20s All Round: Djokovic levels rivals with historic Wimbledon crown
Novak Djokovic drew level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record hauls of 20 grand slam titles on Sunday as he claimed a sixth Wimbledon crown in a hard-fought 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-3 win against big-hitting Italian Matteo Berrettini. Alex Grant reports.
On top of securing his 20th major title – and 85th title – of his extraordinary career, it was an historic day all round for the world number one as he won his third straight slam, joined Federer and Nadal in active players to complete the channel slam of winning the French Open and Wimbledon consecutively and became just the second man in the open era after Nadal in 2010 to win three straight slams on three separate surfaces.
The pressure was on Djokovic and it looked for once to have got to him as he let an early 5-2 first set lead slip to world number eight Berrettini, playing in his first major final, as the Italian fought-back to claim the opener 7-6 in the tiebreak.
Never one to panic, however, the great Serbian soon hit the reset button and upon claiming a quick double break lead in the second set, never looked like giving up the initiative for a second time.
The Italian, courtesy of his big serve and bludgeoning forehand, helped to keep things honest but in the end there was only one winner as the experience and greatness of Djokovic shone through with the Serb collapsing to the ground in celebration upon victory before tasting the Wimbledon grass, as has become his tradition.
Djokovic remains on course for perhaps the greatest tennis season in history as he looks to win an unprecedented calendar golden slam of all four slams and Olympic gold in the same year, but with rising Covid-19 cases in Tokyo and a gruelling US hard court swing to come, whether the Serb will risk an Olympic bid remains to be seen.
Speaking to reporters following his triumph the world’s finest, who has previously expressed his desire to become the first man to complete a calendar golden slam – and second player after Steffi Graf (1988) – admitted he is now divided on whether or not to travel to Tokyo stating:
“My plan was always to go to the Olympic Games, but right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”
Djokovic added: “I hear that there’s going to be a lot of restrictions within the Athletes’ Village. Possibly you would not be able to see other athletes perform live.
“I can’t even have my stringer, that is a very important part of my team. I’m limited with the amount of people I can take in my team as well.”
The world number one, who is now the overwhelming favourite to end his career with the most slams overall, was also quick to heap praise on his two great rivals Federer and Nadal when speaking to the BBC’s Sue Barker on court directly following the triumph:
“I have to make a great tribute to Rafa and Roger, they are legends of our sport and the two most important players I ever faced in my career,” Djokovic said.
“They are the reason why I am where I am today. They showed me what I needed to do to get stronger – physically, tactically and mentally. Over the last 10 years it has been an incredible journey that’s not stopping here.”
Both Federer and Nadal were quick to take to social media after the victory to congratulate their great rival as both now face a crossroads in their individual careers.
For Federer, he tumbled out of Wimbledon at the quarter-final stage in a straight sets defeat to young Hubert Hurkacz, which included only his second ever career bagel (6-0 set) before admitting afterwards that, with his 40th birthday looming in a matter of weeks, he is unsure of whether or not he has played his last Wimbledon.
Nadal meanwhile took Wimbledon off, citing physical and mental exhaustion, as he recovers from the disappointment of only his third ever defeat at his beloved Roland Garros and is scheduled to return to the tour for the Citi Open 500 event in Washington on July 31st as he prepares for a US hard court swing, which he hopes will conclude with a record-breaking 21st grand slam crown at the US Open.