Congrats Novak Djokovic for your 6th Wimbledon title and making it 20-20-20

Ritesh Mishra
By Ritesh Mishra

Congrats Novak Djokovic for winning the 2021 Wimbledon Championships and joining Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal at 20 Grand Slam titles each. 20-20-20. An extraordinary achievement for Novak. He joins his legendary rivals, and he is now expected to comfortably leave them behind. He is also now in a unique position of being the 1st of the glorious trio to have a calendar Grand Slam.

Novak becomes the 1st player since Rod Laver in 1969 to win Australian Open, French Open, and Wimbledon in the same year and the 1st since Rafa Nadal in 2010 to win 3 consecutive Slams on 3 different surfaces. Winning the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year is a feat called the Channel Slam, and Novak joins Laver, Borg, Nadal, and Federer in this exclusive club.

I present to you my detailed review of the tournament where I shall be detailing the upsets, the comebacks, classic matches which went the distance, the journey of the top 4 seeds, the journey of the four semi-finalists, upcoming talents, and finally a brief review of the semi-finals and the final.

Let us first take a quick look at the notable omissions. Stan Wawrinka opted out as did world number four Dominic Thiem and former finalist Milos Raonic. Borna Coric and David Goffin also opted out due to injury. However, the biggest setback to fans and organizers was the omission of Rafa Nadal. The 20 time Grand Slam winner had reached the finals of Wimbledon five times in a row which included two Championship wins including one over Federer, which most agree is one of the greatest matches ever played. In the 2018 Wimbledon championships, Rafa had played an epic SF versus Novak before losing 8-10 in the fifth set. In 2019 too he had reached the SF where Federer stopped him in 4 sets. Fans had been hoping for a Rafa-Federer or Rafa-Novak match again in 2021 but Rafa opted out as he felt the need to recover physically after a demanding clay-court season. His presence would surely have enriched the tournament.

Upsets

I start with upsets since nothing is more engrossing than an underdog getting the better of fancied and higher-ranked opponents.

1st Round Upsets. There were as many as Eleven. The biggest was 3rd seed Stefanos Tsitsipas losing to American Frances Tiafoe, for whom it was the 1st top 5 win in 12 attempts. The world Number 57 had crucial breaks in all three sets and was not broken even once en-route a straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win. Tsitsipas had taken a 2 set lead vs Novak in the French Open final but the world number 1 had an incredible comeback to lift his 19th Grand Slam trophy. It was expected that they may meet in the SF here, but Tiafoe had different ideas. For Tsitsipas, it was a second successive disappointing Wimbledon. He had lost in the 1st round in 2019 as well after reaching the 4th round in 2018 where he had lost to Isner.

In other 1st round upsets, the Japanese player Nishioka defeated Isner in five sets and Casper Ruud too lost in 5 sets to Jordan Thompson. Hungarian Marton Fucsovics defeated Jannick Sinner in four sets, and so also Alex de Minaur lost to Sebastian Korda in four sets. while the big-serving Reilly Opelka lost to German Dominik Koepker in straight sets. Higher ranked and seeded players Busta and Keratsev also lost in straight sets to Sam Querrey and Jeremy Chardy respectively.

2nd round upsets. There were just two. 106th ranked Spaniard, Pedro Martinez got the better of 13th seed Gael Monfils in 4 sets while the highly-rated Alexander Bublik took out the stylish but highly erratic Dimitrov in straight sets.

3rd round upsets. 44th ranked Hungarian Marton Fucsovics took out the feisty 9th ranked Diego Schwartzmann in 4 sets. American Sebastian Korda took out the top-ranked British player, Dan Evans in four sets.

4th round upset. In both an upset and a comeback, Hungarian Marton Fucsovics defeated 5th seed Rublev in 5 sets, winning the final two sets 6-0 and 6-3. This was their 7th match and Rublev had won five of the earlier six. Interestingly, both matches won by Fucsovics were won by him in 5 sets. Felix Auger-Aliassime also defeated Sascha Zverev in 5 sets. To round off 4th round upsets, world number 2 Medvedev lost to 18th ranked Hurkacz in 5 sets.

