Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon, and His 20th Career Grand Slam Title
Novak Djokovic won the Wimbledon men’s singles championship on Sunday, defeating Matteo Berrettini of Italy.
The 6-7(4) 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory gave Djokovic, the world’s top-ranked tennis player, his 20th Grand Slam singles title, tying him with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Just as important, it gave Djokovic his third Grand Slam title of the year and positioned him to become the first man in more than a half-century to win the calendar Grand Slam when he competes at the U.S. Open later this summer.
Djokovic won the Australian Open in February, the French Open last month and captured the Wimbledon title for a sixth time on Sunday, successfully defending the title he won in 2019, the last time Wimbledon was held.
Rod Laver was the last man to win the calendar year Grand Slam, in 1969. Since then, no male player has arrived at the U.S. Open holding three Grand Slam titles in the same year.
“Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream of mind when I was a kid,” said Djokovic, who constructed his own Wimbledon trophy as a kid. “Standing with a sixth Wimbledon, it’s incredible.”
Djokovic has even given himself a chance to attain the so-called Golden Slam, which is the four major championships plus the singles gold medal in the Olympics. Djokovic has yet to decide whether he will compete at the Tokyo Olympics, which is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks. He has said he may skip the event if Japan does not allow any spectators, a decision Japanese officials made last week. Steffi Graf is the only player to have completed a Golden Slam, in 1988.
Berrettini, a powerful Italian with a booming serve and a massive forehand, steam-rolled through his first six matches at Wimbledon. But he was competing in his first Grand Slam final against the last player anyone would want to face, especially with the most important championship in the sport on the line.
Djokovic was playing in his 30th Grand Slam singles final, and he looked every bit the veteran champion. At 34, he continues to win championships at an age when champions of the previous generation had long ceased to compete for major titles.
Even more, in each of the Grand Slam finals he has played in this year, he has defeated a player in his 20s who has been heralded as being ready to start winning championships.
Djokovic destroyed Daniil Medvedev of Russia in the Australian Open final. In Paris last month he stormed back from two sets down to break the heart of Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Then on Sunday against Berrettini, Djokovic took care of business, picking apart the 25-year-old’s 130 m.p.h. serves as though they were slow-pitch softballs.
It’s absurd to think that three men have won 60 Grand Slam titles during the past 18 years.
“They are the reason I am what I am today,” Djokovic said of Federer and Nadal, players he lost to repeatedly early in his career.
Unlike his rivals, Federer and Nadal, Djokovic has made clear that he desperately wants to finish his career with the most Grand Slam singles championships.
“I am playing for history” has become something of a mantra for him. The statement has become more fitting now that he has the calendar year Grand Slam in his sights.
Young players seem to come for Djokovic every few matches in major tournaments these days. They are fast with big serves and other weapons that, combined with their youth and power, should be enough to knock off the king of the sport in a Grand Slam every once in a while. So far, they have all come up empty.
During the past decade, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic laid waste to a generation of young challengers, who seemingly had the games and potential to match theirs. More recently, Djokovic has managed the task mostly on his own, crushing spirits and forcing up and comers to check their birth years and do the math. One day, perhaps, he will no longer stand on the other side of the net, hogging all of the sport’s biggest trophies.
At the moment, it is impossible to guess when that will happen, or even whether players of the next generation will still be in their prime when it does. Djokovic, it seems, is still getting better.
One of the great baseline battlers who is not known for his net game, Djokovic came to the net 48 times on Sunday and won 34 of those points, a startling 71 percent conversion rate.
“He’s writing the history of this sport,” Berrettini said.
This was not the best version of Djokovic on display on Sunday. There were missed targets and blown chances to finish his work quickly.
He appeared be in full control of the match early on. He did what almost no one had been able to do against Berrettini over the past two weeks — he took the big Italian out of his rhythm on his serve.
Through the first seven games, Djokovic was able to pick off just enough of Berrettini’s bullets, sending them back to those two ugly semicircles of dirt and dead grass just in front of the baseline that make for bad bounces and missed shots. Djokovic built a 5-2 lead and even held a set point, but Berrettini kept battling, fighting through a service game that lasted nearly 15 minutes.
Then Berrettini came alive. With Djokovic serving for the set, he started moving Djokovic around the court. On break point, Berrettini pulled Djokovic into the net, then connected on a passing shot to get back on serve. Three games later, the set headed to a tiebreaker, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. When Djokovic has won the first set of a match in a Grand Slam, he has won the match about 97 percent of the time. When he has lost it, he has won about 50 percent.
Through his career, Djokovic has been as masterful as anyone in tiebreakers, but with Berrettini playing on his toes and crushing his serve, Djokovic soon found himself down double set point. With one more booming ace, Berrettini turned what had looked like a coronation a half-hour before into an actual match.
And yet, if there is one thing that has become clear over the past decade, it’s that beating Djokovic in a best-three-of-five set match is like climbing an extraordinarily tall and rugged mountain. A one-set lead can feel like almost nothing.
Like clockwork, Djokovic was back on track, breaking Berrettini in the first two service games as he sprinted to a 4-0 lead in the second set. And though he would lose three set points and allow Berrettini to make him work for it, 43 minutes later Djokovic had knotted the match at a set apiece.
When Berrettini started off the third game with a double-fault, Djokovic stepped up the pressure, pushing Berrettini side to side and pulling him toward the net. Berrettini netted a half-volley to give Djokovic a break point then sliced a backhand into the net to give Djokovic the lead he would never relinquish.
Leading 5-4 and serving on set point, Djokovic forced Berrettini into a wide forehand that made the ultimate outcome practically inevitable. Eleven times Djokovic had led two sets to one in a Grand Slam final, and eleven times he had won the championship.
Berrettini would have one last gasp, getting the first two points as Djokovic served at 2-3 in the fourth set. But Djokovic drew even on a wild rally that had him running from deep in the backhand corner to near the net on the forehand side to chase down a drop shot. When Berrettini sent a backhand long two points later, Djokovic let out his first long roar of the afternoon.
With Berrettini serving in the next game, Djokovic started moaning with each shot. It’s a signal that he is putting in that little extra effort to close out a match, and in this case, a championship. A whipping crosscourt forehand gave him his chance at the break, and Berrettini did the rest of the work, double-faulting to bring the finish line within reach.
When Berrettini sliced one last backhand into the net on Djokovic’s third championship point, Djokovic collapsed on his back, then did what he always does when he wins here — he grabbed a few blades of grass and brought them to his tongue.
It appeared to taste pretty good.
“The last 10 years, have been an incredible journey,” he said. “It’s not stopping here.”
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