LONDON -- Novak Djokovic kept his cool in the furnace of Centre Court against Nick Kyrgios to win his seventh Wimbledon championship. As Kyrgios stuck the ball in the net on championship point, Djokovic looked to his team and let out a massive exhale. The triumph sees him go one behind Rafael Nadal's record of 22 men's singles titles.
In a match in which Kyrgios grew increasingly frustrated with interruptions and his own team, Djokovic stayed calm in balmy temperatures to see off Kyrgios in four sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3). This was Kyrgios' first singles Grand Slam final while it was Djokovic's 32nd, and eventually experience won out.
Kyrgios stormed through the first set in just 31 minutes to win 6-4, with Djokovic finding it hard to read the Australian's serve. But then Djokovic found his rhythm, lowered the tempo ever so slightly and got a foothold to take the second set 6-3 -- which proved to be the turning point in the match.
Kyrgios grew visibly more frustrated during the third set and asked the umpire to remove a spectator who he said had "drunk 700 drinks, bro" and was talking to him during a point. Kyrgios also frequently directed frustration toward his team, as Djokovic largely kept his cool. He broke Kyrgios in the ninth game, and then served out to go up 2-1 in sets.
The fourth set, after a mighty effort from both players, went to a tiebreak. Djokovic got the read on Kyrgios' serve to win on the third championship point.
This triumph moves Djokovic level with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw at seven Wimbledon men's singles titles, one short of Roger Federer's record. Here's how the men's singles final went down on Centre Court and how Djokovic kept his cool as Kyrgios lost his.
Taming the Kyrgios serve
Djokovic doesn't have the reputation for being the best returner in the game for nothing. The man is a machine. But in the first set he really couldn't get ahold of Kyrgios' serve -- which included a second ace at 125mph in just the second game of the match. Kyrgios dropped just five points on his serve in the first set to storm through. That meant Djokovic had lost a first set for the third match running at Wimbledon -- just the third time in his career on grass this had happened. But Djokovic is well-versed in turning things around, and he soon got a handle on Kyrgios' serve.
Kyrgios had won both of their previous meetings ahead of the Sunday final -- and Djokovic had drawn just one break point opportunity in those two matches. But he broke Kyrgios once each in the second and third to get a foothold. It was truly remarkable given Kyrgios was managing to keep over 70% of his first serves in, but Djokovic was able to handle them at the key moments. This included the tiebreak, when he broke Kyrgios' serve three times to allow him to serve out for the championship.
Third-set fireworks on Centre Court
Djokovic told us Friday to expect "fireworks" in this match, and while there were no on-court flashpoints between the two players, it did not want for drama. They spoke of their blossoming "bromance" in the buildup to this match, and there wasn't really a bad moment between them during the contest, but Kyrgios was still vocal as the match progressed as he turned on the umpire, a spectator and even his own team.
When Kyrgios missed his chance to break Djokovic at the end of the second set -- surrendering three set points -- he increased the chat toward his box. He was growing increasingly frustrated at how the match was developing, and the chat continued into the third set. At one point he said to his box, "I don't understand it! Why?! I don't get it," then followed that up with, "I'll hit a 130 [mph] second serve, that's what I'll do." He then threw down an ace. He was also given a warning for an "audible obscenity" during this set, and all in front of the 8-year-old Prince George, who was sitting in the front row of the Royal Box alongside the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
He was also angered by a spectator he said was talking to him during points. He complained about the spectator to the umpire, saying: "Why is she still here? She's drunk out of her mind."
And there was his own team, whom he was fuming with as the third set progressed. "I can't do anything, do you guys care or what? Doesn't feel like it. Do you know how difficult it is to ace a guy three times?!" This continued into the fourth, with Kyrgios shouting at his box during the tiebreak, "What are you scared for?!"
It was the third set when the momentum shifted behind Djokovic. Kyrgios' frustration continued into the fourth with several incorrect line calls going against him, and at one point he said to the umpire, "You've done no decent overrules in three hours."
The battle to be the ultimate men's GOAT
Djokovic sits at 21 men's singles Grand Slams, just one behind Rafael Nadal. Nadal has always brushed aside the significance of emerging from this golden generation with the most Slams between him, Djokovic and Roger Federer. But Djokovic has frequently spoken about wanting to be out ahead of the rest. Still, his vaccination stance may make things difficult in the next couple of Slams.
He is currently not allowed to travel to the U.S. due to not being vaccinated against COVID-19, while Australia issued a three-year ban after he was deported in January. That means he's unlikely to play another Slam until France next year, on his least-favorite surface. At age 35, judging by his competitors, Djokovic still has a handful of years at the top ahead of him, but the opportunities to rack up the Slams are slowly ebbing away.
What's not in doubt is his current hold on the Wimbledon title. Kyrgios had spoken about the importance of experience here -- and how while this would be his first Grand Slam final Djokovic knows every blade of grass and exactly how to navigate the sport's biggest occasion. He said this would give Djokovic the advantage and he was proven correct as Djokovic won his fourth title on the bounce.
Djokovic has won his past 39 matches on Centre Court, and his winning run stretches to 28 matches at Wimbledon (the two losses in 2016 and 2017 both occurred on Court No. 1). He reiterated his love for Centre Court throughout the past fortnight and the next time we see him winning a Slam may well be this time next year. By that point Nadal will have had three opportunities to stretch out in front, while Federer may still be in the midst of his comeback.