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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, July 10, 2022


Defending champion Novak Djokovic defused dangerous Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) to capture his seventh Wimbledon crown and 21st Grand Slam championship.

Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

Staring into swirling tennis tempest, Novak Djokovic responded with calm command.

In a high-quality Centre Court clash, defending champion Djokovic defused dangerous Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) to capture his seventh Wimbledon crown and 21st Grand Slam championship.

TN Q & A: Brad Gilbert on Wimbledon

It is Djokovic’s fourth consecutive Wimbledon title—with his seven SW19 titles equaling William Renshaw and Pete Sampras in second place on the all-time list for most Wimbledon men’s singles titles behind eight-time winner Roger Federer.

In a near flawless performance of energy and urgency, Djokovic scored his 28th straight Wimbledon win. Djokovic’s 21st major championship puts him in sole possession of second place behind 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal and ahead of 20-time major title holder Roger Federer.

A packed Centre Court crowd that featured Hall of Famers Chrissie Evert, Rod Laver, John Newcombe and Stan Smith saw a blockbuster live up to its buzz.

This was Djokovic’s 17th consecutive Wimbledon appearance and arguably his finest Wimbledon performance against the explosive Kyrgios, who served 73 percent and thumped 30 aces but emotionally unraveled gifting the champion the crucial fourth-set break.

Outplayed in the opening set, Djokovic elevated under pressure, managed stress more comfortably and won the mental game against the maiden major finalist. Djokovic more than double his winners to error ratio—46 to 17—denied five of six break points and pulled off his third consecutive comeback conquest at Wimbledon against an opponent he had not beaten previously.

Returning to his Grand Slam roots, Djokovic delivered major mastery.

“I lost words for what this tournament and trophy means to me—it always has been and will be the most special tournament in my heart the one that motivated men and inspired me to play tennis,” Djokovic told Centre Court fans after his 38th straight Centre Court victory. “In a small little mountain resort in Serbia where my parents used to run the restaurant I was 4-and-a-half, 5-years-old I saw Pete Sampras win his first Wimbledon in ‘92 and I asked my dad and mom to buy me a racquet.

“My first image of tennis was grass and Wimbledon. I always dreamed of coming here and just playing on this court. Just realizing a childhood dream of winning this trophy every time it gets more and more meaningful and special and so I’m very blessed and thankful to be standing here with the trophy.”

Undefeated on Centre Court since 2013, the 35-year-old Djokovic is the second-oldest man in the Open Era to win the Wimbledon singles title—after Big 3 rival Roger Federer, who won The Championships in 2017 aged 35 years 342 days. The Big 4 champions
—Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murrayhave now combined to collect 19 consecutive Wimbledon championships.

It's a critical championship in Djokovic's quest for Grand Slam supremacy as current U.S. laws will prevent the unvaccinated Serbian from playing next month's US Open. If Djokovic is locked out of Flushing Meadows and his ban from Australia is upheld, then today's final is his last Grand Slam appearance until 2023 Roland Garros, which makes his poise under pressure even more impressive given the stakes and disruptive force across the net.

Contesting his maiden major final, the 27-year-old Kyrgios bombed menacing serves, showed exquisite touch, played tweeners on back-to-back points and delivered an entertaining and bold performance.

Ultimately, Kyrgios' squandering a 40-Love lead at 4-all in the third set, Djokovic's unerring precision and the impulsive Aussie's implosions, including complaining about a chatty fan who had "about 700 drinks, bro" and chronic griping to his box proved costly.

Still, the volative Kyrgios who journeyed from Canberra’s concrete public courts to Centre Court should take pride from his performance.

"He’s a bit of a god," Kyrgios said of Djokovic. "I’m not gonna lie, I thought I played well. First of all, I want to congratulate Novak and his team.... Hopefully maybe one day I’ll be here again but I don’t know about that." 

Tennis Express

Riding a 27-match Wimbledon win streak into his eighth SW19 final, Djokovic had the vast experienced edge—and unusual assignment of facing an opponent he had never beaten.

Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal gave a walkover into his maiden major final—and four days to think about playing the biggest moment of his career.

Kyrgios won the toss elected to receive and in his opening service game drilled a 125 mph second serve ace followed by an underarm serve.

Unpredictable versatility is a Kyrgios asset. The mercurial Aussie can attempt almost any shot at any point.

A pair of slick drop shots helped Kyrgios earn double break point in the fifth game. A jittery Djokovic double-faulted the break and a 3-2 lead to the maiden major finalist.

Cranking his serve with authority, Kyrgios deployed a couple of successful serve-and-volleys backing up the break at love for 4-2.

