WIMBLEDON—I have been coming to Wimbledon nearly every year for more than half a century. My first time at the shrine was back in 1965, when my father took me out to the All England Club and my life was altered irrevocably by witnessing perhaps the premier sporting event of them all.
I was here for nine years in a row as both a fan and a reporter in training, missed three years (1974-76) after going to work for World Tennis Magazine in New York, and then was present as a reporter for 43 consecutive years (1977-2019) before the tournament was cancelled due to Covid in 2020. I covered Wimbledon from home a year ago, but this time around it was a joy returning to the major I cherish more than any other.
Over the fortnight, there was much to celebrate across the board, including the arrival of a breakthrough major champion in Elena Rybakina. The No. 17 seed upended the universally popular Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, rescuing herself gamely from behind to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 over the No. 3 seed. Many of us believed Jabeur’s time had come and she would take her first of many majors on the Centre Court.
Jabeur won the first set convincingly, taking 16 of 20 points on serve, breaking her big serving adversary twice, setting the tempo throughout. But Jabeur seemed to be too aware of the size of the occasion thereafter, pressing repeatedly, using the drop shot too frequently, advertising her distress periodically. She never broke serve across the last two sets, wasted nine of eleven break point opportunities in the match, and fatally squandered a 0-40 opening with Rybakina serving at 3-2 in the final set. Nonetheless, the champion deserved her honor by virtue of her high voltage serving and her crackling power off the ground. She essentially hit Jabeur off the court.
Meanwhile, the men’s tournament showcased the growing importance of a few prominent players. Jannik Sinner reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a stirring performance against whiz kid Carlos Alcaraz. He won their four set contest without losing his serve, and held his nerve after squandering two match points in the third set tie-break, maintaining his high caliber big hitting and excellent serving to win 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3. Sinner then established a two set lead over the top seeded Djokovic, winning 12 of 15 games from 1-4 and break point down in the first set. His speed and firepower in this stretch were nothing short of stupendous.
But Djokovic refused to be swayed by that onslaught from his gifted opponent. The Serbian took a bathroom break and reemerged with considerably more purpose and authority. Masterful from the backcourt, serving with extraordinary precision, moving with alacrity, Djokovic turned the match upside down with his unique brand of offense and defense, winning 5-7, 2-6, 6-3 6-2, 6-2, rallying from two sets to love down for the seventh time in his estimable career. Djokovic was in another league those last three sets but the fact remains that Sinner took a step in the right direction and left his boosters with the impression that he could well be a factor at the next Grand Slam tournament in New York.
Before I get to the eagerly awaited final round clash between Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios, it is time to address the most arresting player in the field once more in London, and that, of course, was Rafael Nadal. Somehow he had won the Australian Open at the start of this year, claiming that crown for the first time in 13 years by fighting back valiantly from two sets to love down and 2-3, 0-40 in the third set to topple Daniil Medvedev in the final.
At Roland Garros, Nadal secured a 14th crown on the red clay in Paris despite daily injections for an ailing foot. He came into Wimbledon after a procedure for the foot which seemed to work.
But along the way to a quarterfinal collision against No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz, Nadal tore an abdominal muscle rather badly. He was in unmistakable pain during his match with the American but somehow Nadal escaped with a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) triumph despite losing his serve eight times over the course of those five sets.
He had to reduce the speed of his delivery significantly and needed to slice most of his backhands to get through that ordeal, but the Spaniard persevered. Be that as it may, his injury was so serious that he decided to default the semifinal against Kyrgios rather than risk long lasting damage.
That was fortunate for Kyrgios. The world No. 40 had prepared well for Wimbledon and reached the semifinals in two grass court tournaments before defaulting against Roberto Bautista Agut in Mallorca after winning one match in that tournament. Kyrgios departed with an abdominal injury of his own, making certain he did not endanger his chances of making a serious run for the Wimbledon title. Yet he nearly lost to British wildcard Paul Jubb in the opening round, escaping in that harrowing encounter 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5. Kyrgios crushed No. 26 seed Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round before prevailing in a contentious confrontation against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7).
