TENNIS

Novak Djokovic beats Nick Kyrgios to claim seventh Wimbledon title

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LONDON — Novak Djokovic used his consistent talent to beat ace-throwing and shrewd hitter Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(3) on Sunday for a fourth straight Wimbledon championship and seventh to the general.

“Every time it becomes more and more meaningful and special,” the top-seeded Djokovic said. “It has always been and will remain the most special tournament in my heart. The one that motivated and inspired me to start playing tennis in a small mountain resort in Serbia.”

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Top-seeded Djokovic rode his grass-court Grand Slam unbeaten run to 28 games and took his career to 21 major trophies, breaking a tie with Roger Federer and moving just one behind Rafael Nadal’s 22 to the most in history. men’s tennis.

On the men’s side, only Federer, with eight, has won more Wimbledon titles than Djokovic. In the professional era, only Federer was older (by less than a year) than 35-year-old Djokovic when he won at the All England Club.

His comeback on a sunny afternoon followed those of the quarter-finals, when Djokovic erased a two-set deficit against No. 10 seed Jannik Sinner, and the semi-finals, when No. 9 Cam Norrie won the first set. In last year’s title match at Wimbledon, Djokovic lost the opening set. In the 2019 final, he erased two championship points against Federer.

There were two particularly key moments on Sunday that followed Djokovic’s path, ones that Kyrgios wouldn’t let go of as he began running monologues, yelling at himself or those around him (which doesn’t include a coach). full-time), finding reasons to disagree with the chair umpire (and receiving a swearing warning) and throwing a water bottle.

In the second set, with Djokovic serving at 5-3, Kyrgios got to like-40 – a trio of break points. But Kyrgios played a few occasional comebacks, and Djokovic eventually held on. And then, in the third set, with Kyrgios serving at 4-all, 40-love, he once again let a seemingly sealed game slip away, with Djokovic breaking into it.

Kyrgios, ranked 40th, was trying to become the first unranked men’s champion at Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001. Ivanisevic is now Djokovic’s coach and was in the center court guest box for the match.

Kyrgios had never passed the quarter-finals in 29 previous Grand Slam appearances – and the last time 7½ years ago.

In some ways, the 27-year-old Australian stole the show on Sunday. He attempted kicks between his legs. Hit it with his back to the net. Pounded serves up to 136 mph and produces 30 aces. Used an underarm serve, then faked one later.

Perhaps, in some ways, it would have been fitting for such a unique player to become the champion of such a unique Wimbledon.

Any players representing Russia or Belarus were banned by the All England Club due to the war in Ukraine; among the men kept off the court were No. 1-ranked Daniil Medvedev, the defending US Open champion, and No. 8 Andrey Rublev. In response, the WTA and ATP professional tennis tours took the unprecedented decision to strip all ranking points from Wimbledon.

A Russian-born woman who has represented Kazakhstan for four years, Elena Rybakina, won the women’s trophy on Saturday with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Ons Jabeur. It was the first Wimbledon title match since 1962 between two women making their Grand Slam final debuts, and Rybakina, at No. 23, is the All England Club’s second-lowest women’s champion since the rankings began. computerized WTA in 1975.

Federer missed the tournament for the first time since the late 1990s as he is still recovering from a series of operations on his right knee. The No. 2 man in the rankings, Alexander Zverev, has missed out after tearing ankle ligaments at Roland Garros. Three of the top 20 seeded men, including 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini, withdrew from Wimbledon after the start because they tested positive for COVID-19.

And Nadal pulled out before he was supposed to face Kyrgios in the semi-finals, the first time since 1931 that a man has given Wimbledon an upset in the semi-final or final.

As for Kyrgios, his talent is undeniable. But over the years, he has become more noted for his preference for style over substance on the court, his temper that has earned him expulsions and suspensions, and his taste for the nightlife.

In the past two weeks alone, Kyrgios has racked up $14,000 in fines – one for spitting on a rowdy spectator after a first-round victory, another for insulting in a highly controversial win over the top seed. no 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the third round – and caught red-handed for wearing a red hat and sneakers before or after games in a place where all-white clothing is mandatory. He and the world also learned he was due to appear in an Australian court to face an assault allegation.

Djokovic and Kyrgios didn’t always get along well. Kyrgios was quite critical of Djokovic publicly until he became one of the first voices to support the Serb during the legal saga that unfolded ahead of the Australian Open in January, culminating in the expulsion of Djokovic from this country because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19 (which could also prevent him from participating in the US Open in August).

This apparently helped create a kind of relaxation; Kyrgios used the term “bromance” to describe the state of their relationship. They joked via social media on Saturday, exchanging messages about going out for a drink or dinner, with the winner footing the bill.

“He’s a bit of a god, I’m not going to lie,” Kyrgios said at the awards ceremony. “I think I played well. You won the championship, I don’t even know how many times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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