July 11, 2022

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Ice-cool Djokovic tames fiery Kyrgios to continue Wimbledon love story

LONDON — Novak Djokovic stayed serene amid a frenzied atmosphere to tame fiery Australian Nick Kyrgios in an engrossing final on Sunday, lifting a seventh Wimbledon trophy and taking his Grand Slam title count to 21.

Rallying from a set down, Djokovic exhibited ice-cool nerves in sweltering conditions to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) for his fourth consecutive trophy at the grasscourt major to close in on Rafa Nadal’s record 22 Grand Slam titles.

By lifting the Challenge Cup once again, Djokovic drew level with his childhood idol Pete Sampras in the all-time winners list and is now just one shy of Swiss Roger Federer’s record eight Wimbledon titles.

After finishing 2021 one win short of a rare calendar-year Grand Slam, Djokovic’s season has not panned out exactly as he would have envisaged after being deported from Melbourne ahead of the Australian Open and losing to Nadal in the French Open quarterfinals.

“Certainly, this year has not been the same like last years,” he said. “It has started the way it has started and it has affected me definitely in the first several months of the year.

“I was not feeling great generally. I mean, mentally, emotionally, I was not in a good place.”

The Serbian’s refusal to be vaccinated against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) could prevent him from entering the United States to compete at the year’s final Grand Slam in New York, but the air of uncertainty had no bearing on his love affair with the lawns at the All England Club.

Djokovic said he had no plans to get vaccinated and only hoped the entry restrictions will be eased for him to play at Flushing Meadows next month.

After completing victory in just over three hours, Djokovic raised his arms to the sky and after shaking hands with Kyrgios, he bent down to pluck some grass from the famous old court and tasted it before running up to his player’s box to kickstart the celebrations.

“It always has been and always will be the most special tournament in my heart, the one that motivated me, inspired me to start playing tennis in a small mountain resort in Serbia where my parents used to run a restaurant,” said an emotional Djokovic, who was also celebrating his eighth wedding anniversary with wife Jelena on Sunday.

“Every single time, it gets more meaningful and more special, so I’m very blessed and very thankful to be standing here with the trophy.”

Competing in a men’s record 32nd major final on a sun-bathed Centre Court, the 35-year-old was facing an unseeded opponent who had never previously been beyond the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam.

In their only two meetings —both in 2017 — Djokovic did not win a set, failed to break the Kyrgios serve and had only a single break point opportunity. — Reuters