The drama kept unfolding. Facing the soft-spoken and congenial American Brandon Nakashima in the fourth round, Kyrgios was troubled by a sore shoulder which prevented him from serving at full force through various stages of the match. Yet Kyrgios prevailed in the end 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2, surviving a second five set skirmish. Seemingly back in better physical shape in the quarterfinals, Kyrgios accounted for Chile’s Christian Garin with sheer efficiency 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
And so, despite not having to step on court to defeat Nadal, Kyrgios has done his share of hard work prior to the appointment against Djokovic. The fact remained that this was brand new territory for the mercurial 27-year-old Australian. He had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament before, way back in 2014 at Wimbledon and again at the 2015 Australian Open.
Across his entire career, Kyrgios has won only six tournaments. He has never been victorious at a prestigious Masters 1000 event, only once reaching a final at Cincinnati in 2017. Kyrgios had established himself as one of the vast under-achievers in the world of sports and one of its most exasperating performers. And yet, here he was in a fight for supremacy against one of the all time great players in tennis history.
Djokovic was appearing in his eighth Wimbledon final of the last eleven played. This was his 32nd career final at a major, more than any man has ever played. He was chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, and attempting to move within one title of Nadal for the most men’s major singles crowns ever. History was driving Djokovic in this captivating meeting with Kyrgios, inspiring him to perform majestically yet simultaneously making the Serbian feel the immense weight of pressure.
The last major he had garnered was at Wimbledon a year ago, and he had fallen upon some tough times ever since, losing to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final when he was only three sets away from a Grand Slam.
Djokovic ultimately was not able to play the Australian Open this year as an unvaccinated player, and was thus deprived of a likely tenth title run in Melbourne. At the French Open he underperformed in a four set quarterfinal loss to Nadal.
All of those setbacks made Djokovic highly motivated to succeed once more on the Centre Court and add to his legacy, but he also realized that a bid for a fourth U.S. Open title almost surely will not be possible later this summer because he is not vaccinated. That fundamental and inescapable fact surely made Djokovic even more determined to win Wimbledon this year. He was a man on the deepest of missions, treating this tournament as a critical moment in his career, utterly unwavering in his pursuit of the crown.
In the final against Kyrgios, Djokovic was well aware from the outset that Kyrgios was not intimidated by either his resume or his reputation. They had met only twice before and Kyrgios had prevailed in both clashes— at Acapulco and Indian Wells five years ago.
In those two matches combined, Kyrgios did not lose his serve. I watched these two battles and they were well played on both sides of the net, but this was amidst one of Djokovic’s worst years. Only a few months earlier he had lost to Denis Istomin at the Australian Open.
In the early stages of this gripping Wimbledon final, Kyrgios was striking the ball beautifully. He was hardly missing in the fast paced backcourt exchanges, driving his forehand potently, guiding his two-hander safely to avoid senseless mistakes. He broke Djokovic on a double fault at 2-2 in the first set as the Serbian gambled on a 111 MPH second serve and sent it into the net. Kyrgios rolled through his service games until 5-4 but then sealed the set after a deuce game with an ace measured at 131 MPH down the T. In 31 minutes, the 6’4” Australian powerhouse had secured the opening set.
Djokovic was concerned but largely undismayed. He won a critical game on his serve at 1-1 in the second set by prevailing in a hard fought 23 stroke exchange at 30-30 and then executing a backhand drop shot winner immaculately on the following point. Djokovic looked up pridefully at his entourage as he went to the changeover. Buoyed by his commendable hold, Djokovic broke at love in the fourth game to move ahead 3-1. At 5-3, he served for the set, opening with a double fault in that ninth game, soon falling behind 0-40.
But, in a spirited stand, he rallied to deuce before saving a fourth break point with a gusty backhand drop shot down the line that was unmanageable for Kyrgios. Soon a fiercely determined Djokovic held to make it one set all.
The complexion of the encounter had changed. Djokovic was now getting more and more returns back into play and challenging the Australian in almost every service game. But Kyrgios fended off two break points in the first game of the third set, held from deuce for 2-1 and survived another deuce game for 3-2, closing it with a pair of aces.
They went to 4-4 and Kyrgios seemed poised for a comfortable hold when he took a 40-0 lead. But Djokovic produced forehand winners on two of the next three points on his way back to deuce before a beleaguered Kyrgios double faulted. At break point down, Kyrgios netted a routine backhand. Djokovic had opportunistically collected five points in a row to establish a 5-4 lead in the most pivotal game of the match. He held on in the following game to build a two sets to one lead.