The 27-year-old Aussie had won 13 straight service points when he stepped up to serve for the set. Kyrgios cracked his sixth ace to open the game but missed a backhand volley long to face 30-all.

On his second set point, Kyrgios slashed his seventh ace down the middle rolling through the 31-minute opening set.

Showing no trace of nerve, Kyrgios dominated on serve connecting on 77 percent of his first serves and stamping three love holds in five service games.

Hall of Famer Andre Agassi is one of several Grand Slam champions who have tabbed Djokovic as the greatest returner in the history of the sport. The quick-release action on Kyrgios’ seismic serve gave the Serbian little reaction time as the yellow ball blurred by banging off the back wall in the opener.

Disarming Djokovic with his variety, Kyrgios clubbed three aces in a row leveling the second set after two games.

Through five sets and two prior losses, Djokovic didn’t have a sniff of breaking Kyrgios’ serve.

The top seed found his rhythm playing longer rallies, exploited a suddenly cranky Kyrgios’ concentration lapse and broke at love for 3-1 when his backhand crashed into the tape and crawled over.

Amping up the pace on his own serve, Djokovic was controlling more rallies. Djokovic rallied from 15-30 down targeting his opponent’s forehand return in holding for 5-2.

Running down a drop shot in the ninth game, Kyrgios showed superb feel on the full sprint flicking a forehand pass then firing a forehand return for triple break point.

Digging in, Djokovic denied all three break points and dismissed a fourth with an exquisite drop shot. The defending champion stood tall swatting a wide serve to snatch the second set with a clenched fist.

Meanwhile, a raging Kyrgios screamed at his box during the ensuing changeover “It’s Love-40! Love-40!”

A sharp Djokovic was putting returns back in the court forcing Kyrgios to play. Kyrgios saved a couple of break points, including blocking a tricky backhand pass down the line, then rapped his 14th ace holding to start the third set.

Opening the fifth game with a slick tweener, Kyrgios had fans leaping from their seats when he hit a tweener lob on the next point. That bit of magic helped him hold.

Narrowing his focus, Djokovic was extending rallies and making Kyrgios work.

Deadlocked at 4-all, the world No. 40 blew a 40-love lead double-faulting and pasting a backhand into net to break himself and cede Djokovic a 5-4 lead.

Again, Kyrgios spent the changeover blaming his box: “40-love and you don’t just relax! Every time! 40-Love!” Kyrgios, who by this point may have been pondering a 40-Love tattoo, screamed.

Wisely permitting the Aussie to implode, Djokovic stayed on track and served out the third set at 30.

"He’s such a good server; it’s so difficult," Djokovic said. "It was just constant pressure on my service game. I was really living on the edge.

"I think the curical games were end of the second set. Then it was anyone’s game and I just hung in there. I stayed solid. He had 40-Love and 4-all in third set in that game he lost that game—he lost it—I didn’t earn it. At this stage, this level very few points and margins decide a winner. I knew experience of playing the finals could help me in decisive moments even though it was extremely extremely challenging for me because of his serve."

One from a seventh Wimbledon championship, Djokovic cruised through 20 of his first 23 points on serve in the fourth set.

Serving at 5-6, the Serbian came underneath a crisp slice backhand holding to force the fourth-set tiebreaker.

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Tiebreak tension tightened Kyrgios' right arm. He double-faulted to donate the mini break on the opening point. The Aussie sailed a diagonal forehand and dragged a backhand wide as Djokovic won three points on the Kyrgios serve going up 4-1 in the tiebreaker.

As Kyrgios continued complaining toward his box, Djokovic was all business moving to 5-1. Kyrgios ballooned a backhand long and Djokovic had a fistful of championship points at 6-1.

On his third championship point, the defending champion fired a flurry of forehands deep in the court and drew one final error to close his seventh Wimbledon championship with a tremendous three-hour conquest.

Afterward, Djokovic conceded he felt ostracized and isolated after he was bounced out of Australia in January.

Enduring months of disconnect, Djokovic reconnected with the champion within in a rousing Wimbledon stand today.

"I still felt lonely to be honest just because of incredible pressure I never faced before,” Djokovic told ESPN's Patrick McEnroe immediately after stepping off Centre Court. “I just found myself in a basically foreign waters. I just tried to understand where I can play, what I can play what is going on. I enjoy training, but when I would go on to an official tournament it would be different. People, especially in Dubai right after Australia, were looking at me a little bit differently. And I was not enjoying that at all.

"And then I had to just trust that time will heal and time needs to pass in order for me to really understand what needs to be done. There’s no one thing I’ve done that’s changed it around. Just patience, good work, and just trying to be positive about life, optimistic, and wait for my opportunities. And when they’re presented try to grab them, which happened today."


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