LONDON (Reuters) - A fortnight ago few people would have predicted that Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios would be the man standing between Novak Djokovic and a fourth successive Wimbledon title.
Djokovic himself, however, is not surprised that it will be Kyrgios standing over the other side of the net on Sunday.
The Serbian top seed booked his eighth Wimbledon final by coming from a set down against Britain's Cameron Norrie on Friday while unseeded Kyrgios benefitted from a walkover after Spanish 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafa Nadal withdrew injured.
Djokovic has only faced Kyrgios twice in his career, losing twice to him in 2017, so while he will be favourite to claim a seventh Wimbledon crown, he knows exactly how dangerous the unpredictable world number 40 Kyrgios can be.
"In a way it's a surprise because his ranking. So maybe not too many people are giving him big chances to reach the finals," Djokovic told reporters after beating Norrie in four sets to extend his winning sequence at Wimbledon to 27 matches.
"But I think between us players, we always know how dangerous he is, on grass particularly, because of his game, because of his attitude on the court being so confident, just going for it, being a very complete player.
"If you see his career, the best tennis he's played is always against the top guys. That's why we all respect him, because we know what he can come up with.
"So it's also not surprise for me that he's there."
Kyrgios, who has been fined twice during this year's championships and whose behaviour polarises opinion like no other player, remarked this week that many people would have been upset to see his deep run at Wimbledon.
Djokovic is not one of them.
"Honestly, as a tennis fan, I'm glad he's in the finals because he's got so much talent," Djokovic, who has had something of a fractious relationship with the Australian over the years, said. "Everyone was expecting great things from him.
"Then we know what was happening throughout many years with him mentally, emotionally. On and off the court, a lot of different things that were distracting him and he was not being able to get this consistency.
"For the quality player that he is, this is where he needs to be, and he deserves to be."
This time last year Djokovic was on the verge of his sixth Wimbledon title and looked set for not only a calendar-year Slam but also breaking the record for Grand Slam titles.
Twelve months on, the 35-year-old remains stuck on 20, two behind Rafa Nadal and he knows that his chances of overhauling the Spaniard will diminish as every tournament goes by.
"I'm aware of what's on the line. I don't know how many opportunities to win the trophy I will still have."
The big question everyone is asking is how will Kyrgios, the first Australian man to reach a major final for 17 years, handle the biggest match of his career.
"Playing against someone that has never played a Grand Slam final, could be slightly in my favour," Djokovic said.
"But at the same time, knowing who he is and how he goes about his tennis and his attitude on the court he doesn't seem to be falling under pressure much. He plays lights-out every time he steps out onto the court."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)