To the surprise of many seasoned observers in the cognoscenti, Kyrgios did not fold in the fourth set. In fact, he fought on ferociously. Both combatants were unstoppable on serve across that set. Kyrgios won 24 of 33 points in his service games on his delivery leading up to the tie-break, while Djokovic was even more convincing, taking 24 of his 29 service points. To be sure, the 35-year-old Serbian was two points away from being forced into a fifth set when he served at 5-6, 30-30, but he calmly claimed the next two points to make it 6-6.
Djokovic was nearly letter perfect in that tie-break, knowing unequivocally that he wanted to end the skirmish right then and there, realizing that a fifth set might have brought out the best in Kyrgios. Kyrgios opened that sequence by double faulting. Djokovic led 2-0 but made his only unforced error of that tie-break.
And yet, despite two first serves from Kyrgios on the next two points, Djokovic won them both with solid returning and heads-up play. He moved swiftly to 6-1 before Kyrgios saved two match points on his own serve, but on his third match point Djokovic succeeded handsomely, eliciting a netted backhand pass from Kyrgios on the run to prevail seven points to three.
Victory went to Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) as he emerged victorious for the seventh time in eight Wimbledon finals. Djokovic is now the only man in the history of tennis to win two of the four majors at least seventh times. In addition to his seven titles at the All England Club, he has amassed nine more in Melbourne at the Australian Open.
Kyrgios had sent out a barrage of blockbuster serves all through that final, releasing 30 aces and countless service winners. But he lost his serve twice in the four sets while Djokovic—astonishing in getting his racket on so many searing serves and blocking them back with depth— was broken only once before holding in his last 18 service games. Most remarkably, Kyrgios connected with 73% of his first serves, averaging 123.6 MPH on his first serve and 110.6 on his second delivery.
Be that as it may, the Australian won only 70% of his first serve points (a decidedly low number for him) and 53% on the second serve. Djokovic, meanwhile, won 83% of his first serve points and 61% on second serve. Djokovic made only 17 unforced errors in the match, 16 fewer than Kyrgios.
Djokovic has raised his record to 21-11 in major finals and has now moved past Roger Federer into sole possession of second place on the all time men’s list, standing only one behind Nadal. It was a very important title for Djokovic in a multitude of ways, and immensely gratifying as well. He has not lost a Centre Court match since falling in the 2013 final against Andy Murray, winning 39 in a row. Moreover, Djokovic has captured four Wimbledon titles in succession.
And yet, the Serbian drops in the ATP Rankings this week from No. 3 to No. 7. How can that be? The ATP and WTA elected to take away all ranking points from the players at Wimbledon this year. Thus, Djokovic, despite defending the title, lost his 2000 ranking points from 2021. Strictly in terms of the rankings, it was as if he and everyone else never played.
That was a ludicrous decision by the associations to harm their players in this manner. Wimbledon is the sport’s centerpiece event, the most prestigious tournament in the game of tennis, the one all sports fans look forward to the most. This year was no exception. But Djokovic and many other players were done a terrible injustice. It is not only regrettable but it cuts into the credibility of those rankings.
Djokovic stands to lose another 1200 points that he earned at the U.S. Open last year as a finalist if he does not play this year, which is exceedingly likely. It is Djokovic’s choice if he does not go to New York because he could have taken the vaccine. Along with his many ardent admirers and observers who believe Djokovic is one of the most extraordinary craftsmen the game has ever seen, I wish he felt differently and had changed his mind about the vaccine, which the vast majority of authorities believe is very safe.
Having said that, it must be reiterated that Djokovic is not refusing to be vaccinated out of egocentricity. To the contrary, he is standing up for his own principles. Whether misguided or not, he may miss two of the four majors this year. He is making a substantial sacrifice without asking for any sympathy, and that must not be forgotten by those who question his motives.
Where the Covid Crisis goes from here is anybody’s guess. But this much is certain: Djokovic has tied both his idol Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with his seven titles at the All England Club. Next year, he will seek to tie Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight championships. Incidentally, the iconic trio of Sampras, Federer and Djokovic have won 22 of the last 29 Wimbledon titles collectively. Djokovic will be surely return as the favorite. The feeling grows that Djokovic will remain in the forefront of the game for at least three more years, and some of his very best tennis might well be ahead of him.
In all of my happy years at Wimbledon, I have witnessed very few players on the preeminent stage of the sport who have given me as much pleasure as Novak Djokovic.
Rafael Nadal Returns To Cincinnati With Shot At No.1 Ranking
This is what the king of clay has to do to reclaim the top position.
