Wimbledon 2022: Novak Djokovic crowned men’s champion again after finally getting better of Nick Kyrgios

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·4-min read
Wimbledon 2022: Novak Djokovic crowned men’s champion again after finally getting better of Nick Kyrgios
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Nick Kyrgios was the anomaly, one of the few players Novak Djokovic had never beaten. And there was belief his unpredictability could make him the disruptor of Djokovic’s remarkable Wimbledon record.

But the Serbian’s own predictable brilliance proved a class apart, sealing a fourth successive Wimbledon title and seventh in all with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory to extend his unbeaten run on Centre Court to nine years.

With such statistics, on paper it seemed beforehand that Kyrgios as a first-time Grand Slam finalist against Djokovic playing for the 32nd time in a final of one of the four majors had no chance.

But during a high-quality match which, at times, threatened to turn into an all-time classic, he pushed the 21-time Grand Slam throughout four sets tighter than the scoreline suggested.

It pitted the two apparent villains of men’s tennis against each other and former foes who bizarrely had bonded over Kyrgios’ support for Djokovic amid the vilification over his Covid vaccination status and right to be in Australia at the start of the year. Of the villains, it was Kyrgios who had marginally the better of the crowd support.

He knew he had to channel that and serve out of his skin to give himself any chance. His first-serve percentage for the tournament had been 70 per cent, come the first set it was 77 per cent, and the threat of a shock loomed when he took it.

But Djokovic’s ability to change the tempo in his favour allied with Kyrgios own demons – he remonstrated with his box, a spectator and an umpire – turned the match in his favour. One wonders what might have been had the Australian simply let his tennis do the talking as in the first set.

Djokovic likes to get into the rhythm of his opponent’s style. In the first set, that was an impossibility against a mercurial Kyrgios, who hit a 125mph second serve, an underarm serve and a tweener in the first set alone.

Kyrgios needed, in reality, to win the opening set to have a shot at the title and did so, hitting seven aces and recording repeated love games in a half-hour set in which he broke Djokovic to go 3-2 up.

Tellingly, there were to be no histrionics a simple “yep” at that break and a jog back to his seat. Similarly, there were no signs of the nerves of a Grand Slam final debutant.

Wimbledon 2022 | Novak Djokovic

Maintaining that level against Djokovic was always going to be a big ask. In the second set, his form dipped a little and he fell into the trap of letting Djokovic slow things down and dictate the rallies.

And Kyrgios, whose chuntering at his box at the end of the first set ramped up into the second, started foolishly to try to simply match his opponent from the back of the court.

In the pair’s previous two encounters, Djokovic had only had one break point. In game four of the second set he had three, converting at the first time of asking as the ball hit the net and dropped onto Kyrgios’ side of the net.

Kyrgios took him to deuce in the next game and looked likely to level proceedings as Djokovic served for the set at 5-3. In the opening point of the game, Kyrgios was sent both sides of the court followed by a drop shot, which somehow the Australian got back. With that, Centre Court erupted. Moments later, Djokovic found himself facing three break points but he held them all to level the match much to the annoyance of Kyrgios, who remonstrated with himself in his chair afterwards.

The third set was a story of protestations first from an activist shouting “Where is Peng Shuai?” before being rapidly and vigorously removed, and then Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios in action during Sunday’s final (REUTERS)
Nick Kyrgios in action during Sunday’s final (REUTERS)

His fight was with his box and also a female spectator, who was later thrown out after he accused her of being “drunk out of her mind” to the umpire. His swearing towards her earned him a code violation and he later aimed a swear word at his box within ear shot of the Royal Box.

For much of the set, he rightly returned to the maverick play of set one, a winning tweener on the opening point of the fifth game. But then serving at 4-4 and 40-0 up, he somehow found himself facing a break point following a double fault. An unforced error and the break was converted, Djokovic serving out the set in the next game.

Djokovic had a bathroom break at the end of the set, which gave Kyrgios a chance to regroup and cut out his verbal objections, and it had the desired effect on his tennis.

Neither were broken, although Kyrgios got mightily close to forcing a deciding set as Djokovic served to stay in the set when 6-5 down. He kept his cool to move into a tiebreak, which he dominated from the moment his rival double faulted on the first point.

It moved him one past Roger Federer and just one behind Rafael Nadal on the all-time list of Grand Slam titles in the process.

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