Another major held, another major claimed by Novak Djokovic. For those scoring at home (and who isn't?), the Wimbledon 2021 title he won on Sunday at Centre Court marks his 20th career major, tying him, of course, with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Great Tennis Derby. More important, his 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 score win against Italy's Matteo Berrettini in the final gives him his third major of the year, putting him 75% of the way to the Grand Slam, tennis's holy grail achievement. No man has managed it since Rod Laver more than 50 years ago. Add to this, Djokovic's next appearance is likely to be in the Tokyo Olympics, where a gold medal puts him in line for a Golden Slam.
When Wimbledon began, Djokovic had already arrived in a sort of quarantine. Fresh from his victory at the French Open in Paris, he was a good bet versus the rest of the field. Despite his excellence on hard courts, he's actually statistically at his best on grass. He came to Wimbledon, having won the last two iterations of the tournament with Nadal absent and Federer 39 years old. Djokovic was the favorite and he didn't budge much. We often talk about Djokovic and his flexibility in terms of contorting his body and recovering in ways that leave observers thinking he might be made out of rubber. But flexibility also pertains to his tennis for seven matches. He adjusted to a variety of opponents, a variety of styles and a variety of circumstances. Thirteen days ago, he lost the first set of the tournament to a British wild card to the delight of the Centre Court fans. He went to the finals without losing another one. Though he lost the first on Sunday in a tiebreaker to Berrettini, there was little sense, even there, that he was in danger. Djokovic simply improved his level as if it were no more difficult than that, picking on Berrettini's backhand—by far his weaker side—and ran his opponent around like a puppeteer, pulling strings. Without much splash or flourish, Djokovic stole the second set and then the third. By then it was a mere formality.
What must make this title particularly demoralizing for the field: Djokovic was opportunistic but seldom made to play his best tennis. And the closer opponents got, the more accurate he became. Resistance really was futile. We head to the U.S. Open with history on the line. Imagine Djokovic not only trying to exceed Federer and Nadal and win his 21st major, but also pull off the Grand Slam. For the sake of thought exercise, imagine if Federer or Nadal faces Djokovic in the finals with all that history on the line.
But that's the U.S. Open. Today, let's toast Wimbledon. Djokovic leaves as the champion again, his sixth time at the All England Club. Another major played, another tournament in which Djokovic leaves his heel print on the draw once again.
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