It has been over a month since Rafael Nadal last played a match on the Tour but in the coming days, he will have a chance to return to the top of the ATP rankings.
The 22-time Grand Slam champion has been absent from action ever since pulling out of his semi-final match at Wimbledon due to an abdominal tear. He was set to play at this week’s National Bank Open in Montreal but withdrew after feeling a ‘slight bother’ in his abdominal region following training. Nadal decided not to play after consulting with his doctor.
Instead, the Spaniard will return next week at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. He confirmed his return in an Instagram post, where he wrote: “Very happy to play again in Cincy. Flying there tomorrow (Thursday).”
Whilst the Spaniard will be finding his feet in the coming days, in Cincinnati he has a chance to dethrone Daniil Medvedev from the world No.1 position. Medvedev lost his opening match in Montreal to Nick Kyrgios. To do this he would need to win the Masters 1000 event for the second time in his career and hope that Medvedev doesn’t make the quarter-finals. Nadal won Cincinnati back in 2013 after defeating John Isner in the final.
So far in his career, Nadal has spent 209 weeks as world No.1 with his longest streak being 56 weeks in a row (2010-2011). In total, he has been at the top of the rankings for eight separate periods and last held the position in February 2020.
Nadal’s No.1 stints
-Aug 18 2008 – Jul 5th 2009 (46 weeks)
-Jun 7 2010 – Jul 3rd 2011 (56 weeks)
-Oct 7th 2013 – Jul 6th 2014 (39 weeks)
-Aug 21 2017 – Feb 18 2018 (26 weeks)
-Apr 2nd 2018 – May 13th 2018 (6 weeks)
-May 21st 2018 – Jun 17th 2018 (4 weeks)
-Jun 25th 2018 – Nov 4th 2018 (19 weeks)
-Nov 4th 2019 – Feb 2nd 2020 (13 weeks)
At present nine out of the world’s top 10 players will participate in the Western and Southern Open. The only exception is Novak Djokovic who is currently banned from entering America because he isn’t vaccinated against Covid-19.
Jack Draper Considered Skipping Montreal Masters Before Getting Biggest Win Of Career
The rising star completes a trio of British players who have booked their places in the third round of the Masters 1000 event.
British qualifier Jack Draper says his decision to play in Montreal this week has paid off after he scored his first-ever win over a top 10 player on Wednesday.
The 20-year-old stunned world No.5 and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-6(4), in what is only his fourth appearance in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event. Draper, who is currently ranked 82nd in the world, won 74% of his first service points and blasted 21 winners past his Greek rival. Recovering from a 1-3 deficit in the second set en route to a straight sets victory.
Leading up to this week, Draper and his team considered not playing in Montreal following his 6-4, 6-2, loss to Andrey Rublev in Washington. However, their decision to do so was the right one. After coming through two rounds of qualifying, he beat France’s Hugo Gaston in the first round before knocking out Tsitsipas.
“This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this,” Draper said in an on-court interview. “Last week [after] Washington, me and my coach probably were thinking we weren’t even going to come here. We were going to maybe train a week, get a bit of confidence. But it paid off coming.”
“I didn’t really have much of a game plan. I just thought I needed to play good tennis to beat Stefanos. He’s at the top of the game for a reason. [He’s] someone I’ve looked up to the last few years. It’s just good to be out here and try to express myself on this stage.” He added.
Draper’s win comes during what has been a solid season for the Brit who has won four Challenger titles. A former top 10 junior player, he won his first main draw Grand Slam match in June at Wimbledon and reached the semi-finals of the Eastbourne International.
Awaiting the youngster in the third round will be French veteran Gael Monfils who is playing in his first tournament since May. Monfils defeated Maxime Cressy 7-6(10), 7-6(8).
Draper is one of three British players to have reached the last 16 in Montreal. Ninth seed Cameron Norrie will next play home favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime and Dan Evans faces Taylor Fritz.
According to the Pepperstone live ATP rankings, Draper will break into the world’s top 70 for the first time next week.
Canada Daily Preview: Two Clashes Between Top 10 Seeds in the Third Round
On Thursday, all third round matches will take place in both Montreal and Toronto, making for another extremely busy day of tennis. And two of those third round encounters see top 10 seeds collide. In Montreal, Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime faces Cam Norrie in a rematch from last Friday’s Los Cabos semifinals. In Toronto, Aryna Sabalenka plays Coco Gauff, who survived an extended battle on Wednesday against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule. Thursday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time in Toronto and 12:00pm local time in Montreal.
