Djokovic’s Splendor In The Wimbledon Grass Was Rewarding

Novak Djokovic (photo: @Wimbledon/Twitter)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 12, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Sunday evening, after the celebratory splendor in the grass on Centre Court had ended, six-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic was asked during his post-match press conference what it meant to win a record-tying 20th Grand Slam title, following his 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Matteo Berrettini. Djokovic smiled at the question, then spoke from the heart like he often does. For the first time, the Big Three – Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – all have won 20 major singles titles.

“It means none of us will stop [playing]. I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger as legends of our sport, the two most important players in my career and why I am the player I am today. They made me realize what I needed to improve, mentally, physically and tactically,” he said.

“When I first broke into the Top 10, for three or four years, I lost most of the big matches against these guys and something shifted at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011. The past 10 years have been an incredible journey and it’s not stopping here.”

What a year 2021 already has been for the World No. 1 from Belgrade, Serbia. In February, Djokovic clinched his ninth Australian Open by defeating Daniil Medvedev, then won a second French Open title in June over Stefanos Tsitsipas. On Sunday, his victory over Berrettini, who was appearing in his first major final, earned him his sixth All England Club trophy. Now, there’s the US Open coming up in late August, where Djokovic will be the fourth man to arrive at Flushing Meadows having won the first three legs of a calendar-year Grand Slam. The others were Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver (in 1962 and 1969). Can Djokovic pull off the rare feat? And, of course, there’s the possibility of competing for a gold medal in the Olympic Games, too.

“I could definitely envisage it happening and I will definitely give it a shot,” said Djokovic, whose 2021 win-loss record improved to 34-3. He has won 18 straight matches and hasn’t lost since the Rome final in early May. “I am in great form and I am playing well at the Grand Slams. So let’s keep it going.”

So, just who is the greatest player of them all among the Big Three? It probably depends upon whom you ask, but since Djokovic was asked by a reporter, he took aim at answering the question.

“I consider myself [the] best and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history,” the 34-year-old Djokovic said. “But whether I’m the greatest of all-time or not, I leave that debate to other people. I said before that it’s very difficult to compare the eras of tennis.

“But I am extremely honored to definitely be part of the conversation.”

Ashleigh Barty’s connection with Evonne Goolagong Cawley

Ashleigh Barty realized a childhood dream when she won her first Wimbledon ladies’ singles title after defeating the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3, on Saturday. The affable and adored Aussie took her place as a Wimbledon champion alongside her idol, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, who won two Wimbledon crowns, in 1971 and 1980.

During Barty’s press conference after the trophy ceremony, she spoke about her connection with her fellow Indigenous Australian.

“Yeah, Australians have such a rich history in sport, and I think being able to be a very small part of that is something I always dreamt of, try and create a legacy, try and create a path for young girls and boys to believe in their dreams. Being able to kind of live through that and learn my lessons along the way has been some of the best parts of my journey,” Barty said.

“To be able to be successful here at Wimbledon, to achieve my biggest dream, has been absolutely incredible. The stars aligned for me over the past fortnight. Incredible that it happened to fall on the 50th Anniversary of Evonne’s first title here, too, is absolutely incredible.”

Barty, who competed throughout the Wimbledon fortnight in a custom-tailored outfit by Fila that paid homage to Goolagong Cawley’s scallop-hemmed dress she wore 50 years ago, was asked what it meant for her to complete a half-century circle of Australian champions.

“Evonne is a very special person in my life. I think she has been iconic in paving a way for young indigenous youth to believe in their dreams and to chase their dreams. She’s done exactly that for me as well.

“I think being able to share that with her and share some pretty special victories now with her, to be able to create my own path is really incredible, really exciting.

“She’s just been an icon for years and years, not just on the tennis court. Her legacy off the court is incredible. I think if I could be half the person that Evonne is, I’d be a very, very happy person.

“I think being able to have a relationship with her and talk with her through my experience, knowing she’s only ever a phone call away is really, really cool.”

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“Quotable …”

“Novak was better than me, as he is a great champion. He is right in the history of the sport and he deserves all the plaudits. I hope it’s not my last Grand Slam final. It’s such an honor to be here and it’s been a really great run the past couple of weeks and also at The Queen’s Club.”

Matteo Berrettini, following his defeat to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles final on Sunday.

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Ashleigh Barty’s Wimbledon triumph / Celebrating Down Under