Novak Djokovic Wins Wimbledon, Next US Open

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WIMBLEDON, UK – The Big Three now have 20 each.

This was an unlikely development for Novak Djokovic as he embarked on the tour where Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal had won the singles titles at the Grand Slam.

Federer settled at No. 1 and found his place after a bumpy start. A true genius, Nadal was nearly invincible on clay courts in his youth and would soon challenge Federer on all surfaces.

They were a duo that was rightly dominant in men’s tennis. Djokovic was looking from the outside in, but was also outside, gathering knowledge and inspiration.

“I think they’re the reason I’m here today,” he said after winning the Wimbledon men’s singles title on Sunday, defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-. “They helped me understand what I needed to do to develop to become stronger mentally, physically, tactically. When I first got into the top 10, I lost most of my big games against these two guys over the course of three or four years, and things changed in late 2010 and early 2011. It has been an incredible journey that does not end here.”

On the field, he caught them a long time ago, starring in head-to-head dramas and also taking them away in their fiefdom. Djokovic is the only person to beat Federer three times at Wimbledon; He is the only man to beat Nadal twice at the French Open.

Not Federer or Nadal, the man to hold the #1 spot for most weeks in ATP standings history. He is also the only person to win all nine of the Masters 1000 singles titles, having done so twice.

But it took until Sunday for Djokovic to grab two measuring sticks to identify the tennis players to the audience in the race that came true or false.

Grand Slam championships are the coin of the professional tennis world, and the Big Three have even died with 20 each.

It’s a stunning collective achievement that no one has seen when Pete Sampras won his last tournament, the 2002 US Open, breaking the old record of 14.

Smashing Roy Emerson’s 12 points, Sampras had absolutely no idea what was to come, despite losing to Federer in his only fourth-round match at Wimbledon in 2001.

“I just marvel at this generation,” Sampras said in a recent interview. “If you had asked me if three guys were going to pass me in the next 15 to 19 years when I broke up with 14 majors, I would have said no.”

There is more than one explanation. Sampras’ track record was perhaps ripe for his take, in retrospect. It wasn’t until 1968 when Grand Slam tournaments became open to professionals that many leading men such as Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzalez, and Rod Laver were unable to play in tournaments after leaving the amateur ranks. Even after tennis entered the Open era, top male players like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe have skipped the Australian Open and even the French Open.

Sampras was one of the first major champions to commit to playing all four majors each year. And while Sampras excelled on faster surfaces, he didn’t even make it to the final of the French Open, partly because he relied on a less-dividend-dividend serve-volley game on red clay.

But the rise big tree corresponds to a more homogenized, baseline-dominated style. In this era, a player can win at Wimbledon the same way they would win the US Open: attacking from the baseline, tearing the forehands from the inside out, and blocking big serves deep down the court to deprive the opponent of the traditional advantage.

“Everyone plays the same way, but there are only three guys who are so much better at this job,” Sampras said. “In some ways, it’s easier for the younger guys to dominate, or at least more difficult, against those players who have the experience, talent and athletic ability to sustain it from set to set.”

And from year to year.

Advances in recovery and training methods have extended careers. So are the big support teams that leading players have invested in. Just as after Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile barrier, the mental barriers were knocked down. At this stage, older athletes see older athletes succeed and are thinking why not me.

The added time also gives them more track to address their weaknesses with more data to cite. When Djokovic was asked what he thought was his most important improvement over the past decade, he replied, “Just the ability to handle pressure.”

“The more you play the big games, the more experience you have,” he said. “The more experience you have, the more you believe in yourself. The more you earn, the more confident you will be. It’s all connected.”

Of course there is a ceiling. The most seasoned of the Big Three, 39-year-old Federer probably wouldn’t have lost 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-0 to a player like 14th seeded Hubert Hurkacz in his Wimbledon debut. this year.

But Djokovic, 34, is at a different stage. True to its reputation and learning curve, it failed to hit number 20 on Sunday. However, in the semi-finals he was nervous, as was his victory over another strong and rising star, Canadian Denis Shapovalov.

I asked Djokovic how much he thought about these statistics on the field.

“History is on the line,” he said. “I know, I tried not to think too much about it, but I tried to approach this game like any other game. Sometimes things get so big off the field that it’s very difficult to avoid them somehow. You learn how to deal with them. You learn how to accept the circumstances you’re going through, transform it, You’re trying to turn it into the fuel you need in the field, so to speak.”

It seems to have taken advantage of a renewable resource and still plays the biggest scores and biggest matches better than its rivals, regardless of generation.

“Obviously it all comes together, for the past few years I’ve felt like age is just a number,” Djokovic said. “Obviously things are a little different and you have to adapt and adapt to the stages you go through in your career. But I feel like I’m probably the most complete as a player right now.”

He won his first 16 major titles in Grand Slam finals playing with Federer or his peer group, but Djokovic won the last four against much younger opponents – Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Berrettini, now an imposing 25-year-old Italian who was making his debut in a grand final.

After a shaky start, Berrettini played it cool, finding range with his forehand and terrible serve, effectively breaking his backhand. But there didn’t seem to be any Plan B other than hitting the ball harder. Djokovic has too many backup plans, many ways to break the opponent’s serve and spirit. As he does in all tournaments, he can bounce back, pull them with a kick or a hit, beat them with power or touch, and even surprise them by serving and volleying.

“I didn’t do my best because he forced me not to do my best,” Berrettini said.

If that sounds familiar, it should be, and it’s a big part of why Djokovic has become the best player of this golden age and the only player with a chance to complete Laver’s most recent Grand Slam in the men’s category. game in 1969.

Djokovic has won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon this year. Only the US Open remained.

“I can definitely imagine that would happen,” said Djokovic, holding the Wimbledon trophy comfortably.

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