Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon, U.S. Open is Next
WIMBLEDON, England – The Big Three now have 20 each.
It’s a development that would have seemed unlikely to Novak Djokovic as he headed into the fighting tour with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal winning Grand Slam singles titles.
Federer was entrenched at No.1 and had found his rhythm after a checkered start. Nadal, a true prodigy, was already almost unbeatable on clay as a teenager and would soon challenge Federer on all surfaces.
They were a duopoly, the dominant subject of men’s tennis for good reason. Djokovic was outside watching, but he was also outside, gathering information and inspiration.
“They are, I think, the reason I am where I am today,” he said on Sunday after winning the men’s Wimbledon title by beating Matteo Berrettini, 6-7 (4), 6 -4, 6-4, 6- 3. “They helped me achieve what I need to do to improve myself and become stronger mentally, physically and tactically. When I first entered the top 10, for three or four years I lost most of the big games I played against these two guys and something changed in late 2010 and early 2011. The last 10 years have been an incredible journey that does not end there.
On the pitch, he caught up with them long ago, taking the lead in their one-on-one streak and taking on them in their strongholds as well. Djokovic is the only man to have beaten Federer three times at Wimbledon; the only man to have beaten Nadal twice at Roland Garros.
He, not Federer or Nadal, is the man who held the No.1 spot for the most weeks in ATP ranking history. He is also the only man to have won all nine Masters 1000 singles titles, which he has achieved twice.
But it took Djokovic until Sunday to catch up with his two measuring sticks in the race which, rightly or wrongly, defined tennis players with the public.
Grand Slam titles are the coin of the realm of professional tennis, and the Big Three are now dead even with 20 apiece.
It’s a mind-boggling collective feat that no one saw coming when Pete Sampras set the old record of 14 by winning his last tournament, the 2002 US Open.
Sampras, who had beaten Roy Emerson’s mark of 12, certainly had no idea what was to come despite losing to Federer in their only meeting, at Wimbledon in 2001 in the fourth round.
“I’m just in awe of this generation,” Sampras told me in a recent interview. “If you had asked me when I left with 14 majors if three guys would overtake me in the next 15-19 years, I would have said, impossible.”
There are several explanations. Perhaps Sampras’ record was, in retrospect, ripe for the taking. Until 1968, when Grand Slam tournaments became open to professionals, many prominent men like Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez and Rod Laver were not eligible to play there after leaving the amateur ranks. Even after tennis entered the Open era, top male players like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe often skipped the Australian Open or even the French Open.
Sampras was one of the first major champions to commit to playing all four majors each year. And although Sampras was brilliant on faster surfaces, he never even reached the Roland Garros final in part because he relied on a serve and volley game that paid less dividends on clay.
But the rise of the Big Three corresponded to a more homogenized style, dominated by the baselines. At this time, a player can win at Wimbledon the same way they would win at the US Open: attacking from the baseline, tearing forehands backwards, and blocking big serves from the baseline to starve. an opponent of the traditional advantage.
“Everyone plays sort of the same, but there are only three guys who have been so much better at it,” Sampras said. “In some ways it’s easier to dominate or at least for the young guys to break against these players with experience, talent and athletic ability that can support him set after set after set.
And year after year.
Advances in recovery and training methods have lengthened careers. The same goes for the large support teams in which the main players are now investing. Mental barriers also collapsed, just as they did after Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier. At this point, older athletes see older athletes succeeding and think why not me?
The extra time also allows them more track to remedy their weaknesses with more data to cite. When asked what he thought was his most significant improvement over the past decade, Djokovic replied, “Just the ability to cope with pressure.”
“The more great matches you play, the more experience you have,” he said. “The more experience you have, the more you believe in yourself. The more you earn, the more confident you are. Everything is connected.
There is of course a ceiling. Federer, the most experienced of the Big Three at 39, probably wouldn’t have lost 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 in his heyday at Wimbledon to a player like 14th seed Hubert Hurkacz as He did it. This year.
But Djokovic, 34, is in a different phase. True to his reputation and his learning curve, he did not crack Sunday with the No.20 close at hand. He was nervous, however, just as he had been when he beat another powerful and emerging star Denis Shapovalov of Canada in the semifinals.
I asked Djokovic what he thought about the statistics at stake.
“History is at stake,” he said. “I’m aware of that even though I tried not to think about it too much, trying to approach this game like any other game. Sometimes things are so important off the pitch that it’s hard to avoid them in some way. You learn to manage them. You learn to come to terms with the circumstances that you are going through, trying to transmute, so to speak, turn that into the fuel you need in the field.
He seems to have tapped into a renewable resource and still plays the biggest points and the biggest games better than his rivals, regardless of their generation.
“Obviously it all falls into place, I feel like over the last two years for me age is just a number,” said Djokovic. “Obviously things are a little different, and you have to adjust and adapt to the phases that you go through in your career. But I feel like I’m probably the most complete I’ve been as a player at the moment.
He won his first 16 major titles against Federer or his peer group in the Grand Slam finals, but Djokovic won the last four against much younger opposition – Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and now Berrettini, an imposing 25-year-old Italian. who was making his debut in a major final.
After a shaky start, Berrettini played arrogantly, finding his range with his forehand and formidable serve and effectively chipping his backhand. But he seemed to have no plan B beyond hitting the ball harder. Djokovic has so many backup plans, so many ways to break an opponent’s serve and their spirit. He can rally from behind, lure them in with a slice or drop shot, beat them with power or touch or even surprise them with serving and volleying, as he has done effectively throughout the tournament.
“I didn’t play my best, but that’s because he made me not play my best,” Berrettini said.
If this sounds familiar to you, it should be, and that’s a big part of why Djokovic became the best player of this golden age and the only one with a chance to finish the Grand Slam, made for the last time by Laver in men. match in 1969.
Djokovic won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon this year. Only the US Open remains.
“I could certainly imagine that happening,” said Djokovic as he comfortably held the Wimbledon trophy, without tension in his grip.
#Novak #Djokovic #Wins #Wimbledon #Open