Wimbledon 2022: Novak Djokovic fends off Nick Kyrgios, moves closer to all-time Grand Slam record

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A year after he won his last Grand Slam title, Novak Djokovic is finally back at the top of the podium. In a four-set match, Djokovic defeated Australia’s Nick Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) to win Sunday at Wimbledon for his 21st career Grand Slam.

With his seventh Wimbledon crown, Djokovic moved past Roger Federer on the all-time Grand Slam list and is now one behind Rafael Nadal, who sits alone at the top with 22.

To get title No. 21, Djokovic received a tremendous challenge from Kyrgios. Known for his powerful serve, Kyrgios came out firing and took the first set, 6-4, putting the buzz of a potentially massive upset in the air.

But Djokovic quickly turned the tides.

Djokovic won the second set decisively, 6-3, including rallying back from a triple break point to even the match at one set apiece. Later, with the third set tied 4-4, Djokovic overcame a 0-40 deficit to break Kyrgios’ serve and later take the set 6-4.

Throughout the match, the controversial Kyrgios’ frustrations were on clear display. At several points, he was preoccupied with a perceived lack of support from those in his box. Later on, he alerted the umpire to an apparently talkative — and distracting — woman in the front row who “looks like she's had about 700 drinks.”

All the while, Djokovic remained poised and was able to seize control of the match, taking advantage of even the slightest openings provided by Kyrgios, who was playing in his first Grand Slam final.

In the decisive fourth set, Kyrgios regained his focus and held serve. Djokovic did the same and eventually prevailed in a one-sided tiebreak, 7-3, en route to another Wimbledon championship.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns to Australia's Nick Kyrgios in the final of the men's singles on day fourteen of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Sunday, July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Serbia's Novak Djokovic returns to Australia's Nick Kyrgios in the final of the men's singles on day fourteen of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Sunday, July 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

For Djokovic, this title isn’t record-breaking as he remains one behind Nadal, who withdrew from the tournament ahead of the semifinals due to injury. He had the chance at the US Open in 2021, but was defeated by Daniil Medvedev (who was absent from Wimbledon due to the club’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players). He would have had the chance in January at the Australian Open, but his decision to not get vaccinated against COVID-19 resulted in him being kicked out of Australia, which also features a three-year ban from the country.

Djokovic lost to eventual champion Rafael Nadal at the French Open in May, but nothing could stop him at the All England Club. He sliced through most of his competition, coming close to defeat only against Jannik Sinner. Even Kyrgios playing the best tennis of his life couldn’t dent Djokovic’s armor.

As for Kyrgios, he worked his whole career to make it where he was today, at a Grand Slam final. He silenced the histrionics through most of the tournament, and focused on what mattered: tennis. It shows he’s able to narrow his concentration on tennis when he wants to, but the Kyrgios we all know — angry, frustrated, out of control — bubbled over on Sunday against Djokovic.

And those frustrations surfaced not because of a long-held grudge with Djokovic. At least now. Once upon a time, they did have one.

“Everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there,” Kyrgios said. “It was healthy for the sport. I think every time we played each other, there was hype around it. It was interesting for the media, the people watching, all that.”

Things couldn’t be more different now. Djokovic says he and Kyrgios have a “better” relationship now. Kyrgios supported Djokovic before he was deported from Australia, and he even admitted that the two of them message each other on Instagram. He said that Djokovic hoped they’d face each other in the final.

Djokovic got his wish, and he won the trophy to boot. He looks as powerful as he did last year at his peak, which is why it’s a shame that this might be his last Grand Slam of the year. The US doesn’t allow unvaccinated people to enter the country. Unless that changes, Djokovic won’t be able to play at the US Open — which will actually award ranking points, unlike Wimbledon.

But for now, Djokovic is at the top, and one step closer to owning the record for most Grand Slam titles.

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