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Wimbledon: Djokovic beats Berrettini for 20th major title

  • Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic claimed an historic sixth Wimbledon and 20th Grand Slam title with victory over Italian Matteo Berrettini in Sunday’s final.

The world No.1 prevailed 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4 6-3 to win a men’s-record-equalling 20th major singles title, an achievement that sees him draw level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

But the 34-year-old Serb separated himself from his illustrious rivals by becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the season’s first three major titles. 

His triumphs at the Australian Open and Roland Garros earlier in 2021, and now Wimbledon, will see him head to the US Open aiming for an incredible calendar-year Grand Slam sweep.

"I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger, they are legends of our sport, and they are the two most important players that I ever faced in my career," Djokovic said on court after accepting the trophy. 

"They are I think the reason that I'm where I am today.

"I could definitely envision (the Grand Slam) happening. I'm hoping, I'm gonna definitely give it a shot.

"I'm in great form, I'm obviously playing well, and playing my best tennis at Grand Slams is the highest priority that I have right now at this stage of my career. So let's keep it going."

Djokovic also has the chance to achieve an even more rare 'Golden Grand Slam', with the Tokyo Olympics looming in less than two weeks. 

He sealed victory against Berrettini in just under three-and-a-half hours to earn a sixth career title at the All England Club, with this one coming exactly 10 years after his first.

And following his triumphs in 2018 and 2019, he joins Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer as the only players in the Open Era to win three Wimbledon titles in a row.

"He's a great champion. He's writing the history of this sport, so he deserves all the credits," Berrettini said on Centre Court after appearing in his first Grand Slam final.

"It's been a really long path, a long journey (for me), and hopefully it's not done yet. For me it's not an end, it's the beginning hopefully of a great career."

Novak Djokovic celebrates the moment he sealed a four-set victory over Matteo Berrettini in the 2021 Wimbledon men's singles final. (Getty Images)

As was the case against Daniil Medvedev in Melbourne and Stefanos Tsitsipas in Paris, Djokovic found himself up against a comparative Grand Slam novice in Berrettini.

But with that uneven match-up – Djokovic is almost a decade older than the Italian, with 29 more Grand Slam final appearances under his belt – came the pressure of being the overwhelming favourite.

And in the opening set, it appeared to weigh on him.

He hit three double faults across his first two service games, and although he moved ahead 5-2, he got there playing cautious tennis and was assisted by errors from his equally-nervous opponent.

The momentum changed for Berrettini when, serving to stay in the set, he saved a set point and eventually dug his way out of a game that featured eight deuces.

He held for 3-5, which loosened him up and energised the crowd; suddenly, he broke Djokovic when the world No.1 served for the set, went on to level scores at 5-5, then controlled the subsequent tiebreak to take an unexpected lead. 

Pocketing the first set at the time seemed significant for Berrettini, against an opponent with a stunning 268-5 record when he wins the opening set of a Grand Slam match. 

But in the end, it counted for little.

Djokovic responded strongly, racing to a 4-0 lead in the second set. By the time Berrettini finally got on the board in the fifth game, Djokovic had committed just one unforced error to that point of the set.

Djokovic again arrived at 5-2, and again tension emerged – he failed to close it out and missed three set points on the Italian’s serve in the ninth game. 

But he played far more purposefully on his second attempt to serve it out, slotting a backhand winner and an ace to level the match.

Djokovic really looked to be settling into the contest when he conjured a trademark sliding, open-stance backhand at full stretch to force an error from Berrettini. 

It earned him a break point, which he converted, for a 2-1 lead in the third set.

The world No.1 looked to his team and pointed to his head, signalling that he was winning the mental battle – both with Berrettini, and himself. 

He went on to take the third set, and in the fourth, escaped from a 0-30 hole with some incredible retrieving to hold serve for 3-3.

This seemed to crush Berrettini’s spirit. 

Djokovic found a forehand winner in the seventh game to generate another break point, and broke serve when Berrettini double-faulted.

Two games later, Djokovic was the champion.

"It was more than a battle. He's got an incredible game. Very powerful. True hammer, Italian hammer. I felt that on my skin," Djokovic smiled after ending Berrettini's 11-match winning streak.

"The last 10 years has been an incredible journey, that is not stopping here."