Location: All England Club Appointment: June 28-July 11
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Novak Djokovic won his sixth Wimbledon title to tie Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 Grand Slam wins after battling to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
The 34-year-old Serb won 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-3 in front of a passionate and noisy crowd of 15,000 on center court.
Seventh-seeded Berrettini, 25, received strong support but was unable to maintain his advantage in his first major final.
The number one seed Djokovic has now won all three men’s Grand Slam titles in 2021.
“Winning Wimbledon was always my biggest dream as a kid,” said the world number one, who only lost a set for the second time in the SW19 fortnight.
“A seven year old boy in Serbia building a Wimbledon trophy out of improvised materials and standing here with a real sixth trophy is amazing. It’s amazing.”
Having already won the Australian Open and the French Open, Djokovic is the fifth man in history – and only the second in the Open era after Rod Laver in 1969 – to win the first three major tournaments of the season.
And with Djokovic retaining his crown at the All England Club, he has gone one step further to become the second player to achieve a Golden Slam.
Only Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1988 has already won all four majors and the Olympics in a calendar year.
Berrettini saved two match points at 5-3 in the fourth set with a controlled volley and a 101 mph forehand down the line. But the Italian couldn’t fight the third as he sliced a backhand into the net.
Djokovic fell prone with outstretched arms after sealing a relentless victory, while Berrettini’s contrasting emotions on the opposite baseline – doubling over with his hands on his knees – exemplified the effort he had. deployed in defeat.
After being cheered by an enthusiastic center court crowd, Djokovic climbed to his support team to celebrate before finding a few seconds to snap a selfie with a young fan.
“The journey does not end there”, promises Djokovic
Djokovic has made no secret of the fact that he is driven by making history, having already spent more weeks as world number one than any other man and now targeting the most important titles.
When Djokovic won his first Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, Federer – who is almost six years older than the Serbian – had won 12 of his 20 majors. Djokovic was still stuck on one when Federer won his 16th in 2010.
Now Djokovic has moved up to the level of Federer – and Nadal, who caught up with the Swiss at Roland Garros last year – for the first time.
“I have to pay tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport and the two greatest players I have faced,” said Djokovic, who won his second Grand Slam in 2011 and has now won a total. of 19 over the past decade. .
“They are the reason I am where I am today. They made me realize what I needed to do to become stronger – mentally, physically and tactically.
“The past 10 years have been an incredible journey that doesn’t end there.”
Djokovic not only had to deal with Berrettini’s fierce serve and forehand, but he also had to deal with strong vocal support from the popular Italian.
There were times where Djokovic seemed upset as he chanted his opponent’s name, responding with steely looks and exchanges with the crowd.
Despite this, there was no further enthusiastic praise when he won a third straight title on center court.
Berrettini beaten but not shot down
It wasn’t a straightforward afternoon against fit Berrettini, however.
The world number nine warmed up for the All England Club by lifting the Queen’s title, extending his record for victories on British grass courts this summer to 11 appearances by reaching the SW19 final.
There was a tense start for the two at a 100% cleared stadium, with two double faults from Djokovic in the opener, showing that even the all-time greats still suffer from nerves on the biggest occasions. .
After settling in to break for 3-1, then going 5-2 forward, Djokovic missed a set point in game eight and was unable to serve in the next game as Berrettini fell back.
It looked like Berrettini needed to win the first set to have any chance of victory and it seemed the Center Court crowd also knew how important the tie-break was for the Italian.
Holding a 6-4 lead, he landed a 138 mph ace down the middle to clinch the first set after an hour and 10 minutes.
Djokovic fought at the start of the second set. After breaking in the first game he won another in the third when pressure was put on Berrettini and he threw a forehand into the net at the third breaking point.
From a 5-1 lead, Djokovic was again reduced to 5-4 after Berrettini pushed back three set points in Game 9.
Unlike the first set, Djokovic had the comfort of a double break and on the second attempt was used to enjoy equalizing.
With the crowd chanting in support of Berrettini, Djokovic got an early break in the third set which he did not concede. The Serbian responded to the pause by pushing his temple out to indicate his mental resolve and clarity of thought in the most tense moments of the biggest games.
A tight fourth set was in play until Djokovic established a break point at 3-3 with a glorious cross forehand winner. Berrettini produced a double fault, giving Djokovic a lead he would not give up.
“I’m really happy with the final and hope it won’t be my last here or my last in a Slam,” said Berrettini.
“I’m so honored to be here and it’s been a really good race for two weeks.
“Also with [winning] Queen’s, I couldn’t ask for more, well, maybe, a little more. “
“Djokovic took tennis to another level” – reaction
Former British number one Tim Henman on BBC TV: “It was really a fantastic tournament with a very worthy winner. Djokovic had an amazing tournament, he came in as a big favorite and he put on an absolute masterclass in two weeks. The best player without a doubt won this tournament.
“He talks about his hunger, desire and motivation, but there is no doubt that he wants to be the leader of this conversation when it comes to the number of Grand Slam tournaments. The Grand Slam schedule is absolutely on the cards and is one of the sport’s greatest achievements. After the challenges of 2020 of having the players back in the stadium – this is a great way to end. “
Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It’s absolutely sensational that Novak was able to win the 20th Grand Slam. What a final – we were lucky to witness such a great level of both players. Berrettini pushed Djokovic – it takes two players to have a such a big fight. Novak Djokovic has just taken tennis to another level. “
Boris Becker, six-time Grand Slam champion on BBC TV: “It’s been a tough three weeks, just playing and being at the hotel, you need great people around you and it’s great for Novak to show his appreciation for his team.”