By HOWARD FENDRICH
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Novak Djokovic tied Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in Sunday’s 20th Grand Slam title and defeated Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in Wimbledon final.
No. 1 Djokovic took a third consecutive All England Club championship and sixth overall.
He adds that in nine titles at the Australian Open, three at the US Open and two at the French Open to match his two rivals for most majors won by a man in tennis history.
“I have to pay a huge tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends. Legends of our sport. They are the two most important players I have ever met in my career,” said Djokovic, a 34-year-old from Serbia. “They are, I think, the reason I am where I am now. They have helped me realize what I need to do to improve, to become stronger mentally, physically and tactically.”
Federer tweeted his congratulations shortly after the match ended, writing: “Wonderful performance, well done!”
Djokovic is now the only man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the first three biggest tournaments of a season. It can be aimed for a Grand Slam calendar year – something last achieved by a man when Laver did it 52 years ago – at the US Open, which begins on August 30.
“I hope. I’m definitely going to give it a shot,” Djokovic told the Court Center crowd at the awards ceremony. “I’m in great shape and it’s clear that I play well and playing my best sneakers in the Grand Slam is my biggest priority right now at this stage of my career. So let’s keep it that way.”
This was his 30th major final – in men, only Federer played more, 31 – and the first for Berrettini, a 25-year-old from Italy who ranked No. 7.
“Hopefully,” said Berrettini, “it won’t be my last.”
It was a great sports day in London for the Italians: their national football team played the final of the European Championship against England at Wembley Stadium tonight.
Referee Marija Cicak, the first female chair referee for a men’s final in a tournament that began in 1877, the game began when the sun made a rare appearance on the fifteenth day, the sky visible between the clouds.
The opening game showed signs of sharpness from both, but especially Djokovic, whose pair of double errors contributed to the six errors combined without strength, compared to zero winners for both. He faced a break point, but that held his ground and kept on there. As was the case with all sets, it was Djokovic who took the lead by continuing on Berrettini’s quick serve.
Berrettini came up with a 101-aces high tournament and that’s where his game was built: free points in the serve and quick forehands that earned him the nickname “Hammer”.
Those powerful blows caused twisted linesmen to keep themselves out of the way. Djokovic was covered every time and then, lay down and increased his surgery as if it was a shield to block back serving aimed at his body.
Not many opponents managed to return the serve at 137 mph and eventually win the point, but Djokovic did at least twice. With the large 6-foot-5 foundations, Berrettini’s barrel-shaped can drive past most other players holding back from Djokovic’s operations.
That’s what Djokovic does: he just forces his enemies to work so hard to win every point, let alone a game, a set, a match.
Indeed, this one could be on earlier than the four sets and it took almost 3 1/2 hours: Djokovic took a 4-1 lead in the first set, 4-0 in the second and 3-1 in the third. . But especially at first he was hesitant in the way he rarely did, wasting a steady point at 5-2 and was broken when he served for it at 5-3.
In the subsequent tiebreak they were tied at 3-all, but Berrettini won three of the next four points with forehands and finished it off with an ace from 138 mph.
He stepped on the switch and lots of nearly 15,000 spectators got up to celebrate with him.
Chants to “Ma-tte-o!” started early in the third series. Soon others responded with Djokovic’s nickname, “No-le!” Later in the series, Djokovic kept his surgery to his ear and gestured for more support.
But Djokovic was nothing but a fighter, and he canceled Berrettini’s efforts and won the fans as well. When he finished, Djokovic fell on his back on the turf, arms and legs spread, crowded and cheered from the fans.
There were some magical moments, the points shining both.
On the one hand, Berrettini somehow invented a back-to-net, between the lob feet that Djokovic somehow tracked down to deliver a response and his own back into the field, but he ended up in the net.
On another, lasting 15 strokes, Djokovic slipped into a backhand hold-point-away defensive and, after Berrettini responded with a drop shot, sprinted all the way up for a winner. Djokovic kept his index finger – as if to remind everyone, “I’m number 1!” – and Berrettini sustained his racquet, caught him and smiled.
What else could he do?
Nobody can do much against Djokovic, it seems.
He has collected eight of the last twelve major trophies – all since his thirties, most by an aged man.
And for all the questions in recent years about when the younger generation would step forward and stop the progress of the big three, it seems that Djokovic is single-handedly holding the kids back.
It is 21-0 in three majors this year. In the final he defeated a trio of twenty-somethings from the top 10 in the ATP: 25-year-old Daniil Medvedev on the Australian Open clay courts, 22-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas on the red clay of the French Open and now Berrettini on grass.
“He writes the history of this sport,” Berrettini said, “so he deserves all the credit.”
On Sunday, Djokovic made only 21 powerless errors, while collecting 21 winners. The caps limit them to 16 aces.
Djokovic’s returns are as good as anyone’s. Spinning of his hands is one of those threats. His ability to anticipate and detect shots from the other side of the net frustrates opponents. A consummate core wizard, he can also play in the net: Djokovic won 34 out of 48 points when he went ahead on Sunday, including 7 for 9 when he used volleyball.
But in spite of all that, perhaps its main distinguishing feature is statistical quality that cannot be tracked.
When the moments are most important, tension and pulse soar. The mind and body can be closed. It’s just human nature. Djokovic is somehow sensitive to that sort of thing. Or at least play as it is.
Perhaps it is all his experience in such situations. Maybe it’s all accumulated know how.
Maybe it’s an enviable combination of courage and bravery – to go along with all his enviable talent and relentless hard work.
Let’s not forget that Djokovic got two championship points against Federer in the 2019 Wimbledon final. Or that he was two sets to zero in two matches at the French Open before coming back to win in five, including the final.
So far it has been a year of domination by Djokovic, on top of a decade of success.
“The last 10 years have been an incredible journey,” he said, “that doesn’t stop here.”
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