Novak Djokovic won the Wimbledon men’s singles championship 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 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” as a kid, said Djokovic, who constructed his own Wimbledon trophy as a child. “Standing with a sixth Wimbledon, it’s incredible.”
Djokovic has even given himself a chance to attain the 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, steamrolled 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 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 serves as if they were slow-pitch softballs.
One of the great baseline battlers who is not known for his net game, Djokovic came to the net 48 times Sunday and won 34 of those points, a startling 71-per-cent conversion rate.
“He’s writing the history of this sport,” Berrettini said.
This was not the best version of Djokovic on display Sunday. There were missed targets and blown chances to finish his work quickly.
He appeared to 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 semi-circles 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 per cent of the time. When he has lost it, he has won about 50 per cent.
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 is 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 although 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.
New York Times News Service