Novak Djokovic defeats Nick Kyrgios to win Wimbledon

AAs his opponent lost his cool around him all afternoon at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic settled for playing tennis. Djokovic, the world’s number one player, remained a mechanical hitting machine, chopping down drop shots, rendering hard serves, as Australian Nick Kyrgios shouted at himself, to his team seated in a pitchside box and the chair umpire. Kyrgios, as he is prone to do, began to unravel after winning the first set, and although he maintained his high level of play, Djokovic surged. He won his seventh Wimbledon title, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3), tying Pete Sampras for the second most men’s titles in the tournament; they are both one behind Roger Federer, who has eight. Djokovic has passed Federer on the list of all-time majors, however: he now has 21, one ahead of Federer’s 20 and one behind Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 22.

Djokovic is alone.

The match featuring two of the best but most reviled players on the tour – Djokovic for his refusal to get a Covid-19 shot, Kyrgios for his sometimes rude behavior – took place in the second set, when Djokovic was leading 5-3 and served to win the set. Kyrgios, however, won the first three points of the game and earned a triple break point. But he let the opportunity pass and refused to forgive himself. He started yelling at his team, fighting for blowing them up and, in turn, verbally beating them. Kyrgios, making his first Grand Slam final appearance, couldn’t control his temper on his sport’s biggest stage. Djokovic won that set and didn’t lose another on his way to his fourth straight Wimbledon title.

In the third set, Kyrgios served at 4-4 and went up 40-0. He couldn’t stay focused and Djokovic broke him, before winning his next service game and going up 2-1 in sets. During a change, Kyrgios started shouting back to his box across the Wimbledon grass, in a rather quiet stadium: the occupants of the Royal Box, which included Prince William, Kate Middleton and their son Prince George – at his Wimbledon debut – are undoubtedly not accustomed to such rude behavior. At another point, Kyrgios pushed the chair umpire to eject a fan he believed was drunk and was distracting him.

Despite the histrionics, Kyrgios, to his credit, kept his serve strong: he finished with 30 aces, compared to Djokovic’s 15. He hit more winning runs than his opponent, 62-46. But Kyrgios also finished with almost twice as many unforced errors as Djokovic. : 33 to 17. He fought hard in the fourth set: neither player could break the service of the other, before the set turned into a tiebreaker. Kyrgios double faulted on the first tiebreaker point and continued to make mistakes and twitter throughout: Djokovic went up 6-1, and it looked like it was over before it started. Moments later, Djokovic won the match.

Afterwards, Kyrgios was in very good spirits, complimenting Djokovic on the pitch during the victory presentation. “He’s a bit of a god,” Kyrgios said. He then thanked the ball boys and girls and the chair umpires, acknowledging that he sometimes had a “difficult relationship” with them. The crowd had a good laugh. What about Kyrgios? His talent is undeniable, and he eventually managed to sabotage himself enough to qualify for a Grand Slam final. He’s only 27 and it’s not hard to imagine more races like these in his future. His unpredictability during matches can make Kyrgios a television fixture: in this sense, Kyrgios is an undeniable asset to the sport. There is no one else like him.

But dark clouds follow him so often. During this run at Wimbledon, news broke that he will face a court date in Australia next month after he allegedly assaulted a former girlfriend late last year.

And does he want to be a great player? When asked after the Wimbledon final if he still wanted to advance that far in a major event, Kyrgios replied “absolutely not”, citing exhaustion. He was a bit of a jokester, but the commentary spoke to his riddle: is the sweat and effort it takes to win a major worth it for Kyrgios?

If not, that’s perfectly fine. Tennis fans would be deprived of his sometimes thrilling game, but Kyrgios owes nothing to tennis fans. They should just bet on him at their peril.

Djokovic, as great as he is, also has his complications. He acknowledged after the game that the year had taken an emotional toll on him, that he didn’t like being vilified. He caused controversy by refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. The Australian government sent him home in January for failing to fulfill his warrant; he was unable to defend his Australian Open title (Nadal won it instead). At Wimbledon, Djokovic might have won his last major tournament of the year. His unvaccinated status could prevent Djokovic from traveling to the United States to play at the US Open. With Nadal dealing with injuries and Federer clearly near the end, Djokovic, whose game clearly remains in top form – with no evidence to suggest it will end any time soon – remains the favorite to end his career with the Grand Slam record.

But the world may never love him for it.

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