Aryna Sabalenka (6) vs. Coco Gauff (10) – 11:00am on Grandstand in Toronto
Gauff’s second-round victory on Wednesday was a grueling affair. After failing to convert four match points in the second-set tiebreak, Coco finally prevailed in a third-set tiebreak. And she did so despite striking 13 double faults, a part of her game that continues to trouble her. Sabalenka spent over an hour less time on court, defeating Sara Sorribes Tormo in straight sets. Gauff leads their head-to-head 2-1, though all three meetings have been rather tight. And of late, Coco has been the much stronger performer. Going back to her run to the French Open final, Gauff has claimed 15 of her last 19 matches. By contrast, Sabalenka arrived in Toronto having lost three of her last four. While Coco will surely feel a bit tired on Thursday, she’ll also feel relieved having escaped what would have been a heartbreaking loss a day earlier, and should play a bit more freely. And most importantly, she’s currently feeling much more confident than Sabalenka.
Cameron Norrie (9) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (6) – Not Before 4:00pm on Court Central in Montreal
Last week in Los Cabos, Norrie took out Auger-Aliassime in straight sets. However, that was Cam’s first victory over Felix in five tries. The previous four had all gone the way of the Canadian, including another hard court matchup earlier this year in Rotterdam. Auger-Aliassime pulled out a dramatic first-set tiebreak on Wednesday night over Washington runner-up Yoshihito Nishioka in thrilling fashion, eventually prevailing in straights. Earlier in the day, Norrie advanced comfortably, allowing Botic van de Zandschulp only three games. Just six days removed from their last encounter, Felix will be eager for revenge, especially at his home country’s biggest event. But playing at home comes with a lot of pressure, and Auger-Aliassime is only 3-4 in his last seven matches. Cam is the more in-form player, and should be favored to earn his second win over Felix in less than a week.
Other Notable Matches on Thursday:
Jessica Pegula (7) vs. Camila Giorgi – Giorgi is the defending champion, and is yet to drop a set through two matches. Last year in the semifinals of this same event, she defeated Pegula in three. But overall the American leads their head-to-head 5-2 at all levels, and has twice defeated Camila since that semifinal.
Nick Kyrgios vs. Alex de Minaur – It’s Australian versus Australian, and the Washington champ against the Atlanta champ. Kyrgios upset world No.1 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, and has now won 13 of his last 14 matches. De Minaur has already defeated Denis Shapovalov and Grigor Dimitrov this week.
Iga Swiatek (1) vs. Beatriz Haddad Maia – In typical Swiatek fashion, she required just over an hour to prevail over Ajla Tomljanovic in her opening match. Haddad Maia eliminated Canada’s Leylah Fernandez on Wednesday, and won 13 straight matches on grass in June.
Bianca Andreescu vs. Qinwen Zheng – Andreescu outlasted Alize Cornet on Wednesday night in a tight three-setter. Qinwen benefitted from Ons Jabeur’s retirement due to abdominal pain during their second round matchup.
Thursday’s full Order of Play is here.
Rafael Nadal Returns To Cincinnati With Shot At No.1 Ranking
Daniil Medvedev Aims To Get Back On Track After Kyrgios Defeat
Jack Draper Considered Skipping Montreal Masters Before Getting Biggest Win Of Career
Bianca Andreescu Battles Past Alize Cornet In Toronto
Felix Auger-Aliassime Delights Home Crowd As Top Three Seeds Crash Out Of Montreal
Greatest Of All Time Honor Between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, Says Robredo
Inspired By Andy Murray, Citi Open Chief Pledges To Donate Funds To Ukrainian Appeal
How Two Top 50 Players Accused Of Match-Fixing Have Responded To The Allegations
Andy Murray Targets US Open Seeding After Early Exit From Washington
Wimbledon Champion Elena Rybakina Donates Prize Money To Two Causes
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Elena Rybakina’s Wimbledon Win Was Good But The Level Wasn’t Great
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE): Novak Djokovic Battles Past Norrie, Faces Kyrgios In The Final
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Brad Gilbert Makes A Bold prediction on Sinner, Backs Kyrgios To Trouble Nadal
(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Rafael Nadal Doesn’t Care How Much Pain He’s In, He Gets The Job Done
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