Novak Djokovic beats Nick Kyrgios for 7th Wimbledon title, 21st major

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic dispatched Australian Nick Kyrgios to win a fourth consecutive Wimbledon, his seventh career title at the All England Club and his 21st overall major, moving one shy of Rafael Nadal‘s men’s singled record.

“He’s a bit of a god,” Kyrgios said.

The top-seeded Djokovic overcame the powerful and polarizing Kyrgios 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) in a final that he correctly predicted would include fireworks.

Kyrgios provided them, as he often does. It began with an underhand serve and between-the-legs baseline shot in an otherwise sublime first set (points both won by Djokovic) where the 40th-ranked Aussie won 15 consecutive points on his serve and hit 14 winners to four unforced errors.

“I played a Slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there,” said Kyrgios, who barely slept the previous two nights with anxiety after getting a semifinal walkover due to Nadal’s abdominal tear. “I thought I dealt with the pressure pretty well.”

Kyrgios, who had never been to a major semifinal before this tournament, did not keep up the torrid pace. As Djokovic turned the momentum, Kyrgios began chirping at the umpire (receiving an audible obscenity warning) and his player box and grew frustrated that a female fan made noise during one service game.

Djokovic also lived up to his reputation, weathering Kyrgios’ early power and seizing the opportunities when the Aussie let up. He rallied from love-40 and 40-love deficits to win a game late in the second and third sets. In the deciding tiebreak, Kyrgios squandered his first three service points.

“I knew that [composure] probably was one of the key elements today in order to win against him,” Djokovic said. “Not that he’s not composed, but he has never played in a Wimbledon finals. We know that also he kind of has his ups and downs in the match.”

Djokovic tied childhood idol Pete Sampras at seven Wimbledon titles, one shy of Roger Federer‘s male record.

“I saw Pete Sampras win his first Wimbledon in ’92 [editor’s note: 1993], and I asked my dad and mom to buy me a racket,” Djokovic said. “It always has been and will be the most special tournament in my heart.”

Federer, 40, hasn’t played a match since last year’s Wimbledon quarterfinals but is expected to return this fall, after the U.S. Open. Federer said last Sunday at a Centre Court ceremony, in a suit and tie, that he hopes to return to Wimbledon “one more time.”

Nadal is the man in Djokovic’s sights now, though. A year ago, Djokovic won Wimbledon to tie his two longtime rivals for the men’s record 20 majors. Since, Nadal came back from thoughts of retirement due to chronic foot pain to win the Australian Open and French Open.

Djokovic closed the gap Sunday, but he might miss the next two majors because of his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Foreign national air travelers to the U.S. are required to be fully vaccinated. The U.S. Open starts in late August. He’s currently barred from entering Australia until 2025 due to his deportation fiasco at January’s Australian Open.

If Djokovic isn’t cleared for either event, his next Slam will be at Nadal’s house, the French Open, when Djokovic will be nearly the same age (36 years and a handful of days) that Nadal was when he won his 22nd major.

“I’ll wait, hopefully, for some good news from USA,” Djokovic said, “because I would really love to go there.”

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Germany opens bobsled worlds with double gold; Kaillie Humphries gets silver

Laura Nolte Bobsled

Germans Laura Nolte and Johannes Lochner dethroned the reigning Olympic and world champions to open the world bobsled championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, this weekend.

Nolte, the Olympic two-woman champion driver, won the four-run monobob by four tenths of a second over American Kaillie Humphries, who won the first world title in the event in 2021 and the first Olympic title in the event in 2022. Another German, Lisa Buckwitz, took bronze.

In the two-man, Lochner became the first driver to beat countryman Francesco Friedrich in an Olympic or world championships event since 2016, ending Friedrich’s record 12-event streak at global championships between two-man and four-man.

Friedrich, defeated by 49 hundredths, saw his streak of seven consecutive world two-man titles also snapped.

Lochner, 32, won his first outright global title after seven Olympic or world silvers, plus a shared four-man gold with Friedrich in 2017.

Swiss Michael Vogt drove to bronze, one hundredth behind Friedrich. Geoff Gadbois and Martin Christofferson filled the top American sled in 18th.

Americans Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton were the last non-Germans to win a world two-man title in 2012.

Bobsled worlds finish next weekend with the two-woman and four-man events.

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Novak Djokovic wins 10th Australian Open, ties Rafael Nadal for most men’s Slam titles

Novak Djokovic Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia — Novak Djokovic climbed into the Rod Laver Arena stands to celebrate his 10th Australian Open championship and record-tying 22nd Grand Slam title Sunday and, after jumping and pumping his fists with his team, he collapsed onto his back, crying.

When he returned to the playing surface, Djokovic sat on his sideline bench, buried his face in a white towel and sobbed some more.