Quarter-final upset. Technically, it may be called an upset, as 18th ranked Hubert Hurkacz defeated the higher-ranked Federer in straight sets. However, at one month short of 40, Federer was outclassed by his opponent, who at 24, was 15 years younger.

Comebacks

In the 1st round, 30th seed Davidovich Fokina won the 1st two sets over American Denis Kudla who then dug deep to win the last three sets and the match. The talented Christian Garin also came back from 2 sets to one deficit to defeat the unseeded Bernabe Zapata Miralles. Similarly, the Frenchman Antoine Hoang came back from 2 sets to one deficit to defeat Zhang Zhizhen, the Chinese Number 1 and the 1st Chinese to ever qualify and play at Wimbledon. Mikael Ymer also defeated the powerful Tsonga after being two sets to one down.

In the 3rd round, Medvedev had a classic comeback against grass-court specialist and former finalist Cilic. After losing the first two sets, Medvedev won in five. In the 5th set, he had a 5-0 lead with 3 breaks, and though Cilic got one break back and tried to come back at 5-2, Medvedev served out the 5th set at 6-2.

The Quarterfinals saw a stirring comeback by 10th seed Denis Shapovalov, who defeated the 25th seed, Karen Khachanov in 5 sets after being two sets to one down. In his 4th round match, Khachanov had defeated Korda in 5 sets with the final set score being 10-8.

Classic Matches which went the distance

In an interesting 1st round match-up, Denis Shapovalov got the better of Philippe Kohlschreiber in 5 tight sets and so did unseeded Nick Kyrgios over his seeded opponent Ugo Humbert, with Nick winning the final set 9-7.

Sir Andy Murray made a winning return against Basilashvil. Murray led 6-4 6-3 and 5-0 but lost 7 games in a row to lose the 3rd set 5-7. The former champion then regrouped to win the 4th set 6-3. Murray was making a return to Wimbledon after 2017 where he had lost to Sam Querrey in 5 sets in the QF. This is Sir Andy’s 51st Grand Slam tournament and no Britisher has played more. Next is Tim Henman with 49 appearances.

Oscar Otte and Arthur Rinderknech played a 5 set marathon which went to 12-12 in the final set, which was won in the tie-breaker by Oscar Otte. He earned the right to play Andy Murray. Both played a classic match and Otte was leading by 2 sets to one before Murray fought back to win in 5 sets. Murray’s reaching the 3rd round was one of the talking points of the tournament. Denis Shapovalov had an easy win over him to stop his progress.

Journey of top 4 seeds

Novak Djokovic started his mission 20 by facing a British wildcard entry, the 19-year teen Jack Draper for whom it was just the 5th match of his career. The Junior Wimbledon finalist of 2018 had 2 losses and 2 wins in his career so far, and both were over higher-ranked opponents, Jannick Sinner and Alexander Bublick. He took a set off Novak and was impressed with his big serve. However, Novak in a near-perfect comeback took the next 3 sets 1,2, and 2. He served 25 aces as well, which was his second-highest ever in a match, just behind his 26 aces in the 2nd round of the 2021 Australian Open.

In the 2nd round, Novak faced his 2018 opponent in the finals, Kevin Anderson who had given a strong showing in the 1st round and had fired in 41 aces. Novak put in a flawless display to win 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. In the 3rd round, he faced the 114 ranked Denis Kudla ( lost the 2010 US Open boys final to Jack Sock) and once again won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7). In the 3rd set, Kudla was a break-up and put in a very impressive display against World Number 1. However, Novak stepped up his game to win in straight sets. In the 4th round, Novak had a comfortable 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 win over Christian Garin to enter the QF for the 12th time. Novak had a comfortable win in the QF as well over Marton Fucsovics. This ended a terrific tournament for the Hungarian in which he had defeated Sinner, Jiri Vesely, Sachwartzmann, and Rublev, but Novak played at a different level. This was his 100th win on grass and he entered his 10th Wimbledon SF. Only Connors with 11 and Federer with 13 have entered the SF of Wimbledon more times.

