How Novak Djokovic came back to win Wimbledon final against Nick Kyrgios

LONDON – Novak Djokovic kept calm in the blast furnace of Center Court against Nick Kyrgios to win his seventh Wimbledon championship. As Kyrgios netted the ball at the championship point, Djokovic looked at his team and exhaled massively. The triumph leaves him behind Rafael Nadal’s record 22 men’s singles titles.

In a match that saw Kyrgios growing increasingly frustrated with stoppages and his own team, Djokovic stayed calm in mild temperatures, defeating Kyrgios in four sets 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3). This was Kyrgios’ first singles Grand Slam final, while it was Djokovic’s 32nd, and eventually experience won out.

Kyrgios stormed through the opener in just 31 minutes to win 6-4, with Djokovic struggling to read the Australian’s serve. But then Djokovic found his rhythm, slowed the pace ever so slightly and found his footing to take the second set 6-3 – in what proved to be the turning point of the match.

Kyrgios became visibly more frustrated during the third set, asking the referee to remove a spectator who he said had “had 700 drinks bro” and spoke to him during a point. Kyrgios also often directed the frustration against his team, as Djokovic largely kept calm. He broke Kyrgios in the ninth game and then served out to win 2-1 in sets.

The fourth set went into a tie break after a strong performance by both players. Djokovic got the read on Kyrgios’ serve to win by the third championship point.

That triumph takes Djokovic to seven Wimbledon men’s singles titles with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw, one behind Roger Federer’s record. Here’s how the men’s singles final played out on Center Court and how Djokovic kept his cool when Kyrgios lost his.


Tame the Kyrgios

Djokovic doesn’t have the reputation of being the best returner in the game for nothing. Man is a machine. But he really couldn’t get hold of Kyrgios in the first set – which included a second ace at 125mph in the second game of the match. Kyrgios dropped just five points on serve in the opener to storm through. It meant Djokovic had lost a first set in his third straight game at Wimbledon – only the third time in his career on grass it had happened. But Djokovic is very adept at turning things around and he soon got a grip on Kyrgios’ serve.

Kyrgios had won their two previous encounters before Sunday’s final – and Djokovic had only pulled one break point chance in those two games. But he broke Kyrgios once each in the second and third to gain a foothold. It was truly remarkable considering Kyrgios managed to keep over 70% of his first serves, but Djokovic was able to handle them in the crucial moments. That included the tiebreak as he broke Kyrgios’ serve three times to allow him to serve for the championship.


Third set fireworks on Center Court

Djokovic told us on Friday that we were expecting “fireworks” in this match and while there were no flash points between the two players on the pitch, it didn’t want any drama. They spoke of their blossoming “bromance” in the run-up to this match and there wasn’t really a bad moment between them during the fight, but Kyrgios was still vocal as the match progressed as he snapped at the referee, a spectator and even one of his own Team.

Missing his chance to break Djokovic at the end of the second set – giving up three set points – Kyrgios stepped up the conversation towards his box. He grew increasingly frustrated with how the match was unfolding and the conversation continued in the third set. At one point he said to his box, “I don’t get it! Why?! I don’t understand,” he then followed, “I’m going to hit a 130 [mph] second serve, I’ll do that.” Then he threw down an ace. He was also cautioned for an “audible profanity” during that sentence, and all in front of 8-year-old Prince George, who was seated alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the front row of the Royal Box.

He was also upset with a viewer he said spoke to during the points. He complained to the referee about the spectator, saying: “Why is she still here? She’s drunk.”

And there was his own team, who he got angry with as the third set progressed. “I can’t do anything, do you care or what? Doesn’t feel like it. Do you know how difficult it is to beat a guy three times?!” This continued until the fourth, when Kyrgios yelled at his box during the tie-break, β€œWhat are you afraid of?!”

It was the third set when momentum shifted behind Djokovic. Kyrgios’ frustration continued into the fourth when several false line calls went against him and at one point he told the referee: “You haven’t done any decent overrules in three hours.”


The battle for the ultimate male GOAT

Djokovic is on 21 Grand Slams in men’s singles, just one behind Rafael Nadal. Nadal has always brushed aside the importance of emerging from that golden generation with the most slams between himself, Djokovic and Roger Federer. But Djokovic has spoken frequently about wanting to be ahead of the rest. Still, his vaccination stance could complicate the next few Slams.

He is currently banned from traveling to the US as he is not vaccinated against COVID-19, while Australia enacted a three-year ban following his deportation in January. That means he’s unlikely to play another Slam on his least favorite surface until next year in France. At the age of 35, Djokovic still has a handful of years ahead of his rivals at the top, but the chances of cracking the Slams are slowly fading.

Undoubtedly, his current title win is at Wimbledon. Kyrgios had spoken about the importance of the experience here – and that although this would be his first Grand Slam final, Djokovic knows every blade of grass and knows exactly how to conquer the sport’s greatest event. He said this would give Djokovic the advantage and he was right as Djokovic won his fourth title straight away.

Djokovic has won his last 39 games on center court and his winning streak extends to 28 games at Wimbledon (the two losses in 2016 and 2017 both came on court #1). He’s reaffirmed his love for center court for the past two weeks, and the next time we see him win a Slam might be this time next year. By this point, Nadal will have had three opportunities to reach forward while Federer may still be in the middle of his comeback.

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