Djokovic Wins Major Title No. 20 At Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 11, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday’s Gentlemen’s Singles final at the Wimbledon Championships featured Matteo Berrettini of Italy, the best player on grass in 2021, against five-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, the best player in the world. Regardless of the outcome between the 25-year-old novice from Italy and the experienced 34-year-old from Serbia, there was plenty of history awaiting to be written.

In pursuit of his sixth Wimbledon trophy – including a third in a row – and 20th major title, Djokovic’s march to history began this year with victory at the Australian Open in early February. It continued on clay at Roland-Garros in early June. Now, with an opportunity to level the playing field with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, each already with 20 career Grand Slam titles, Djokovic didn’t throw away his best shot.

Instead, the World No. 1 Djokovic hit 31 winners and after losing just his second set of the fortnight after stringing together 18 consecutive sets, he battled relentlessly and got the job done. By the end, it was Djokovic lying on his back celebrating. Soon, he picked up a few blades of rye grass and munched on them with a big smile. The taste of a sixth Wimbledon title was sweet and divine — and now, he’s tied with Federer and Nadal.

Also, Djokovic is three quarters of the way to becoming the first man since Rod Laver, in 1969, to accomplish the near-mythical calendar-year Grand Slam.

Djokovic won his sixth Wimbledon and title and 20th Grand Slam crown with a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Berrettini in three hours and 24 minutes before a capacity crowd that filled Wimbledon’s famed Centre Court with the roof open. In capturing his third straight Wimbledon crown, Djokovic won on his third match-point opportunity. The last man to win three in a row was Federer, who won five consecutive Wimbledon titles between 2002-07. Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras are the others in the Open Era who have won three Wimbledon titles in a row.

From the start, Djokovic played like a man on a mission. “That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m playing,” he said before the final. Djokovic was keen in his desire to tie Federer and Nadal. “I imagined myself being in a position to fight for another Grand Slam trophy prior to coming to London. I put myself in a very good position.

“Anything is possible in the finals. Obviously, experience is on my side. But Berrettini has been winning a lot of matches on grass courts this year, winning Queen’s. He’s in great form. He’s serving big, playing big. So, it’s going to be a very tough match I think for both of us. But I’m looking forward to a great battle.”

Indeed, a great battle broke out between Djokovic and Berrettini from the outset, that was enjoyed both by fans in person and a worldwide television audience. The Italian punched through some early-match nerves and rallied from 2-5 down after saving a set point. He won five of the next six games to pull out the first set in a tie-break, sealing it with a 138 mile-per-hour ace for his 17th winner after an hour and 10 minutes.

At times, Djokovic looked wobbly during the first set and, after Berrettini won the opener, it put the Italian two sets away from pulling off one of the most shocking upsets in Wimbledon history. While Berrettini had never lost a grass-court match in which he won the first set (22-0), that changed quickly.

Djokovic leveled the match by winning the 43-minute second set 6-4 after taking a double-break lead at 4-0, thanks to peppering shots at Berrettini’s backhand. The Serbian’s experience started to pay off and he showed that his game style was well suited to being successful on grass.

Next, Djokovic went to work and got a key break to go up 2-1 early in the third set and continued to pressure Berrettini, who made nine unforced errors. He put away the 48-minute set 6-4 when Berrettini sent a forehand wide on second match point.

It was on to the fourth set, with a chance at history being made by Djokovic. Certainly, past performance favored the top seed from Belgrade as he was 11-0 in Grand Slams when holding a 2-1 sets advantage (including 4-0 at Wimbledon). At 3-all, Djokovic raised the level of his game just as the thought of raising a sixth Wimbledon trophy likely started to set in. Berrettini doubled faulted on break point that gave Djokovic a 4-3 advantage. He consolidated the break with a hold at 30, needing to win just once more game.

After Berrettini valiantly saved two match points, Djokovic  prevailed as the Italian errored on a backhand that hit the net and ended a final, exciting 15-shot rally. The victory celebration was on.

Prior to the final, Berrettini said that he never dreamed of winning Wimbledon. “For me a dream is something that can come true. Walking to the moon cannot be a dream, because it will never happen. Winning Wimbledon is now a dream, because I know it can come true.”

