Novak Djokovic fulfilled his childhood prediction on Sunday that one day he would become arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport by clinching a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown.
The World No. 1 drew level with his great rivals, Switzerland’s Roger Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal, whom he has chased ever since he captured his first major crown at the 2008 Australian Open, in a historic 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 final victory over seventh-seeded Italian Matteo Berrettini at The Championships, Wimbledon.
“It was more than a battle,” said Djokovic. “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.”
When asked what it means to win a 20th Grand Slam title, Djokovic added, “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 realise what I needed to improve, mentally, physically and tactically.
"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.”
Most Grand Slam Singles Titles (All Time)
|Novak Djokovic (SRB)||20|
|Rafael Nadal (ESP)||20|
|Roger Federer (SUI)||20|
|Pete Sampras (USA)||14|
|Roy Emerson (AUS)||12|
Djokovic, who has already clinched his ninth Australian Open crown (d. Medvedev) in February and a second Roland Garros title (d. Tsitsipas) last month, will now stake his claim for the calendar-year Grand Slam after earning his sixth trophy at the All England Club.
Only four men in the sport’s history have arrived in New York City with the season’s first three major championships in their bags, and in a couple of months’ time the 34-year-old Djokovic will hope to emulate Don Budge (1938) and Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) in winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season.
“I could definitely envisage it happening and I will definitely give it a shot," said Djokovic. "I am in great form and I am playing well at the Grand Slams. So let’s keep it going.”
Djokovic let slip a 5-2 advantage in the first set, much to the delight of the Centre Court crowd who encouraged first-time major finalist Berrettini, the cinch Championships titlist at The Queen's Club three weeks ago. But Djokovic used his slice backhand to great effect and won 34 of 48 points at the net to work his way back into his 30th Grand Slam final (20-10 record). It was his 34th win in 37 matches this season.
The historic victory, over three hours and 23 minutes, saw Djokovic become only the fourth man in the Open Era (since April 1968) to capture three straight Wimbledon titles, after Federer, Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras. It also further solidifies the Serbian superstar's quest in 2021 for a seventh year-end No. 1 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings.
“Novak was better than me, as he is a great champion,” said Berrettini. “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 honour to be here and it’s been a really great run the past couple of weeks and also at The Queen’s Club.”
Berrettini, the first Italian man to reach a Grand Slam final since Adriano Panatta at 1976 Roland Garros, saw his 11-match winning streak on grass courts come to an end after he committed 48 unforced errors against Djokovic. The 25-year-old is now up to third in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin for one of eight spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held on Italian soil at the Pala Alpitour from 14-21 November.
Both players got off to a nervous start, but once Berrettini pushed a forehand long when Djokovic served at 1-1, 0/30, the momentum swung initially in the Serbian’s favour. Berrettini saved a set point in a 22-point service hold at 2-5 during a run of three straight games and the Italian subsequently held his nerve in the tie-break, which ended with an ace after Djokovic had made uncharacteristic errors.
In his first major final, it appeared to be the confidence boost that Berrettini needed. But Djokovic had other ideas and ran out to a 4-0 advantage in the second set. Yet it wasn’t over. Djokovic, in his 30th Grand Slam final, did not settle into his match rhytmn. From 1-5 down, Berrettini secured three straight games. He saved three set points — and won five straight points — at 3-5 to put the pressure back on Djokovic, who coolly closed out to love for one-set apiece.
Djokovic gained an early break in the third set, wearing down Berrettini with every look at a second serve, and as he walked to the changed of ends, he pointed his finger to his head. It seemed that after more than two hours of the pair’s third ATP Head2Head meeting, Djokovic had figured out a way to combat Berrettini’s power and regain control of his own destiny. Once Djokovic attacked the net to save two break points at 2-3, 15/40, and fed no pace to Berrettini’s forehand, it became largely a procession.
When Berrettini struck a double fault at 3-3 in the fourth set, Djokovic didn't look back and soon converted his third championship point on Berrettini's serve, falling to the ground in celebration of his historic triumph.