Djokovic Reflects On Becoming A Seven-Time Wimbledon Champion

Novak Djokovic (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 11, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

As Novak Djokovic won his fourth straight Wimbledon Championships men’s singles title and seventh crown overall, which leveled him with his boyhood idol Pete Sampras, one quality among many stood out. He remained quietly focused – not to mention calm and cool – throughout the three-hour and one-minute final that took place on a sun-drenched, sold-out Centre Court Sunday afternoon. It was in stark contrast to his opponent, the chuntering Nick Kyrgios, who repeatedly lost his cool. You really didn’t expect anything else from the mercurial one, did you?

Yet, one can only wonder what if Kyrgios had kept his mouth quiet instead of incessantly chattering to himself, shouting at his entourage in his box, or at the tennis gods above – often using profanity-laced language not suitable for the ears of young eight-year-old Prince George of Cambridge, who was seated in the Royal Box in between his dad and mum, Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Cambridge and Duchess of Cambridge. The Royal Box was filled with plenty of tennis royalty, too. Among them were Hall of Famers Rod Laver, John Newcombe, Stan Smith, Chris Evert and Jan Kodes – all of them past Wimbledon champions from bygone years back when decorum mattered.

As it happened, Djokovic won the final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3), for his 21st Grand Slam singles title, which moved him one ahead of Roger Federer and placed him one behind Rafael Nadal. It was a fitting way for the Serbian great to celebrate his eighth wedding anniversary with his wife, Jelena. His two young children, Stefan, 7, and Tara, 4, have been in tow throughout the Wimbledon fortnight, too. Nothing like keeping it all in the family, right?

Djokovic managed to shut out the temper tantrums and overcame all of the obstacles Kyrgios could toss at him – including the booming 130 mile-per-hour first serves that produced 30 aces and helped contribute toward the 62 winners the Aussie hit. He also took advantage of the 33 unforced errors made by Kyrgios. Meanwhile, Djokovic, whose head was in the right place, put together a steady, steely and, at times, brilliant shotmaking performance that resulted in 15 aces and 46 winners. His serve was broken just once. He outpointed Kyrgios 132-112.

After securing victory in his 32nd career Grand Slam final – compared to one final for Kyrgios – Djokovic, as has been his custom after winning Wimbledon on six previous occasions, pulled up a few blades of grass to munch on. Djokovic’s winning streak on grass had extended to 28 matches.

At least, to his credit afterward, Kyrgios showed he could be polite. He shared a good laugh with Djokovic as the competitors walked off the court and was courteous and gracious in accepting his runner-up prize from the Duchess of Cambridge, who is the All England patron.

“He’s a bit of a god. I’m not going to lie,” Kyrgios said during his on-court interview with the BBC’s Sue Barker during the trophy ceremony. Kyrgios also made a point of thanking the ball kids, who put up with his antics over the past two weeks.

When the volatile and acrobatic Krygios, 27, was asked if he would return to the All England Club, he laughed at the thought and quipped: “Absolutely not. I’m set for life. Myself, my team, I think we’re all exhausted. We’ve played so much tennis. I definitely need a well-earned vacation after this. … Maybe, one day I’ll be here again, but I don’t know about that.”

Meanwhile, Djokovic, a member of the All England Club since winning his first Wimbledon title in 2011, definitely will be back. It’s like a home away from home for him. He also suggested that Kyrgios will be back, too. Say what you will, Kyrgios is good for box office and TV ratings.

“Nick,  you’ll be back,” he said. “I know it’s tough to find consolation words after a tough loss like this, but you showed why you deserve to be one of the world’s best, particularly on this surface.”

Djokovic added: “I never thought I was going to say so many nice things about you, considering the relationship … it’s officially a bromance. Hopefully, this is the start of a wonderful relationship off the court as well.”

During his on-court remarks after lifting the Wimbledon champion’s trophy for the seventh time, the 35-year-old Djokovic got serious for a moment. “I lost words for what this tournament, what this trophy means to me, my family, my team,” he said. “It was the one that motivated me to play tennis.” Then, he added: “It’s also a relief as well, considering what I’ve been through of course this year. It adds more value and more significance and more emotions, of course.”

News & noteworthy

Novak Djokovic remains unvaccinated and, as such, he goes off to an uncertain future with the US Open looming next month. It’s likely he won’t get to play in the year’s final Grand Slam. That’s because the United States has a vaccine mandate that likely won’t be relaxed just for him. Currently, noncitizen, nonresident internationals, such as Djokovic, aren’t allowed to enter the country if they aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19.

During his post-match news conference Sunday, Djokovic stood adamant about his decision not to get the required shots to be able to travel to the U.S. “I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated,” he said. “So, the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter [the] United States or exemption.

“I don’t think exemption is realistically possible. If that is a possibility, I don’t know what exemption would be about. I don’t know. I don’t have much answers. I think it’s just whether or not they remove this in time for me to get to USA.”

By the numbers

Novak Djokovic is the second man aged 35 (he’s age 35 years 49 days) or over to the Wimbledon title in the Open Era, following Roger Federer who won the title in 2017 at age 35 years 342 days. Djokovic is also the fourth man in the Open Era to record a streak of four or more Wimbledon titles – after Bjorn Borg (1976-80), Roger Federer (2003-07) and Pete Sampras (1997-2000).

“Quotable …”

“It always has been and will be the most special tournament in my heart, the one that motivated me and inspired me to start playing tennis in a little mountain resort in Serbia. My first image of tennis was grass, and Wimbledon. I always dreamed of coming here and just playing in this court. … Every single time it gets more meaningful and special.”

Novak Djokovic, seven-time Wimbledon champion, during his on-court interview Sunday.