It could have been a final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Still, after the Spaniard withdrew due to injury, it gave Australian Nick Kyrgios a bye to the final at SW19 and a shot at the big time.
And Kyrgios, 27, one of the sport’s most outspoken players of all time, was keen to get off to a good start. And he did. Djokovic came into the tournament as the defending champion and was expected to dominate the affair. But the Serb found himself a set behind early into the final, with Kyrgios winning the first 6-4. But, everyone saw how Brit Cameron Norrie raced into an early lead against Djokovic and what transpired after.
You could say that history repeated itself, with Djokovic taking control of the match from the second set and then not letting up until he secured a 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) victory. It was the moment that the momentum swung in Djokovic’s direction when the match was effectively won, as Kyrgios, renowned for becoming quickly frustrated, began to let things irritate him on the court, while his rival held his nerve and showed great composure.
While Kyrgios began to remonstrate with his team, thirty-five-year-old Djokovic just stayed focused on his tennis, using all his experience to ensure he got over the line. And, when taking the third match point to bag his seventh Wimbledon title, the Serb rested on his haunches as he ate a blade of grass, which has now become his customary celebration at SW19.
For Kyrgios, Wimbledon has been another Grand Slam tournament that you could say has put him on the map, but whether that’s for the right reasons or the wrong reasons is up to individuals to decide. He’s been marred in controversy once again after he admitted to spitting in the direction of fans. But, he performed well and was more than worth his place in the final. Whether he would have beaten Nadal in the semi-finals is another question for another day.
In terms of his record at Grand Slam events, it’s the closest the Australian has come to tasting victory. And he spoke of being unable to sleep before the final because of the excitement and anticipation of what was to come, and this perhaps hindered his ability to keep his emotions in check during the showpiece event.
For Djokovic, he heads to the US Open as the favourite and the man to beat. He’s won the tournament three times previously – 2011, 2015 and 2018 – and will be out to land the big prize after a four-year drought. It will also enable him to climb the rankings further, with the Serb, who former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic coaches, currently sitting in seventh after his success at SW19. But could Rafael Nadal be fit to return? And if so, we could get the Djokovic Nadal final again, after all.