Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios hopes to seize the chance of a lifetime against tournament master Novak Djokovic

Wimbledon: Nick Kyrgios hopes to seize the chance of a lifetime against tournament master Novak Djokovic


The context

For a decade, the Center Court has become his garden. Finding Novak Djokovic, six-time champion, in the Wimbledon final – and this for the eighth time in his career – is therefore not surprising. Even before the start of the tournament, he was the big favorite and he will also be this Sunday. On the other hand, seeing Nick Kyrgios, 40th in the world and not the top seed, facing him is a real curiosity if not a huge sensation.


Kyrgios, the metamorphosis


We knew it, the Australian was a threat to all the players on the table on grass. His serious preparation on the surface with two consecutive semi-finals in Halle and Stuttgart made him even more dangerous. But between the status of possible head cutter and that of Grand Slam finalist, there is a big gap that the whimsical Nick was able to close in two weeks. If he had a narrow escape in five sets in the first round against British guest Paul Jubb, this snatch success launched him into his fortnight.

Corretja: ‘Kyrgios deserves to be in the final’

Then he experienced a second major turning point against Stefanos Tsitsipas in an electric match, winning against a Top 5 Grand Slam for the first time in eight years and his achievement against Rafael Nadal, already at Wimbledon. He subsequently confirmed against lower-ranked players while benefiting from a few nudges from fate: the withdrawals of Matteo Berrettini (before the fortnight because of the Covid) and Rafael Nadal (abdominal injury) that he had to find in the semi-finals. He will therefore approach his first Major final physically fresh, but perhaps lacking in rhythm.

For Novak Djokovic, it will be the 32nd, a record. The Serb continued his unbeaten streak on the London turf: he now has 27 wins in a row. Arrived without a preparatory tournament as often, he did not always walk around. He even scared himself especially against Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, going up two sets of handicap. But he recalled at the same time the extraordinary margin he has over most of his opponents on grass. The challenge of this Wimbledon, fundamental in the race for the Grand Slams (with his two titles behind Rafael Nadal), has sometimes tensed him up but his experience and his mastery of the long format remain unequaled.

Face to face

  • There were two precedents between the two men… two weeks apart. It was five years ago in the quarter-finals in Acapulco then in the round of 16 in Indian Wells. And each time, Nick Kyrgios won, moreover without losing a single set: 7-6, 7-5 in Mexico and 6-4, 7-6 in California.
  • Since then, the Serb and the Australian have not met again in competition. It will therefore be their first duel in a Grand Slam and in the best of five rounds.

Corretja on the art of the underhand serve: ‘Nick, go all out against Djokovic’

Their journey

Novak Djokovic

1st round: defeated Soonwoo Kwon [KOR] 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
Round 2: Defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis [AUS] 6-1, 6-4, 6-2
3rd round: defeats Miomir Kecmanovic [SRB/N.25] 6-0, 6-3, 6-4
1/8th final: beat Tim van Rijthoven [P-B/WC] 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2
1/4 final: beat Jannik Sinner [ITA/N.10] 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
1/2 final: bat Cameron Norrie [GBR/N.9] 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Nick Kyrgios

1st round: beats Paul Jubb [GBR/WC] 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7(3), 7-5
2nd round: defeats Filiip Krajinovic [SRB/N.26] 6-2, 6-3, 6-1
3rd round: beat Stefanos Tsitsipas [GRE/N.4] 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(7)
1/8 final: beats Brandon Nakashima [E-U] 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2
1/4 final: beat Cristian Garin [CHI] 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5)
1/2 final: pass on withdrawal from Rafael Nadal [ESP/N.2]

They said

Novak Djokovic:The movement on Kyrgios’ serve is so fluid and very fast. He can find all the angles, he throws the ball forward so he can go to the net too. He puts himself in a good position to be aggressive. His serve is very hard to read, even more on grass, and I haven’t trained with him since the last time I lost against him in 2017. So it will be in the details.”

Nick Kyrgios: “There are promising youngsters: Alcaraz is amazing, Sinner is very good…. But these guys like myself will not be able to live up to the Big 3. We will never see a competitor like Rafa again, someone handle the racquet like Roger without apparent effort, and a winner of Djokovic’s caliber. If I ever win a Grand Slam one day, please don’t pressure me to win another!

Wilander: “Djokovic has every chance of reaching 8 titles at Wimbledon”

The 5 stats to keep in mind

0. Novak Djokovic has never won a Grand Slam title without facing at least one Top 10 member on his way. If he wins this Sunday against Nick Kyrgios, this 21st Major won would be the first in which he has not met any of the other 9 best players in the world.

8. With this 8th final at Wimbledon, the Serb is the only player to have reached this stage of the competition at least eight times in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments (9 at the Australian Open and 9 at the US Open) . He is also the only one to have at least 6 finals in each of the four Majors (6 at Roland-Garros).

19. Nick Kyrgios is the first unseeded player to reach the final at Wimbledon in 19 years and fellow countryman Mark Philippoussis in 2003. It hadn’t happened in a Grand Slam since 2008 and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Open. Australia. Philippoussis like Tsonga had stumbled on the last step respectively against Roger Federer and a certain… Novak Djokovic.

120. This is the number of aces struck by Nick Kyrgios during this fortnight. He is the leader in the ranking in this area ahead of … John Isner who served 116 but in only three matches (against five for the Australian). Novak Djokovic is 8th in this ranking with 50 aces in six games.

118. Despite two matches in five sets, Nick Kyrgios spent 118 minutes less on the court in this fortnight compared to Novak Djokovic, almost two hours (1h58). This corresponds to the duration of a match in three sets and in fact, the Serb played once again due to Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal. Considering Djokovic’s physical condition, the factor shouldn’t weigh too much.

Our opinion

Even if it is not the “Djokodal” expected at the start of the fortnight, this final is “enticing” on paper to use the term used by Nick Kyrgios himself. Seeing the master of the place opposed to such an unpredictable and talented player, whose tennis marries marvelously with the grass, necessarily arouses curiosity. Especially since the Australian has never lost against the Serbian.It is not a question here of taking the two duels of 2017 as a reference: a lot of water has flowed under the bridges, Djokovic was going through a difficult period and the surface was different. But there will be no psychological ascendancy.

Another major element should however play: the three-time defending champion will play his 32nd Grand Slam final, while it will be the first for Kyrgios. How will the Australian handle the event and the tension surrounding it? By his own admission, he struggled to sleep overnight Thursday to Friday after realizing he would be in the final. He played the match in his head several times but in three days, he probably had time to ease the tension. And that’s the other pitfall: will he be too out of his tournament?

Nevertheless, on the physical level, Kyrgios will benefit from an unexpected freshness to approach the final. And if he stays on his cloud, he will be all the more threatening for Djokovic who will not be able to afford a period of hesitation as long as against Sinner. Still, the Serbian’s experience, his stamina, his ability to stay focused from the first to the last point, his quality of recovery and defense against the hot serve and the power of the Aussie are all arguments that could well tip this final in his favor.

Our prediction: Novak Djokovic in four sets.

Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2022

Credit: Getty Images


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