After a pulsating two weeks, Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios will take to center stage on Sunday in a mouthwatering clash in the Wimbledon final.
For Kyrgios the task at hand is great, with the Australian never being beyond the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam before this fortnight. In contrast, Djokovic will be competing in a record 32nd major final as he aims to capture his 21st Grand Slam crown.
However, Kyrgios is the game’s ultimate big-stage performer and with the weapons he possesses – a thunderous serve and powerful forehand – the 27-year-old will look to rise to the occasion and end his fairytale run with his first Grand Slam trophy.
“He plays lights-out every time he steps out onto the court,” Djokovic said when discussing Kyrgios. “Just [has] a lot of power in his serve and his game. So I’m sure he’s going to go for it. No doubt he’s going to be aggressive. I expect him to do that.
“He’s a big-match player. If you see his career, the best tennis he’s played is always against the top guys. That’s why we all respect him, because we know what he can come up with. It’s going to be [an] interesting match. ”
Kyrgios arrived in London high in confidence, having reached consecutive semi-finals on grass in Stuttgart and Halle. The World No. 40 has successfully transitioned his performances to the lawns in London, overcoming Paul Jubb, Filip Krajinovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Brandon Nakashima and Cristian Garin, before Rafael Nadal withdrew from their semi-final due to injury.
Most Grass Wins (2022)
Prior to Wimbledon, the six-time tour-level titlist had not reached the quarter-finals at a major since the 2015 Australian Open. Many, including the Aussie, believed his chances to win a major had gone, making his run in London extra special.
“I just never thought that I would be [at this stage] at a Grand Slam. I thought that ship had sailed, ”he said after his quarter-final win. “I didn’t go about things great earlier in my career and may have missed my window. I am really proud of the way I have come back out here. ”
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Photo Credit: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images
Having put himself into a position to win the title, Kyrgios admitted on Friday that his nerves are building as he aims to show the world what he is capable of.
“I had a shocking sleep last night, though, to be honest. I probably got an hour’s sleep just with everything, like the excitement. I had so much anxiety, I was already feeling so nervous, and I don’t feel nervous usually, ”Kyrgios said. “I just know there’s a lot of people that want me to do well and give my best. But I had a shocking sleep last night. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. ”
Although he may be sleep-deprived, Kyrgios can take comfort and encouragement from his standout record against top seed Djokovic, with the Australian leading the Serbian 2-0 in their ATP Head2Head Series. Kyrgios has won all four sets the pair has played, never dropped serve and faced just one break point.
The 27-year-old, who defeated Rafael Nadal en route to the quarter-finals on debut at The Championships in 2014 and earned a win against Roger Federer in Madrid in 2015, will need to be firing on serve if he is going to breach the defenses of Djokovic, who many views as the best returner to have played the sport.
The Australian, who is the lowest-ranked man to reach the Wimbledon final since World No. 48 Mark Philippoussis in 2003, has hammered 120 aces during the grass-court major, often hitting his spots on crucial points to dispatch opponents.
With history on the line, Djokovic will be ready for whatever Kyrgios throws at him when he walks onto Center Court for his eighth final at The Championships.
The World No. 3 is chasing a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title and seventh overall, which would draw him level with American Pete Sampras and move him to within one of Federer (8).
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Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Following his four-set win over Cameron Norrie in the semi-finals, Djokovic improved to 85-10 at SW19, moving clear of Jimmy Connors (84-18) and into second in the all-time wins list.
“I’m aware of what’s on the line. Every match, every Grand Slam that I get to play at this stage of my career, there is a lot on the line, ”Djokovic said after defeating Norrie. “I don’t know how many Grand Slam opportunities to win the trophy I will still have, as I will have in a few days. So, of course, I’m approaching it with [a] positive attitude and self-belief and willingness to win. There’s no doubt about it. ”
Most Grand Slam men’s singles final appearances (all-time)
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Sunday’s final will be Djokovic’s fifth Grand Slam championship match in a row playing against someone who has never won a major. Last season he defeated Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini in the first three finals of the year, before Medvedev gained revenge at the US Open to lift his maiden Grand Slam trophy.
Djokovic is expecting a tough battle against Kyrgios, but he is again ready to deal with the pressure he has become accustomed to.
“One thing for sure, there is going to be a lot of fireworks emotionally from both of us,” Djokovic said. “It is going to be his first Grand Slam final. He is very excited and he doesn’t have much to lose and he is always playing like that. He is playing so freely, one of the biggest serves in the game. Just a big game overall, a lot of power in his shots. We haven’t played for some time. I have never won a set off him. Hopefully it can be different this time.
“It is another final here at Wimbledon at a tournament I love so much. Hopefully the experience can work in my favor.”
Most consecutive Wimbledon men’s singles titles (Open Era)
After a fortnight testing, Djokovic stands one match away from creating more history at The All England Lawn Tennis Club as he looks to close the gap on 22-time major champion Nadal. Will the Serbian maintain his imperious Wimbledon record and earn a 28th consecutive match win and seventh crown, or will Kyrgios rise to the occasion as he so often does and upset the 87-time tour-level titlist?
Did You Know?
A victory for Kyrgios would see him become the first male Grand Slam champion from Australia since Lleyton Hewitt won the Wimbledon title in 2002.