Wimbledon, England. Rivals and details change from year to year, but the bottom line remains the same.
With his trademark toughness, Novak Djokovic defeated Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon men’s final on Sunday to win his 21st Grand Slam singles title.
Djokovic seized control of the match at the end of the third set and then used his trademark combination of consistent power and relentless discipline to keep Kyrgios at bay to win, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3). after 3 hours 1 minute.
The win gave Djokovic his seventh Wimbledon singles title and fourth in a row. He won the trophy he holds most dear by winning his 28th consecutive match at Wimbledon. It was his 32nd Grand Slam final. His record in these finals is now 21-11.
“I am at a loss for words on what this tournament means to me and my family,” he said, clutching the trophy to his chest.
Kyrgios, who played in his first Grand Slam final, was a better player early on, beating Djokovic in every aspect of the game. But, as he often does, Djokovic eventually figured out how he could get the best out of Kyrgios, the often erratic Australian, for those few big points that decide a tense tennis match like this one.
The biggest of these came in the fourth set tiebreaker, when Djokovic, groaning from every punch, fought for plays and tempted Kyrgios into four straight errors to take a 6-1 lead.
On his third match point, Djokovic pushed Kyrgios to the end of the court and saw the last left hit the net. He raised his hands and, as he had done so many times before, tasted the herbs on Center Court in celebration.
“He’s a bit of a god, I won’t lie,” Kyrgios said during the trophy ceremony, donning a red cap rather than the required all-white one, in a final blow to tournament authority that many of them experienced first hand.
On a warm and sunny day that looked more like Kyrgios’ home in Canberra than Djokovic’s home in Monte Carlo, there was a tense atmosphere on Center Court. The two future kings, William, Duke of Cambridge, and his eldest son George sat directly above the court in the front row of the royal box, along with Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, the biggest tennis fan and player in the family. on the other side of George.
In the beginning, Kyrgios did better than Djokovic in almost everything. He served harder and more accurately. He mixed spins and speeds and stood in the middle of the baseline as Djokovic chased balls left and right and struggled to catch up with Kyrgios’ shots.
Kyrgios found his first opening in Game 5 by trapping Djokovic with a backhand and then passing him down the line for his first shot to break Djokovic’s serve. Djokovic’s double fault sent him jumping into the substitution chair, and five games later he won the first set with an ace, one of 30 he managed to hit in a day, compared to Djokovic’s 15.
But then Djokovic began to do what he does best, find the thinnest gap and put the opponent on the defensive, no matter what the scoreboard says. The first set was a lesson for Djokovic.
He found that crack in the fourth game of the second set. Kyrgios was serving 1-2 and the big Aussie was quickly in trouble with a long right hand. Djokovic then landed a flurry of backhands, each hitting slightly further into the floor than the last, to give him three chances to break the pitch. When Kyrgios hit from the right on goal and beat, Djokovic was ready to shoot.
This is rarely a sudden annihilation. Instead, the pressure builds up with every game. Djokovic’s opponent is under pressure on every serve. It’s 30-30, then a deuce, then a break point, then another. The next game will be the same, and in the end, it’s too much.
As the match progressed, Djokovic moved more and more smoothly across the court, dancing with the ball, hitting it with every shot and serve, and landing closer and closer to the lines.
After Kyrgios lost the third set, he punched the box in an attempt to calm his team. He started playing tennis at the age of 7. It took him 20 years to reach this level, much longer than many thought after he burst onto the road as a teenager with his speed, size and talent. Now everything has gone the wrong way.
To his credit, Kyrgios never burned down. But no matter how hard he ran or served, or how sexy some of his curling shots might have been, the yells of “Come on, Nick” that echoed through the 100-year-old stadium and through the gravy-filled crowds on Henman Hill outside of Central Korta was no match for Djokovic’s ruthlessness.
In the long history of this tournament, there have been final matches against more legendary champions and players much more beloved than Djokovic and Kyrgios, but there has hardly ever been a match that represented a greater contrast of styles both on and off the court. in tennis and life.
Djokovic, 35, entered the match second behind Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam singles tournament.
Kyrgios, 27, had not even reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament until last week. He still hasn’t played in any because Nadal withdrew from the tournament with a rupture of the abdomen on the eve of the match.
“I slept terribly again last night,” Kyrgios said.
Djokovic, who finished third, is an unrivaled counterpuncher, the best hitter to hit the racquet. He plays in Lacoste collared shirts and has pursued tennis immortality with extraordinary determination ever since he was a little boy in Serbia.
Kyrgios, ranked 40th, plays in basketball jerseys and has the rare combination of strength and hands to turn a forehand to the groin into a smooth volley. But he also proved to be as fragile as any elite player, prone to explode on the referee, opponent or fan in the meanest way, or smash his racket at any moment. Kyrgios earned $18,000 in fines from the tournament for spitting at a fan and swearing in the third round match and on Sunday.
On Tuesday it became known that Kyrgios was due to appear in court in August. 2 face allegations of assault on an ex-girlfriend. Chiara Passari told police that Kyrgios grabbed her during a domestic argument in December. On the advice of his lawyers, Kyrgios declined to comment on the allegations.
Kyrgios had an ambivalent relationship with tennis for a long time, playing several tournaments and then disappearing from tour for months, unable to cope with a life on the road.
Until recently, he and Djokovic despised each other, trading insults at press conferences and on social media about Djokovic’s lax approach to the pandemic. Djokovic refused to be vaccinated and held a tennis exhibition in the spring of 2020, during which several top players contracted the coronavirus.
They are now friendlier after Kyrgios expressed support for Djokovic following his detention in Australia in January over his refusal to get vaccinated before traveling to the country for the Australian Open.
During Sunday’s trophy ceremony, after Djokovic praised Kyrgios for his performance, he joked that he never thought he would say so many nice things about his opponent.
Djokovic lost several sets en route to the final and had to come back after two sets in his quarter-final. But his fate in this tournament was rarely in doubt. In the fifth set of that quarter-final, he reached for a backhand and ended up sprawling on the grass in a Superman pose, a shot that would be played for decades. On Sunday, he played Superman again.
This may be the last Grand Slam event for a while. Unless the policy changes or he changes his position on vaccination, he will not be able to enter the United States to play. at the US Open.
US regulations require all foreigners entering the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic said he believes people should be given the right to choose whether it should be done without pressure from governments.
Also, since he has been deported from Australia, Djokovic will need special permission to return to that country for the Australian Open in January.
With that in mind, Sunday could be his last chance to win a Grand Slam until next May at the French Open in Paris. He made the most of it. He usually does.