Novak Djokovic to face Nick Kyrgios in Wimbledon final

The three remaining Wimbledon singles players are playing in their first Grand Slam finals.

Then Novak Djokovic.

The Serbian star advanced to his eighth Wimbledon final of his storied career on Friday, doing so with a victory over Britain’s Cameron Norrie who was overwhelmingly cheered by the overburdened Center Court crowd.

Norrie started with a 6-2 win in the first set, but Djokovic bounced back 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 to reach Sunday’s final with a chance to win the championship for the fourth year in a row.

“A few times he lost focus a little and that’s where I stepped in and really started to control the pace of the match by trading passes from the back line,” Djokovic said. “He asked for support from the crowd, and he got it.”

That will change on Sunday when Djokovic is clearly the crowd favorite in the final against the explosive Nick Kyrgios, playing in the first major final of his career.

(Relative newbies too Ons Zhaber and Elena Rybakinaeach of which will debut on Saturday in the final of the Major.)

Earlier on Friday, Kyrgios described the prospect of a final against Djokovic as “appetizing”. The two have only met each other twice, both in 2017 on hard courts, with Djokovic failing to win a set.

“It’s hard to read his serve,” Djokovic said. “I haven’t trained with him or played with him since the last time I lost to him. … On grass, I would suggest that it is even more difficult to read his pitch and return it.”

Nick Kyrgios' reaction at the men's singles match at Wimbledon.

Nick Kyrgios’ reaction at the men’s singles match at Wimbledon. He reached the final when Rafel Nadal pulled out of the semi-finals with a stomach injury.

(Alberto Pezzali/Associated Press)

Kyrgios did not have to play the semi-final match. It was cleaned up when Rafael Nadal withdrew the day before because of a stomach injury.

Theoretically, Kyrgios should have had a particularly good rest for the final, but…

“To be honest, I didn’t sleep well last night,” he said early Friday morning. “I probably slept for an hour just with everything, like excitement. I had so much anxiety. I was already so nervous, and usually I am not nervous.

15 years ago, Djokovic played in his first major final against Roger Federer at the 2007 US Open. Federer won in straight sets and won this championship for the fourth time in a row.

“I can’t remember my feelings,” Djokovic said. “But of course I was too excited. I didn’t really feel much pressure to win the match because reaching the final was already a huge achievement for me. Of course, the most pressure was on Roger, because he was expected to win, he was the favorite to win.

He acknowledged that this situation is similar, although he was then 20 years old, seven years younger than Kyrgios now.

“It helps him because he’s more mentally mature, he’s got more years on the court, more matches, bigger matches,” Djokovic said. “Actually, he is a big player. If you look at his career, the best tennis he’s played has always been against the best guys. That’s why we all respect him because we know what he can come up with.”

Ahead of this year’s Australian Open, Djokovic reportedly wrote to the tournament organizers asking them to lift COVID restrictions on players, prompting Kyrgios to call him a “tool” on Twitter.

But Kyrgios later said he was “quite embarrassed” about how the Australian government had treated the unvaccinated Djokovic when he was held up in a visa saga that kept the 20-time champion out of the Australian Open.

This support helped relieve the tension between them.

“I don’t know yet if I can call it a bromance, but we definitely have a better relationship than we probably had before January of this year,” Djokovic said after Friday’s match.

“When I was having a really hard time in Australia, he was one of the very few players who came out in public and supported me and supported me. This is what I really appreciate. So I have a lot of respect for him.”

The outspoken Kyrgios knows there won’t be a crowd behind him, and on Friday he was asked about a London tabloid headline that called his free pass to the final Wimbledon’s worst nightmare.

“Look, this is hard,” he said. “This is what I have to deal with. It’s just the world we live in. I’m in the Wimbledon final. Deep down inside, I know everything I’ve been through and worked for. I just try to enjoy the ride.”

Desira Krawczyk of Rancho Mirage saw her attempt to win two Wimbledon titles in the same year fall short as she and Danielle Collins lost in the women’s doubles semi-finals on Center Court. The second place was taken by the Belgian Elisa Mertens and the Chinese Shuai Zhang. 1 in the world, reached the final on Sunday, winning 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

This loss came at night after Krawczyk and Neil Skupsky won their second consecutive Wimbledon mixed doubles title. They beat the Australian duo of Matthew Ebden and Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-3.

The crowd was strongly supportive of Krawczyk and Briton Skupski, who seemed to be at ease as they approached another title.

“I told Neil that I wasn’t particularly nervous on the court,” Krawczyk said. “This is a bit of a bad sign for me. But I think when it got to 5-2, I kind of felt it. I thought, “Oh my gosh, we’re kind of nearing the end.” Until that match point, it’s not over until it’s over. You have to keep pushing, acting it out.”