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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, July 11, 2021

 
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Novak Djokovic defeated Matteo Berrettini to capture his sixth Wimbledon title and 20th Grand Slam crown matching the men's mark of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Photo credit: Getty

Streaking through the Centre Court lawn as smoothly as a sprinter running downhill, Novak Djokovic hurdled history.

The top-seeded Serbian defeated Italian Matteo Berrettini 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 in today's Wimbledon final capturing a record-tying 20th career Grand Slam championship with his 21st consecutive major and Wimbledon win.

More: 5 Reasons Novak Djokovic Will Win Golden Grand Slam

The world No. 1 now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as all three iconic champions own an astounding 20 major crowns.

"Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream of mine when I was a kid," Djokovic said. "As a seven-year-old boy in Sebria constructing a Wimbledon tennis trophy in my room from improvised materials I could find in my room and today standing with a sixth Wimbledon it's incredible. Amazing."

A dynamic Djokovic made a declarative championship statement: he's not stopping until he shatters the Grand Slam record. The 34-year-old Serbian has won five of the last eight Grand Slam titles and is determined to continue this historic charge and seize the Golden Grand Slam. 


"It means none of us three will stop—I think that's what it means," Djokovic said during the trophy presentation. "I've mentioned it before many times: I have to pay great tribute to Rafa and Roger they are legends of our sport and they are two most important players that I ever faced in my career. 

"They are the reason I am where I am today they helped me realize what I need to do to improve get stronger mentally, physically, tactically. When I broke into the Top 10 for the first time I lost for the first three or four years most of the big matches I played against these guys. Something shifted at the end of 2010 beginning of 2011. The last 10 years has been an incredible journey that is not stopping here."  



Winning his third straight Wimbledon title and sixth overall, Djokovic played with the purpose of a man intent on shattering the men's major mark collecting his third straight Grand Slam crown. Djokovic moved to within one leg of becoming the first man to win the calendar Slam since legendary Rod Laver won his second calendar Grand Slam in 1969.

Djokovic is the fifth man in history to win the first three Grand Slam championships of the season
after Jack Crawford (1933), Don Budge (1938), Lew Hoad (1956) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) and now bids to join Steffi Graf as the second player in history to win the Golden Grand Slamall four major championships and the Olympic gold medal.

It's more than a golden glory gleam in Djokovic's eye, now it's a mission statement he will continue at this month's Tokyo Olympics.

"I could definitely envision that happening," Djokovic said. "I'm hoping. I'm definitely gonna give it a shot. I'm in great form and obvously playing well and playing my best tennis at Grand Slams is the highest priority I have right now at this stage of my career. So let's keep it going."


Contesting his 30th major final, Djokovic overcame early nerves with some proactive play. The game's premier baseliner exploited Berrettini's backhand side winning 34 of 48 trips to net.

Playing cleaner combinations as the match progressed, Djokovic littered 10 unforced errors in an edgy opening set that saw him squander a 5-2 lead and a set point then cleaned up his game considerably committing just 11 errors over the final three sets.

Playing with strapping wrapping his left thigh, the seventh-seeded Berrettini battled Djokovic for the entire three hour, 23-minute final. Berrettini howed his potential as a future Grand Slam champion, but this day belonged to the world No. 1.

Queen's Club champion Berrettini carried an 11-0 grass-court record into his maiden major final, but conceded Djokovic elevated his game to places he could not match. 

"It's the most unbelievable feelings
maybe too many to handle," Berrettini said. "For sure Novak was better than me also at that. He's a great champion. He's writing the history of this sport so he deserves all the credit.

"I'm really happy with my finals, hopefully it's not gonna be my last one here. It's such an honor to be here, an unbelievable feeling. Really great run for the two weeks also before in Queen's. I couldn't ask for more, maybe just a little bit more."



Competing on final Sunday before royalty—Duchess of Cambridge and tennis fanatic Kate Middleton was in the royal box for the second day in a row—both men were understandably uptight at the outset of this rematch of last month's Roland Garros quarterfinals, which Djokovic won in four tight sets.

The first final surprise came as big-serving Berrettini won the toss, elected to receive and benefitted as a jittery Djokovic dumped two double faults to face a break point.  An even edgier Berrettini failed to make him pay, pasting a pair of backhands into the bottom of the net as the top seed held.

A tightly-wound Berrettini wasn't getting enough net clearance on his drives leaving some shots expiring in net. Handcuffing the Italian with a drive down the middle, Djokovic broke in the fourth game, rolling through nine of 11 points to extend his lead to 4-1.

Struggling to win second-serve points against the game's premier returner, Berrettini saved a set point and needed eight game points to finally close a grueling 12-minute hold that spanned 22 points for 3-5. That stirring stand roused Berrettini, who was moving better, striking with more conviction and refraining from burying his backhand into net.

Serving for the set, Djokovic blinked. Berrettini bumped a drop shot the burst off the mark quickly to cut off Djokovic's dropper reply nudging a forehand pass down the line breaking back in the ninth game with a primal scream.

