Wimbledon: Magnificent seven brings relief for Novak Djokovic
The Serbian has now won seven of the last 11 titles at the All England Club, equalling Pete Sampras’ tally and closing to within one of both Roger Federer’s men’s singles record here and Rafael Nadal’s overall mark.
It has been a difficult season for Djokovic but he has once again been able to rely on the lawns of Centre Court to bring the best out of him, and he raised his arms aloft after securing a 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (3) victory.
Having come so close to completing the calendar Grand Slam last year, Djokovic was unable to bid for a 10th title at the Australian Open in January following his deportation and has seen Nadal surge ahead to 22 titles.
“Certainly this year has not been the same like the last years,” said Djokovic. “It has started the way it has started and it has affected me definitely in the first several months of the year. I was not feeling great generally. Mentally, emotionally, I was not at a good place.
“I wanted to play but, at the same time, when I went out on the court in Dubai, was the first tournament of the year, I just felt so much pressure and emotions happening. I wasn’t feeling myself on the court.
“I realised at that point that it’s going to take some time, that I have to be patient, and sooner or later I will get myself in the optimal state where I would like to be.
“Wimbledon historically has always come at such important stages of my life and my career. I think it was in 2018 when I was starting the year with elbow surgery, trying to work my way back in the rankings, not playing well.
“This was the first slam that I won that served as a springboard for the later US Open win, 2019 Australian Open. It’s not a coincidence that this place has such relevance in my life and career.
“It’s a relief, as well, considering what I’ve been through of course this year. It adds more value and more significance and more emotions.”
Kyrgios’ support for Djokovic over the Australia situation prompted a thawing in their less-than-cordial relationship, with Djokovic joking in his on-court interview: “I never thought I’d say so many nice things about you. OK, it’s officially a bromance.”
Much of the excitement for the match centred on how Kyrgios would both perform and behave in his first major singles final.
The 27-year-old was immaculate on both counts for a set but began increasingly to lose his cool as the scoreboard turned in Djokovic’s favour, earning a warning for swearing while also constantly berating his box in earshot of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George.
Kyrgios’s first service game featured a 125 miles per hour second serve ace and an underarm serve but mostly he wowed with the quality of his play, breaking Djokovic in the fifth game and clinching the set with his seventh ace.
Winning a set against Djokovic has not meant much at Wimbledon this year, though, and the top seed did what he does best, finding a metronomic rhythm both on return and from the baseline and gradually wearing his opponent down.
Kyrgios had won both their previous meetings and Djokovic broke his serve for the first time ever in the fourth game of the second set.
Two games at the end of the second and third sets went a long way to deciding the outcome.
First, with Djokovic serving for the second at 5-3, a hugely frustrated Kyrgios was unable to take advantage of having his opponent at 0-40. Then, at 4-4 in the third, the Australian dropped serve from 40-0.
He battled hard to hold serve throughout the fourth but made a poor start to the tie-break, and that was all the advantage Djokovic needed.
The 35-year-old, who will drop to seventh in the rankings as a result of the decision to strip the tournament of points, was happy with his performance.