LONDON — Novak Djokovic’s calendar Grand Slam dream is on track after he fought off the valiant Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Centre Court to win the Wimbledon men’s singles title on Sunday.
Having already won the Australian Open and French Open, Djokovic dropped just two sets over the fortnight to win his sixth Wimbledon title, and his 20th Grand Slam, a feat which levels him with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
Djokovic did not have it all his own way against the first-time Grand Slam finalist, but Djokovic’s perseverance, experience and consistency saw him edge past Berrettini and manage the Italian’s power game.
Here’s how Djokovic won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon.
Overcoming the first set
For just the second time this Wimbledon, Djokovic lost a set.
The key game came at 5-2 to Djokovic, and the Serbian had a break and set point on Berrettini’s serve. The Italian held, to force deuce, and on the eighth he eventually got his third win on the board. From there, he broke Djokovic and then dominated the tiebreak 7-4. Djokovic was offering Berrettini chances — but the Italian’s count of 20 unforced errors to Djokovic’s 10 meant he left chances out on the grass.
But this set gave Djokovic the chance to finetune his game plan of keeping the ball close to Berrettini’s body or sliced to the fringes to prevent him using his jackhammer forehand, and shifting him around the court. It also allowed him to get an accurate read on Berrettini’s serve, having broken him in the fourth game in the first — something Hubert Hurkacz failed to do in their semifinal.
Taming Berrettini’s serve and breaking at the right time
Berrettini’s much-admired serve produced the goods as he closed out the first set, clinching it with a 138-mph ace, but it was still unreliable. His serve was operating with just 56% of his first serves in throughout the first set, and though this rose to 61 in the second, it gave Djokovic the chance to win 61% of the points on Berrettini’s second serve (Berrettini, in turn, won just 47 on Djokovic’s second). That allowed Djokovic to punish Berrettini with two breaks at the start of the second, preventing Barrettini from carrying on any momentum from his first-set win. He managed the same in the third to make it 2-1, putting Berrettini on the back-foot.
Djokovic then held on his own serve — broken once in the first and second — by moving Berrettini around Centre Court, playing these neat, sliced backhands into the corners and forcing the Italian to stretch and strain. Though he covered more ground per point (22.2 meters) than Berrettini (21.1), Djokovic’s game management paid dividends at the key moments as he won 36% of break points to Berrettini’s 29%.
Managing the situation
Djokovic’s experience shined on Centre Court. He even allowed himself to enjoy their exchange of ‘tweener’ shots at 5-2 in the second, and though he’d go on to be broken in the next game, he closed it out. This was the sixth time Djokovic lost the first set tiebreak in a major final, but he now has a record of four wins from those six matches. So whatever situation he’s in, he knows how to get himself out of it — just like he did at this year’s French Open.
Djokovic looked a little off his best across the first and second, his experience here stretched to managing the atmosphere. Berrettini had the bulk of the support on Centre Court — with some signs reading “It’s Coming Rome!” as a play on the biennial England football song — but there was still healthy support for the reigning champion, with his fans chanting “Novak, Novak!” in response to the “Ma-tte-o, Ma-tte-o!” offering. And despite the raucous welcome to Berrettini winning the first set, Djokovic’s mental strength and ability to channel his own focus paid dividends.
He emphasized that point in the third set as he tapped the side of his head after breaking Berrettini to make it 2-1. Later when the umpire had to intervene to quieten the chants of “Ma-tte-o!” on Djokovic’s serve, he gave a nod of approval at the “quiet please” order. And then came arguably the moment of the match in the fourth, as the umpire had to quell the chants for Berrettini with the Italian 30-0 up on Djokovic’s serve, only for Djokovic to square things up to 30-30 with the most remarkable, stretched winner after an incredible rally. He responded by raising his finger into the Wimbledon air, to say, remember who’s No. 1 on this court. Djokovic went on to take that game to make it 3-3 and it gave him the launchpad to break Berrettini in the next game with the combination of a beautiful cross-court forehand and then a double-fault.
Falling on the right side of the net
Djokovic managed the net far better, winning 71% of the points there compared to Berrettini’s 62%. At key moments, like the two break points Berrettini had at 3-2 in the third, Djokovic twice forced Berrettini into attempting to hit winners as he covered the net, only for the Italian to fire both out. Djokovic would have seen Berrettini’s reluctance to serve/volley having never done it once in Wimbledon prior to the final, and though Berrettini had some neat shots at the net — Djokovic applauding one delightful effort in the fourth game of the second — Djokovic used this to great advantage, teeing up his second of eventually three championship points by volleying home at the net.
Djokovic has unashamedly targeted the Grand Slams, and with good reason. There may never be a natural resolution to the GOAT debate, as it’s subjective, but on Grand Slams alone, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are now all locked at 20 apiece. His ability to manage these finals is unrivaled. He’s now 12-0 in Grand Slam finals when he held a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth. That experience is worth its weight in Grand Slams. He also played his way into this final, making 10 unforced errors in the first set, just four in the second and then three in the third. Djokovic now heads into the US Open looking to become just the sixth player to achieve a calendar Grand Slam in men’s singles, but his off-court preparation with his mantra of living in the moment and his ever-expanding experience makes him a formidable champion.
Wimbledon 2021 – The five keys to Novak Djokovic’s record-tying win
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