Wimbledon 2022: Djokovic in seventh heaven

The top seed overcomes Kyrgios to secure 21st major crown

Novak Djokovic Wimbledon 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

Once again Novak Djokovic faced a test at Wimbledon this fortnight; and once again he passed that test with flying colours.

The top seed dropped the opening set against Nick Kyrgios in the final on Sunday but kept calm and recovered in typical Djokovic fashion to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory and lift the Wimbledon trophy for a fourth consecutive time and seventh overall.

A roller coaster 12 months

The 35-year-old looked visibly emotional after the win as he sat at his green chair, his face covered by a towel as reflected on what he had just done.

It was Djokovic’s 21st Grand Slam triumph – he is now just one behind men’s all-time leader Rafael Nadal and one ahead of Roger Federer – but it carried a special meaning no doubt.

Since he won Wimbledon last year, the last 12 months have been quite the roller coaster for Djokovic.

The Serb fell to Daniil Medvedev in the 2021 US Open final, missing out on completing the calendar-year Grand Slam.

He was then deported from Australia and couldn’t compete at the year’s opening major in Melbourne, then looked completely flat in his quarter-final defeat to Nadal at Roland-Garros last month.

Djokovic dropped six sets en route to the Wimbledon title this fortnight and has now equalled William Renshaw and Pete Sampras in second place on the men’s all-time list for most titles at the Championships. Federer leads the list with eight.

“He's a bit of a God, I'm not going to lie,” said Kyrgios of Djokovic during the trophy ceremony.

‘Nick, you’ll be back’

The Australian world No.40, competing in a maiden Grand Slam final, was 2-0 head-to-ahead against Djokovic coming in, and was looking to become the first Australian man in 20 years to win a major singles title.

“Nick, you’ll be back, not just Wimbledon, but in finals,” Djokovic told Kyrgios.

“You showed why you deserve to be one of the best players in the world, particularly on this surface, congrats to you and your team for an amazing tournament. I wish you all the best man.

“I really respect you a lot, I think you’re a phenomenal tennis player and athlete, amazing talent – I mean you’ve been hearing all that for many years, but now everything is starting to come together for you, so I’m sure we’re going to see much of you in the later stages of Grand Slams.

“I never thought I would say so many nice things about you, considering the relationship,” added Djokovic with a laugh, referencing their rocky past that included multiple digs from Kyrgios aimed at the Serb.

“Okay, it’s officially a bromance!”

Kyrgios drew first blood, inching ahead 3-2 advantage and consolidated his break in no time.

Djokovic had never broken the Kyrgios serve in either of their two previous meetings and it remained that way as the Aussie clinched the opening set in 31 minutes.

The top seed finally broke the Kyrgios serve for the very first time for a 3-1 lead in the second set. Serving to level the contest at 5-3, Djokovic had to stave off four break points before scooping the set.

Kyrgios survived a tight opening game of the third installment and the pair remained neck and neck until Djokovic eked out a service break to move ahead 5-4.

The Aussie was furious at his box, urging them to get more animated in their support for him.

Djokovic remained as focused as ever and served out the third set on the two-hour mark.

The fourth set was another tug of war and fittingly went to a tiebreak, which Djokovic snatched to seal a memorable victory.

“I lost words for what this tournament, what this trophy means to me, to my team, to my family, I’ve said this many times; it always has been and will be the most special tournament in my heart, the one that motivated me and inspired me to start playing tennis in a small little mountain resort in Serbia,” reflected Djokovic.

“I was four or five years old and I saw Pete Sampras win his first Wimbledon in ’92 (sic: 1993) and I asked my dad and mom to buy me a tennis racquet.”

‘I’m so tired’

Tennis’ ‘Big Three’ have no won 20 of the last 22 majors, while Djokovic and Nadal have claimed 15 of the last 17.

The occasion was made more special for Djokovic when he looked up to his box and realised his daughter Tara was present for the trophy ceremony.

The final also coincided with Djokovic’s wedding anniversary, a fact the legendary broadcaster Sue Barker cleverly reminded the Serb of during his speech.

“My gosh, I’m going to buy you flowers after this, you keep on reminding me of the things that I would get in big trouble if I forget,” Djokovic told Barker, who was hosting Wimbledon for the 30th and final time.

On his part, the 27-year-old Kyrgios is proud of his efforts at these Championships but was non-committal about his future plans.

Asked if he was hungry for more, Kyrgios said: “Absolutely not, I’m so tired.

“I definitely need a well-earned vacation after this one. I’m just really happy with this result, it’s the best of my career, and hopefully maybe one day I’ll be here again, but I don’t know about that.”

Later in his press conference, Kyrgios expressed his disappointment for missing out on what he felt was an achievable goal.

"I felt like the trophy was definitely attainable today," said the Canberran.

He's just really composed. It's weird, I felt like he didn't do anything amazing today. He returned obviously the way he returns. I feel like he's just a great returner. But he was just so composed. That's what I was just thinking to myself. In big moments, it just felt like he was never rattled.

"I feel like that's his greatest strength, he just never looks rattled. He just looks completely within himself the whole time. Didn't look like he was playing overaggressive, even though it felt like he was playing big. Hats off to him. That was a hell of a match."

All hail the Shingo Slam

Japanese top seed Shingo Kunieda became the first player to complete a career Grand Slam in men's wheelchair singles and the first to hold all four men’s wheelchair singles Grand Slams simultaneously thanks to a 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) defeat of Alfie Hewett in the Wimbledon final on Sunday.

The 38-year-old’s triumph also means Kunieda has now completed the ‘career Golden Slam’.

He is a three-time Paralympic singles gold medallist and is the current holder of the Paralympic singles title, having defeated Tom Egberink in the final in Tokyo last year.