The world No 1 won 7-6 6-4 6-4 but for large parts of Friday’s semi-final was made to dig deep against the slick style of his French opponent, a formula which occasionally had Djokovic chasing shadows – but ultimately Gasquet could not topple the sport’s best player.
Defending champion Djokovic, who first tasted victory at the All England Club in 2011, now has the chance to vie for a third championship against either Andy Murray or Roger Federer on Sunday.
Gasquet, once a child prodigy and latterly nicknamed ‘Baby Federer’, showcased some of the artistry that earned him such accolades in his first Wimbledon semi-final since 2007 (he also reached the last four in the US Open in 2013).
His backhand, a trademark shot, regularly drew gasps from an appreciative Centre Court crowd, particularly through the first set when a fresh Djokovic was regularly unable to cope with the ball coming from that side.
The Serb broke in the second game to go 2-0 up and threaten a one-sided tie but Gasquet immediately broke back with a forehand and smash winners. Despite a bad miss, Gasquet held his serve thanks to a backhand that was whipped past the world No 1.
The next sequence of games all went with serve and at 4-4, another smooth backhand from Gasquet got the crowd on their feet. But it’s not enough as Djokovic edged a thrilling rally and put himself a game away from the set. Yet Gasquet, recently feted for his improved fitness, kept pace and stubbornly won a fifth game by ducking low and pinging a shot down the line. Djokovic narrowly found an extra gear in the tie break.
The momentum was maintained, even as another backhand flew past him, by Djokovic who broke serve in the first game of the second set before performing his finest work of the afternoon to go 2-0 up with a pair of aces and a disguised cross-court winner.
The world No 20 admirably still had something left in the tank and the remainder of the set went along with serve, although the feeling was that Gasquet was merely keeping in touch with an insurmountable lead. Despite his trainer massaging a problematic shoulder, the Serb maintained his serve and sent two aces flying down the court for an emphatic conclusion to the set.
Gasquet was forced to grit his teeth to hold serve as the third set started before four unforced errors did Djokovic’s work for him in the next game. Djokovic then recovered from a deflating line call to break serve, stooping low to lift the ball into an open space and go 2-1 up.
With the reigning Wimbledon champion in noticeable discomfort at times, he was content to maintain his service games while also diminishing the quantity of Gasquet’s eye-catching backhands with his peerless defence. Trailing 4-3, Gasquet leathered a forehand down the line that sent Djokovic’s racquet flying out of his hand as he dived, but it was a brief moment of competitiveness as the match became one-sided. He almost broke to confirm his final berth but settled for serving the match out.
In extending his head-to-head with Gasquet to 12-1, Djokovic advances to his 17th career Grand Slam final (equalling Rod Laver) and will await Murray or Federer.