Djokovic’s victory keeps intact his goal of standing alone atop men’s tennis history at season’s end, which he would achieve by winning his fourth U.S. Open in September.
But during his post-match interview, he revealed his doubts about competing in the Tokyo Olympics, which is key to a previously stated goal of claiming a Golden Slam by winning all four majors and Olympic singles gold in the same year. He cited Olympic officials’ recently announced decision to ban fans and the restrictions on athletes’ movement and companions. Djokovic said he would like to bring his racket-stringer.
“My plan was always to go to [the] Olympic Games,” said Djokovic, who would anchor the Serbian team. “But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”
Steffi Graf is the only player to have won a Golden Slam, in 1988.
Djokovic fell flat on his back upon sealing the victory Sunday on Berrettini’s final backhand error, 3 hours 24 minutes after the first ball was struck, as a capacity crowd of nearly 15,000 at Centre Court stood and applauded.
Hearty cheers also rained down for Berrettini, 25, the first Italian to reach Wimbledon’s final.
On social media, fellow players lauded Djokovic’s latest achievement, Simona Halep and Federer among them. “Congrats Novak on your 20th major,” Federer tweeted. “I'm proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done!”
Among tennis fans and pros alike, the debate over who is the greatest men’s tennis player was renewed.
Berrettini called him “the best player in the world”— not simply because he’s No. 1 in the rankings but because he backs it up week after week. “He’s really the toughest player to beat,” Berrettini said.
Although he paid tribute to Nadal and Federer in his on-court interview, hailing them as “legends of our sport” and “the two most important players that [he] ever faced in [his] career,” Djokovic, who holds winning records against each, didn’t hesitate to place himself above all players in the Open era.
“I consider myself best, and I believe that I am the best,” Djokovic said in his post-match news conference. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history.”
As for the greatest in history, the Serb said he would leave it to others, noting the difficulty of comparing players across different eras, given the evolution in racket technology.
Sunday’s Wimbledon championship was Djokovic’s 30th Grand Slam final — and Berrettini’s first. The difference in experience showed as the contest wore on.
The match got underway shortly after 2 p.m. at the All England Club, with the Centre Court roof open and the Serbian and Italian ambassadors among the guests in the Royal Box.
The heavily favored Djokovic had barely put a foot wrong all tournament, conceding only one set as he breezed to the final, calibrating his excellence as each round demanded. He acknowledged feeling no need to peak early; conserving energy over a two-week tournament is among the insights of a 19-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic showed rare unsteadiness at the start, double-faulting three times in his first two service games, but soon righted himself.
Berrettini’s unease was more glaring. His timing was off, and his normally reliable forehand blasts missed by feet rather than inches.
“That’s what the Wimbledon final does to you! You lose your mind!” three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker blurted out on the BBC broadcast.
After a hard-fought hold at 2-5, the Italian regained his faculties, broke Djokovic for the first time and claimed the opening-set tiebreaker.
At 6-foot-5, Berrettini boasts one of the game’s best serves and led all players in aces (101) through the tournament’s first six rounds.
Uncommonly fit and flexible, Djokovic is arguably the game’s best returner. He also has a keen sense of critical moments and the ability to rise to meet them, pouncing with a predatory drive he has likened to a wolf.
Whether riled by the crowd’s fervent cheers for Berrettini or rallied by self-belief, Djokovic bared his teeth to start the second set and reeled off the first four games.
From then on, he knew he was in charge.
“He has a lot of firepower, serve and forehand,” Djokovic noted. So the challenge was straightforward: get the Italian’s big serves in play, then dominate rallies from the baseline.
Djokovic’s ability to chase down balls and blast them back with interest, zipping from one side of the court to the other, steadily chipped away at Berrettini’s hold on the match. And the Italian’s serve wasn’t the weapon it had been, which Berrettini credited to Djokovic.
Through his six previous matches, Berrettini had been broken five times. On Sunday, Djokovic broke him six times.
Asked what he believes is his greatest strength, Djokovic cited something more elusive than his return or defense: the ability to win the clutch points. It is the quality he has worked on most since he claimed his first Grand Slam title at the 2008 Australian Open.
Part of that, Djokovic explained, is “staying in the moment.” On Sunday, that meant not thinking about the ball he just missed or the place in history that awaited in victory. “If you’re constantly divided between past and future, it’s difficult to keep the quality of tennis that you really want,” Djokovic explained.
The other part of being a clutch performer, he said, is learning from each defeat and each experience.
“As Michael Jordan used to say: ‘I failed, I failed, I failed. And that’s why I succeeded in the end,’” Djokovic said.
— Liz Clarke
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Find highlights from the Wimbledon men’s final below.