2nd seed Medvedev had a dangerous 1st round opponent, the German Jan-Lennard Struff. Medvedev had an impressive 1st two sets 6-4, 6-1 before Struff won the 3rd set 6-4, and took the second seed to a tie-break in the 4th which he won by conceding just 3 points. In the second round, he had a near-perfect match against Carlos Alcaraz in which he conceded just 7 games. As discussed in the comebacks section above, he defeated Cilic to progress to the 4th round. In a five-set match, he was upset by Hubert Hurkacz. By winning the 2021 Miami Open, he had become the 1st Polish player to win an ATP Masters 1000 tournament. By defeating Medvedev he became just the 4th player from his country to enter the QF of Wimbledon, and the more good news was in store for him.

3rd seed Tsitsipas lost in the 1st round itself. Hence, I will discuss sentimental favorite and 6th seed Roger Federer’s progress instead. He was almost out in the 1st round itself against the dangerous Frenchman Mannarino, who took the 2nd and 3rd set after Federer, who had an impressive 1st set saw his game going down alarmingly. Unfortunately, Mannarino had a bad fall in the 4th set when Federer was up a break, and returned after an injury time-out, but conceded after the 4th set was won by Roger. Later Federer accepted that he may have got lucky as there was no way to know how the final set would have progressed.

Federer next faced Gasquet, an opponent against whom he had an 18-2 record and had won his last ten matches in straight sets. Wimbledon 21 saw Federer raise his game to win 7-6, 6-1,6-4, and become the oldest player in the 3rd round since Ken Rosewall in 1975. His 18 3rd round appearances were also a record. Next was Cameron Norrie, the British Number 2 and World Number 33. Federer had an excellent 1st two sets and looked set for a straight-set win but Norrie raised his level to win the 3rd set 7-5. In the 4th set, one bad game by Norrie was enough for Federer to win the set and the match and enter the 4th round for the 18th time. He extended his own record with Connors and Novak next with is 16 and 13 4th round entries. The QF slot was sealed after a win over the 23rd seeded Italian, Lorenzo Sonego, who had reached the final of the Eastbourne grass-court event. Federer won in straight sets and had a crisp, confident game. At 39 years, 337 days, Federer became the oldest quarter-finalist in the open era, breaking the record of Ken Rosewall (39 years, 224 days) in 1974. The journey however ended in the QF, and Federer lost to Hurkacz in straight sets, with the third set finishing at 6-0. This was the 1st time that Federer, in 22 years, had lost a set at 6-0 at Wimbledon.

4th seed Alexander Zverev started his campaign against Dutch Number 1/World Number 120 Tallon Griekspoor and raced through in 94 minutes, conceding just 8 games. He had an excellent straight sets win in the second round as well, against Tennys Sandgren. Next was Taylor Fritz and Zverev, after losing the 1st set, settled down well to win in four sets. In the 4th round, however, Sascha lost to Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had stopped Federer at Halle. The 20-year Canadian star came back from 2-4 down in 1st and 2nd set to win them, and after Sascha won the 3rd and 4th, it was Felix who maintained his composure to win in 5 sets.

Journey of the four semi-finalists; We have seen that only one of the top 4 seeds, i.e Novak, reached the semi-final. Let us quickly see how the others progressed.

Berrettini became the 1st Italian in the Open era to make the SF of Wimbledon. Earlier, Nicola Pietrangali, double French Open champion and considered to be many as Italy’s greatest ever tennis player, had reached the Wimbledon SF in 1960 and had lost to Rod Laver in five sets. Berrettini defeated unseeded players Guido Pella, van de Zandschulp, Aizaz Bedene and Ilya Ivashka to reach the QF. He only dropped a set to Pella. He dropped another in a 4 set win over his good friend Felix Auger Aliassime. Felix, the 16th seed was his first seeded opponent.

Hurkacz became the 1st Pole to reach Wimbledon SF since the big-serving Jerry Janowicz in 2013. Hurkacz had come into Wimbledon on a nightmarish losing streak of six matches. However, he had won Miami Masters which meant his class was never in doubt. He turned it all around at Wimbledon with straight-set wins over Lorenzo Musetti, Marcos Giron and Alexander Bublik, before the stunning 5-set upset of Medvedev and the straight-set demolition of Federer.