This trip to Australia was far more successful than that of a year ago, when he was deported from the country because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19. And Djokovic accomplished all he could have possibly wanted in his return: He resumed his winning ways at Melbourne Park and made it back to the top of tennis, declaring: “This probably is the, I would say, biggest victory of my life.”

Only briefly challenged in the final, Djokovic was simply better at the most crucial moments and beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). As a bonus, Djokovic will vault from No. 5 to No. 1 in the ATP rankings, a spot he already has held for more weeks than any other man.

“I want to say this has been one of the most challenging tournaments I’ve ever played in my life, considering the circumstances. Not playing last year; coming back this year,” Djokovic said, wearing a zip-up white jacket with a “22” on his chest. “And I want to thank all the people that made me feel welcome, made me feel comfortable, to be in Melbourne, to be in Australia.”

The 35-year-old from Serbia stretched his unbeaten streak in Melbourne to 28 matches, the longest run there in the Open era, which dates to 1968. He adds trophy No. 10 to the seven from Wimbledon, three from the U.S. Open — where he also was absent last year because of no coronavirus shots — and two from the French Open, to match rival Rafael Nadal for the most by a man.

Only two women — Margaret Court, with 24, and Serena Williams, with 23 — are ahead of him.

This was also the 93rd ATP tour-level title for Djokovic, breaking a tie with Nadal for the fourth-most.

“I would like to thank you for pushing our sport so far,” Tsitsipas told Djokovic.

Djokovic was participating in his 33rd major final, Tsitsipas in his second — and the 24-year-old from Greece also lost the other, at the 2021 French Open, to Djokovic.

On a cool evening under a cloud-filled sky, and with a soundtrack of chants from supporters of both men prompting repeated pleas for quiet from the chair umpire, Djokovic was superior throughout, especially so in the two tiebreakers.

He took a 4-1 lead in the first, then reeled off the last three points. He led 5-0 in the closing tiebreaker and, when it finished, he pointed to his temple before screaming, a prelude to all of the tears.

“Very emotional for us. Very emotional for him,” said Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic. “It’s a great achievement. It was a really tough three weeks for him. He managed to overcome everything.”

Perhaps surprisingly, Tsitsipas was willing to engage in the kind of leg-wearying, lung-searing back-and-forths upon which Djokovic has built his superlative career. How did that work out? Of points lasting at least five strokes, Djokovic won 43, Tsitsipas 30.

Then again, on those rare occasions that Tsitsipas did charge the net, Djokovic often conjured up a passing shot that was too tough to handle.

It’s not as though Tsitsipas played all that poorly, other than a rash of early miscues that seemed to be more a product of tension than anything.

It’s that Djokovic was too unyielding. Too accurate with his strokes, making merely 22 unforced errors, 20 fewer than his foe. Too speedy and flexible chasing shots (other than on one second-set point, when, running to his left, Djokovic took a tumble).

“I did everything possible,” said Tsitsipas, who also would have moved to No. 1 with a victory, replacing Carlos Alcaraz, who sat out the Australian Open with a leg injury.

Perhaps. Yet Djokovic pushes and pushes and pushes some more, until it’s the opponent who is something less than perfect on one swing, either missing or providing an opening to pounce.

That’s what happened when Tsitsipas held his first break point — which was also a set point — while ahead 5-4 in the second and Djokovic serving at 30-40. Might this be a fulcrum? Might Djokovic relent? Might Tsitsipas surge?

Uh, no.

A 15-stroke point concluded with Djokovic smacking a cross-court forehand winner that felt like a statement. Two misses by Tsitsipas followed: A backhand long, a forehand wide. Those felt like capitulation. Even when Tsitsipas actually did break in the third, Djokovic broke right back.

There has been more than forehands and backhands on Djokovic’s mind over the past two weeks.

There was the not-so-small matter of last year’s legal saga — he has alternately acknowledged the whole thing served as a form of motivation but also said the other day, “I’m over it” — and curiosity about the sort of reception he would get when allowed to enter Australia because pandemic restrictions were eased.

He heard a ton of loud support, but also dealt with some persistent heckling while competing, including applause after faults Sunday.

There was the sore left hamstring that has been heavily bandaged for every match — until the final, that is, when only a single piece of beige athletic tape was visible.

And then there was the complicated matter of his father, Srdjan, being filmed with a group of people with Russian flags — one with an image of Vladimir Putin — after Djokovic’s quarterfinal. The tournament banned spectators from carrying flags of Russia or Belarus, saying they would cause disruption because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Djokovic and his father said it was a misunderstanding; Srdjan thought he was with Serbian fans.

Still, Srdjan Djokovic did not attend his son’s semifinal or the final.

No matter any of it, Djokovic excelled as he so often has.

“He is the greatest,” Tsitsipas said, “that has ever held a tennis racket.”

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