Novak Djokovic was waiting. He waited for Nick Kyrgios to lose focus and get lost. Waiting to find the right read on his opponent’s big serves. Waited until his own level matched the opportunity.
A deficit doesn’t bother Djokovic – in a game, a set, a match. He doesn’t mind solving problems. And at Wimbledon he hasn’t been beaten for quite some time.
Djokovic used his consistent brilliance to beat the ace-delivering, trick-shot-banging, constantly chattering Kyrgios 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6(3) on Sunday to earn his fourth Wimbledon title to secure a consecutive championship and seventh place overall.
Top-seeded Djokovic was unbeaten in 28 games in the grass Grand Slam tournament and increased his career to 21 major trophies, breaking a tie with Roger Federer and moving just one short of Rafael Nadal’s 22 for the most in men’s tennis history.
For men, only Federer has won more Wimbledon titles than Djokovic with eight. In the pro era, only Federer was older (by less than a year) than 35-year-old Djokovic in the All England Club win.
That comeback on a sunny afternoon followed those in the quarter-finals when Djokovic leveled a two-set deficit against number 10 Jannik Sinner and in the semi-finals when number 9 Cam Norrie clinched the opening set. In last year’s title match at Wimbledon, Djokovic lost the opening set. In the 2019 final, he erased two championship points against Federer.
Center Court rises again for one of its great champions
There were two particularly important moments on Sunday that Kyrgios wouldn’t let go of, as he started monologues, yelling at himself or his entourage (which doesn’t include a full-time coach), receiving a warning for swearing and finding reasons to disagree with the chair umpire he punched before the game and threw a water bottle.
In the second set, when Djokovic served at 5-3, Kyrgios got Love-40 – a trio of break points. But Kyrgios played some easy returns and Djokovic finally held.
As that sentence ended, Kyrgios waved dismissively to his box, sat down and dropped his racquet on the grass, then bleated to no one in particular, “It was love 40! Can it get any bigger or what?! Is that big enough for you?!”
And then, in the third set, when Kyrgios served at 4-all, 40-love, he again let a seemingly sealed game get away when Djokovic broke there.
Kyrgio’s attempt to make history fails
The 40th Kyrgios was attempting to become the first unseeded men’s champion at Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. Ivanisevic is now Djokovic’s manager and was in the guest box at Center Court during the game.
Kyrgios, the 27-year-old Australian, had never advanced beyond the quarter-finals in 29 previous Grand Slam appearances – and the last time he even made it that far was 7 1/2 years ago.
In a way, he stole the show on Sunday. He tried shots between the legs, hit some with his back to the net, hit serves at up to 135 mph and produced 30 aces. He used an armpit cuff and later faked one.
For all the significant records and other facts logged in the 560-page Wimbledon Compendium – including categories like “two-handed players” or “runners-up who wore glasses in a final” – there is no mention of “serving on a gentleman” for good “, but it’s safe to say that this was a first.
Perhaps in a way it would have been fitting that such a unique player emerged as champion from such a unique Wimbledon.
All players representing Russia or Belarus have been banned from the All England Club because of the war in Ukraine; among the men staying out of the field were reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, No. 1, and Andrey Rublev, No. 8. In response, the WTA and ATP professional tennis tours took the unprecedented step, revoke all ranking points from Wimbledon.
What’s more, Federer missed the tournament for the first time since the late 1990s because he is still recovering from a series of surgeries on his right knee. The number 2 in the ranking, Alexander Zverev, had to pause after a ligament tear in his ankle at the French Open. Three of the top 20 seeded men, including 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini, withdrew from Wimbledon after it started because they tested positive for COVID-19.
As for Kyrgios, his talent is undeniable. But over the years he’s garnered more attention for his penchant for style over substance on the pitch, his storminess that has earned him sackings and suspensions, and his penchant for nightlife.
In the last two weeks alone, Kyrgios has raked in $14,000 in fines – one for spitting at a heckling spectator after a first-round win, another for swearing during a wildly controversial win over No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round – and charged with wearing a red hat and sneakers before or after games in a venue where all-white dress is mandated. He and the world also learned that he must go to court in Australia to face assault charges.