Firing successive forehand winners, Berrettini built a 5-3 tiebreaker lead. Djokovic deployed the drop shot, but Berrettini was on it and shoveled a forehand down the line for a pair of set points, 34 minutes after the top seed held a set point. Berrettini blasted his fourth ace down the middle snatching a comeback 70-minute opener that sent his entire family leaping from their seats in a collective show of support.

From 2-5 down, Berrettini won five of the final six games seizing the set and momentum. Djokovic, who prevailed in a pair of five setters and beat Berrettini in four sets en route to to the French Open title last month, dug in to meet the demanding start.

The reigning champion turned Berrettini's first-set elation into second-set deflation. Patiently picking apart the Italian in baseline exchanges, Djokovic broke twice in a row, surging out to a 4-0 second-set lead. 

   Tennis Express

Serving for the second set at 5-2, Djokovic surprisingly stalled at closing time again as Berrettini flicked a running forehand scoring his second break of the final. That burst revitalized Berrettini who battled back from triple break down with a determined hold to force Djokovic to try to serve it out again.

This time, Djokovic made no mistake pounding a backhand winner and pumping an ace to serve out a second set that saw him commit just four unforced errors.

Showing little emotion after leveling, the Australian Open champion went right back to work deconstructing the big-hitting Berrettini with depth, angle and accuracy. Sliding into a dipping backhand pass, Djokovic sent the shot at Berrettini's feet for break point. Targeting the Berrettini backhand, Djokovic drew the error to break for a 2-1 third-set advantage.

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Versatility is one reason Djokovic has not lost to a Top 10 player at The Championships since falling to Andy Murray in the 2013 final. As some fans were chanting "Matteo! Matteo!", Djokovic moved forward in the court to press the mute button. Djokovic dug out of a 15-40 hole saving to break points to hold for 4-2.

Facing closing-set pressure with forward thinking, Djokovic bent low for a brilliant half-volley that made coach Goran Ivanisevic smile with satisfaction giving the Serbian double-set point. When Berrettini whacked a wild forehand well wide of the sideline, a focused Djokovic silently shook a clenched fist toward his box, one set from Grand Slam history.

By then, Djokovic had won 25 of 35 trips to net, frequently forcing the Italian into awkward passes from his weaker backhand wing. Berrettini said the world No. 1's comprehensive court coverage, poise and precision were too much today.

"Obviously the way he neutralize like my weapons, my serve and my forehand. The way he covers the court, it's unbelievable," Berrettini said. "It's something that I never experienced. He's the only player that makes me feel like this.

"That's why I said I have to get better in order to not feel like that.I would say also over the years his serve improved a lot. He's really precise. He's really hitting the line when he wants to. This is something, especially on this surface,really important. I would say the tactical, tactic-wise, he's probably the best player together with Roger. He's studying your game, and then he kind of adjusting during the match. It's not something really easy to do."

Staring down stress at 15-30 in the sixth game, Djokovic dashed to his left and was in the doubles alley when he dug out a defensive one-handed backhand. Reading his opponent's drop shot, Djokovic sped up to the ball and poked a pass that settled inside the sideline. That snazzy recovery caused an eruption from Centre Court fans as Djokovic raised an index finger toward the sky, eventually leveling the fourth set after six games.

History was in sight and Djokovic displayed the vision to realize it.

Driving shots sideline-to-sideline, Djokovic curled a crosscourt winner for break point in the seventh game. Succumbing to stress, Berrettini spit up his third double fault gifting the top seed the crucial break and 4-3 lead.

The seventh seed saved one championship point with a forehand volley and erased a second with a massive 106 mph forehand winner.

On this day, no one and nothing would deny Djokovic.

When Berrettini's final slice backhand expired in net, Djokovic fell flat on his back immersing himself in history on the most prestigious patch of grass in the game.

Winning his record-extending eighth major title since turning 30, Djokovic stands shoulder to shoulder with his Big 3 rivals. In reality, he has edged above the sport's tallest towers in overall achievement given Djokovic owns a winning record against both rivals, has mastered all nine Masters 1000 championships, has held the world No. 1 ranking longer, owns more year-end world No. 1 finishes and is the only man in Open Era history to win all four Grand Slam crowns twice.

The champion who has expended so much effort winning the first three legs of the Grand Slam wasn't done giving. Afterward, Djokovic handed his Head racquet to a little girl in the front row, a month after he handed a young boy his match-winning Roland Garros racquet.




Since the 2018 Roland Garros, Djokovic and Nadal have split the spoils seizing 12 of the last 13 Grand Slam crowns with Dominic Thiem the only other player to have won a major title prevailing at the US Open last September.

A decade after winning his first Wimbledon, Djokovic raised his Wimbledon finals record to 6-1 and has time on his side with timeless records in his sights.




The world No. 1 credited his "wolf energy" with his major success and knows winning the calendar Grand Slam is a declarative statement in settling the GOAT debate.

"I consider myself best and I believe that I am the best, otherwise I wouldn't be talking confidently about winning slams and making history," 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.

"We have different racquets, technology, balls, courts. It's just completely different conditions that we're playing in, so it's very hard to compare tennis, say, from 50 years ago to today. But I am extremely honored to definitely be part of the conversation."

 

 

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