Novak Djokovic’s four-set semifinal defeat of Cameron Norrie has set a Wimbledon final that has got the tournament, and the tennis world, buzzing.
You could tell this from the Centre Court crowd’s reaction, when, during Djokovic’s on-court interview, it was mentioned he would face the talented Australian in Sunday’s title match.
“Well one thing is for sure, there’s gonna be a lot of fireworks, emotionally, from both,” Djokovic laughed.
The match-up with Kyrgios is a significantly contrasting challenge for Djokovic to the one posed by Norrie, the steady, understated Brit who won the opening set before the top seed wrested control of the contest.
Djokovic’s eventual 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 win over the 12th-ranked Norrie means he has now won 18 of his past 19 Grand Slam semifinals.
As a result, he advances to a 32nd major singles final – the most of any man in tennis history.
He has built a 27-match winning streak at Wimbledon, one win shy of a fourth straight title at the All England Club.
He has not lost on Centre Court in nine years; since falling to Andy Murray in the 2013 final he has won 38 consecutive matches on the storied court, the longest streak ever at The Championships.
And yet he has never won a set against Nick Kyrgios.
Kyrgios is 2-0 head-to-head against the 20-time major champion, beating Djokovic in back-to-back tournaments in Acapulco and Indian Wells in 2017.
Djokovic is keenly aware of this statistic, something else he referenced in his on-court interview.
“The experience that I have at this level, playing in the finals against someone that has never played a Grand Slam final, could be slightly in my favour,” Djokovic said later during his press conference.
“But at the same time, knowing who he is and how he goes about his tennis and his attitude on the court, he doesn't seem to be falling under pressure much.
“He's a big-match player… 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.
“He plays lights-out every time he steps out onto the court. Just a lot of power in his serve and his game.
“It's tough to read his serve. I haven't practiced with him or played with him since the last time I lost to him.
“I'm going to make sure I get ready for that one and let the better player win.”
Until this fortnight, Kyrgios had never gone beyond the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam tournament.
By reaching the last eight here, Kyrgios ended a seven-and-a-half year major quarterfinal drought, while equalling the Open Era record for the longest span between first and second Wimbledon quarterfinals.
He reached the Wimbledon final when semifinal opponent Rafael Nadal withdrew ahead of their meeting due to an abdominal tear, and revealed he then barely slept due to excitement, anxiety and thoughts racing in his head.
“I never thought I'd be here at all, to be brutally honest with you,” the 27-year-old admitted.
“I'm just super proud and I'm just ready to go. I'm going to give it my all and we'll see what happens.
“The one thing for sure, whether I win or lose on Sunday, I'm going to be happy. It's such a great achievement that I thought I'd never be a part of.
“I have a chance.”
Kyrgios acknowledged his at-times fractious, spiky relationship with Djokovic, which inevitably adds another layer of intrigue to this match-up and perhaps explained the Centre Court crowd’s reaction to it being set.
“I think a Kyrgios-Djokovic final would be mouth-watering,” Kyrgios said.
“I think everyone knows there was no love lost for a while there. I think it was healthy for the sport. I think every time we played each other, there was hype around it.
“We actually message each other on DMs in Instagram now and stuff… earlier in the week, he was like, ‘Hopefully I'll see you Sunday’.
Djokovic got his wish.
“Honestly, as a tennis fan, I'm glad that he's in the finals because he's got so much talent,” said Djokovic, who is targeting a seventh Wimbledon title which would deliver him a 21st major singles title.
Greatness personified ✨ pic.twitter.com/EpJ1r7LbrZ— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) June 5, 2022
“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. I don't know how many Grand Slam opportunities to win the trophy I will still have.
“So, of course, I'm approaching it with positive attitude and self-belief and willingness to win.
“It's going to be interesting match.”