic.twitter.com/nr0Zt340k0— Eleanor Crooks (@EleanorcrooksPA) July 13, 2018
The intensity grew as the third set headed into a tie break. Wimbledon showed how there was nothing to choose between the two players:
Djokovic led 4-2 at the changeover in the tie break, but a cute forehand drop shot from Nadal on the baseline put him right back in it at 5-4.
Another drop-shot winner followed to give Nadal a set point, but he could not convert as a service return went just long.
The Spaniard kept up the momentum, and a whipped forehand crosscourt brought up another set point. But this time it was Djokovic who employed the drop shot to good effect.
Djokovic rescued a third set point and then ground out one of his own with a second serve, which forced a nervy Nadal long. A good serve from Nadal tied it, with play continuing despite the clock hitting 11 p.m.
The Spaniard then hit a poor drop shot that allowed Djokovic to latch on to it and fire a winner past him to bring up another set point. This time he made no mistake, taking the set 7-6 before officials suspended play.
Stuart Fraser at the Times explained when they will return:
Scrap that. Just been told that play will resume at 1pm tomorrow on Centre Court. The women's final, due to begin at 2pm, will likely be delayed #Wimbledon— Stuart Fraser (@stu_fraser) July 13, 2018
Djokovic is likely to sleep the easier of the two, as he holds the advantage. Nadal had produced some superb tennis, but he will need to find his best form to turn around this one.