On the final day of this Wimbledon fortnight, the dream of garnering a first major didn’t happen for Berrettini. He was trying to become just the second Italian man to win a Grand Slam in 45 years and the first at Wimbledon. There will be other opportunities, though, as the the six-foot-five-inch Roman has plenty of talent and desire. He finished the championship match with 16 aces and hit. 57 winners. For now, he and the rest of his nation would pin their hopes on Forzo Italia playing England in the Euro Cup final at Wembley to the northwest.

“To stand here with a sixth Wimbledon title, that’s amazing,” said Djokovic, himself a big football fan, during the trophy ceremony. He was noncommittal when asked if he was rooting for Italy or England. Instead, he chose to focus on the tennis. “That was a tough match today. Matteo’s a true Italian hammer. I felt that on my skin.”

The champion, clutching his trophy, added: “It was more than a battle. Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream of mine as a child. I know how special this is and I don’t want to take this for granted. I was a seven-year-old boy in Serbia, constructing a Wimbledon tennis trophy with improvised materials in my bedroom and now I am standing here with six titles. It’s incredible.”

Sunday’s Wimbledon results

Around the All England Club

• Great Britain’s Neal Skupski and Desirae Krawczyk of the United States won the mixed doubles title Sunday evening. They defeated the all-British team of Joe Salisbury and Harriet Dart, 6-2, 7-6 (1), in an hour and 22 minutes.

Marija Cicak of Croatia, the chair umpire for the men’s final, made history by being the first female chair umpire a gentlemen’s singles final at Wimbledon.

• There was plenty of tennis royalty in the Royal Box joining Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge for Sunday’s men’s final. Among those seen were former Wimbledon champions Chris Evert, Tracy Austin, Stan Smith and Stefan Edberg.

• Belgium’s Joachim Gerard, 32, won his first Wimbledon title and second Grand Slam singles trophy of 2021 with his 6-2, 7-6 (2) victory over Great Britain’s Gordon Reid in the men’s wheelchair singles final. In their only previous Grand Slam final meeting, Reid beat Gerard at the 2016 Australian Open.

“I like so much this tournament,” Gerard said of Wimbledon. “Last year, it was really painful for me to not be able to come. I wanted to do the best I could and that’s the best I could do.”

• Dutch No. 1 seed Diede de Groot of the Netherlands defeated South African Kgothatso Montjane 6-2, 6-2 in the women’s wheelchair singles final to capture her her third major title of 2021. Montjane was biding for her first Grand Slam.

• In an all-American showdown of 17-year-olds for the junior boys’ singles title, Samir Banerjee of New Jersey defeated Victor Lilov of Florida, 7-5, 6-3, in an hour and 23 minutes.

“I really just wanted to win a round, I didn’t expect this,” said World No. 19 Banerjee, who will attend Columbia University in New York City beginning this fall. “I had a tough French Open, lost to a good player, so here I just wanted to keep my expectations low so that if I passed them, then I’d be happy. But this was way beyond my wildest dreams.”

The Banerjee-Lilov matchup was just the third all-American boys’ singles final in Wimbledon history, and the first since Noah Rubin beat Stefan Kozlov in 2014.

• In the junior boys’ doubles final, Edas Butvilas of Lithuania and Alejandro Manzanera Pertusa of Spain beat Daniel Rincon of Spain and Abedallah Shalbayh of Jordan, 6-3, 6-4.

• The junior girls’ singles final was won by 17-year-old Ane Mintegi Del Olmo of Spain, who became the first Spanish player to win a Wimbledon girls’ singles title. She defeated Nastasja Mariana Schunk, 17, of Germany, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 in two hours and three minutes.

• The junior girls’ doubles title was won by No. 1 seeds Kristina Dmitruk of Belarus and Diana Shnaider of Russia beat Sofia Costoulas of Belgium and Laura Hietaranta of Finland, 6-1, 6-2.

“Quotable …”

Now it can be told

By the numbers

After Sunday’s Wimbledon title match, Roger Federer has won the most men’s gentlemen’s singles titles in the Open Era (since 1968) with 8 followed by Pete Sampras 7, Novak Djokovic 6 and Bjorn Borg 5.