Novak Djokovic wins fourth-straight Wimbledon title, 21st Grand Slam; beats Nick Kyrgios in four sets

ByRutvick Mehta
Jul 10, 2022 09:45 PM IST

The Serb beat Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in four sets to win his fourth straight title at the grass court Grand Slam, and 21st overall to get one short of Nadal’s record haul.

At long last, normalcy has returned to the life of Novak Djokovic—those arms aloft after winning the last point, that grin of a champion, that plucking and chewing on the Centre Court grass.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the men's singles final against Australia's Nick Kyrgios(REUTERS)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates with the trophy after winning the men's singles final against Australia's Nick Kyrgios(REUTERS)

It had all gone away for the Serb since winning on the same court 12 months ago; beaten by rivals in the 2021 US Open and 2022 French Open and blocked from competing at the 2022 Australian Open. But as he fell on court and pushed his arms wide—a la the sliding gesture from his five-set quarter-final win—Djokovic was up and running again in the Grand Slam race.

A 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) win over mercurial-to-mature (so he says) Nick Kyrgios earned him his seventh Wimbledon title to tie with Pete Sampras. He is one away from Roger Federer’s record eight. Holding the trophy for the fourth straight time on Centre Court—he hasn’t lost in it since 2013—the 21-time champion is now one ahead of Federer for most men’s Slam wins and one shy of Rafael Nadal’s record.

The world No 3 becomes the first player to win seven or more titles at two different Grand Slams, and only the fourth man in the Open Era to win Wimbledon four times in a row.

“I am lost for words for what this tournament, this trophy means to me,” Djokovic said in his post-match comments on the court. “My first image of tennis was grass, and Wimbledon.”

It’s been an oft-repeated image since 2018: Djokovic turning up at Wimbledon, strolling into the second week, sliding into the final and going home with the title. This was his 32nd Grand Slam and eighth Wimbledon final to his Australian opponent’s first.

Kyrgios yawned as the players waited in the lobby before walking on to the court. He was awake alright for his career’s biggest match. It didn’t take too long for the novel Nick dishes to be brought out—a 125mph second serve blitz, an underarm serve, a ridiculous forehand down-the-line winner that curved in and landed inside the sideline.

Djokovic was a lot sharper than at the start of his previous two matches even while Krygios was blunting his strengths by mixing things up. Forcing Djokovic to the net, Kyrgios earned two break chances in the fifth game, the second surrendered by Djokovic with a double fault.

The Kyrgios serve—packed with power and precision—was unshakable, no matter the presence of the greatest returner of the world on the other side. Until that break, the Australian had dropped two points on serve. He lost just three more for the remainder of the set, all while serving at 5-4. The Serb had an opportunity at 30-30, when he netted a return off the second serve and looked to the heavens. He was soon a set down.

Kyrgios, quiet and with quality aplenty, was as focused as he had been all fortnight. Djokovic was unflustered, riding the Kyrgios wave and waiting for his moment to turn it around. It arrived in the third game post a 23-shot rally, the longest of the final which Djokovic won by making Kyrgios run across the baseline. It signalled a shift in the type of play, momentum, and who called the shots.

The next game, a forehand error by Kyrgios sandwiched between a solid Djokovic return and backhand winner got the Serb to 0-40. A lucky net cord saw Djokovic break the sturdy Krygios serve for the first time in their three meetings. The Aussie started murmuring towards his box, and by the time he fluffed four break points with Djokovic serving for the set, and eventually winning it, the typical Kyrgios chatter and commotion had flared up.

Kyrgios’s mind seemed to wander. He ranted at the chair umpire about someone in the crowd “distracting me when I’m serving. It nearly cost me the game”. While Kyrgios’ focus waned, Djokovic remained solid and served stronger, winning 94% points on his first serve (Kyrgios was down to 66%). Kyrgios repeatedly kept talking to his box, even between a first and second serve in the ninth game where he went from 40-0 to deuce to being broken after a backhand error.

He mockingly applauded at his box as Djokovic served out the set. The applause was for real throughout the fourth set in which both players refused to give an inch to the other on serve. A Kyrgios double fault started the tiebreaker, with a long forehand and wide backhand to go with the yelling and a 6-1 deficit. It ended with Kyrgios netting a backhand, embracing Djokovic at the net with a warm smile.

Their off-court relationship has gone from bitterness to bromance—as Djokovic officially labelled it—post the Serb’s Australian Open ordeal. A day before the final, the two were setting up a date on Instagram. Djokovic accepted a dinner and drinks invite; Kyrgios turned it up a notch with a “let’s go to a nightclub and go nuts” proposal. The winner of the final, Djokovic said, would pay.

Pick up the tab, Novak.

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