Novak Djokovic equalled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s men’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles as the world No 1 claimed his sixth Wimbledon crown on Sunday.
Djokovic eventually overawed Italian seventh seed Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-3 on Centre Court to become the first player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the first three titles of the year, keeping him on track to emulate the Australian by claiming a calendar Grand Slam.
Throw in an Olympic singles gold medal in Tokyo, for which he will also be favourite, and Djokovic is on course to become the first man ever to win a Golden Slam.
“That was more than a battle. Congratulations to Matteo for a fantastic tournament. It was a tough match today. He’s a true Italian hammer,” said Djokovic.
“Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream as a kid. I have to remember how special this is and not take it for granted and be aware this is a huge honour and privilege.
“From being a seven-year-old constructing a Wimbledon trophy out of raw materials to standing here with a sixth trophy. It’s incredible.”
On drawing level with Nadal and Federer, he added: “It means none of us three will stop!
“I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport. The two most important players I ever faced.
“They are the reason I am where I am today. They made me realise what I had to do to improve. The last 10 years has been an incredible journey that is not stopping here.”
Djokovic has been a one-man brick wall in keeping the younger generation’s hands off the biggest titles, defeating Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and now Berrettini in Slam finals this year.
Big-serving Berrettini came into Wimbledon as one of the favourites having won his first grass-court title at Queen’s Club, and was on an 11-match winning run.
With Tom Cruise returning to the All England Club for the men’s final, having watched the women’s match a day earlier, it appeared to be a mission impossible for the 25-year-old from Rome as Djokovic broke for a 3-1 lead, despite a tentative start by the Serb.
Berrettini was bidding to become the first Italian player to win a singles title at Wimbledon and he held a marathon 10-minute eighth game, which included eight deuces and a set point, before keeping up the momentum in the next game by taking advantage of an uncharacteristically limp Djokovic second serve to break back.
He then took the tie-break to secure a surprise lead after 70 minutes to the delight of a raucous Centre Court.
Berrettini’s serve, which regularly tops 135mph, has been his biggest weapon this fortnight but Djokovic breached it twice on his way to a comfortable 5-1 lead in the second set.
A Berrettini ‘tweener’ lob over Djokovic had spectators on their feet as he held for 5-2, and the underdog then clawed a break back, but the top seed composed himself to serve out the set and level the match.
Djokovic vs Berrettini: Match Stats
|79%||1st serve win percentage||76%|
|53%||2nd serve win percentage||38%|
|6/15||Break points won||2/7|
|145||Total points won||131|
Having soaked up the early barrage of artillery from his opponent, Djokovic began to slowly take control of the final. He kept Berrettini’s destructive forehand at bay, to force a break for 2-1 in the third.
Despite fashioning two break points at 2-3 the Italian was unable to make them count, and Djokovic served out to move two sets to one up.
The Serb produced some world-class winners against a barrage of big-hitting from Berrettini.
However, it was the world No 10 who crumbled under the mounting pressure to double-fault, handing Djokovic a 4-3 lead in the fourth set.
Berrettini saved two Championship points on his own serve but it was third time lucky for Djokovic, a backhand into the net sealing a 20th Slam title.
Djokovic is now three-quarters of the way through a potential Grand Slam of all four majors this year, with just the US Open to come.
He added: “I could definitely envisage that happening. I’m going to give it a shot. I’m playing well and playing my best tennis at Grand Slams is my priority.”
Gallant runner-up Berrettini said: “Unbelievable feelings, maybe too many to handle.
“For sure Novak was better than me, he’s a great champion. He’s writing the history of this sport so he deserves all the credit.
“I’m happy with my performance here, hopefully it won’t be the last. I couldn’t ask for more – well maybe a little bit.”