Denis Shapovalov had two superb 5-set wins en route to the semi-finals. The 1st was in the 1st round versus Kohlschreiber and the second was in the QF versus Khachanov. In between, he got a walkover from Pablo Andujar and defeated Andy Murray and Agut in straight sets.

Upcoming talents; Before we review the SF and Finals, let us quickly take a look at some upcoming talents. I have four in mind, Sebastian Korda, Felix Auger Aliassime, Mikael Ymer and Carlos Alcaraz.

US player Sebastian Korda, just 21, is a player to watch out for in the future. His father, the Czech player, Petr Korda was the 1998 Australian Open Champion and 1992 French Open losing finalist, and his mother, Regina Rajchrtova too was a top 30 player. Sebastian’s sister Nelly is a world top 5 Golf player and last week won a Grand Slam major at Atlanta. Sebastian became only the 8th player since 2001 to reach the 4th round of both the French Open and Wimbledon before he was 21. The others are Federer, Rafa, Novak, Hewitt, Cilic, Tsitsipas and Berdych.

Felix Auger Aliassime and Mikael Ymer are two promising stars. They met in the second round and Felix won in 4 sets. Earlier, Felix defeated Thiago Monteiro in straight sets while Ymer had defeated Tsonga in a 5 setter after being two sets to one down. In the 3rd round, Felix was 1 set a-piece with Nick Kyrgious when he got a walkover. Sascha Zverev was his victim in the 4th round.

18-year teen Carlos Alcaraz in the French Open 2021, became the youngest to reach the 3rd round since Andrei Medvedev in 1992. At Wimbledon, he won a tough 5 set match in the 1st round versus Yuchiyama to become the youngest player to win a match at Wimbledon since Murray and Djokovic in 2005. However, he was outclassed by Medvedev in the second.

Review of Semi-finals

Berrettini and Hurkacz had faced each other once, which was at Miami Masters in 2019. Hurkacz had won that match. In the SF, it was Berretini all the way. He did not lose his serve even once in the match, and though Hurkacz won the 3rd set in a tie-breaker, Berrettini was in control throughout and had a classy 6-3, 6-0, 6-7, 6-4 win to become the 1st player from Italy to enter the finals at Wimbledon.

Novak and Shapovalov had faced each other 6 times, and all 6 were won by Novak. 5 matches were on hard courts and one was at the Rome Masters. In 6 matches, Shapovalov had taken just 2 sets off Novak. In addition, Novak had won 15 of the last 16 Grand Slam SF he had played in. He was therefore the firm favorite. Shapovalov hit some incredible shots throughout the match, but it was Novak, who as he has done so many times, played and won the big points better to emerge a 7-6, 7-7, 7-5 winner. Out of 41 SF attempts in Grand Slams, Novak has now won 30. He entered his 30th Grand Slam Final (Only Federer is ahead with 31) and it was his 7th Wimbledon Final.

Review of Final

Berrettini was hoping to be the 1st player from Italy since Adriano Panetta, French Open Champion in 1976, to win any Grand Slam, and also the 1st Italian champion at Wimbledon. He and Novak had met twice, once each on hard court and clay court with Novak winning both. The most recent was the French Open Quarter-finals which Novak won in 4 sets. With this being Novak’s 30th final and 7th in Wimbledon, and Berretini’s 1st ever, certainly Berretini was the underdog.

Novak had a set point at 5-2 but missed a forehand, and Berrettini broke back to level the set at 5-5. Both held serve and Matteo raise his game in the tiebreaker to win the 1st set 7-6.

In the last 20 years, only 5 times had a player lost the 1st set to come back and win. Big names there. Federer (thrice). Sampras and Novak himself. In the 2nd set, Novak quickly took a 4-0 lead. However, Berrettini got a break back and held his nerve at 3-5 to make it 4-5. Novak however had a good service game to take the second set 6-4. The world number 1 maintained his momentum to break Berretini early, and except for one slightly difficult hold at 2-3, maintained composure and characteristic confidence to serve out the set 6-4. In the 4th set, Matteo improved his serving till 3-3, and then some beautifully constructed points got Novak the break. He held comfortably and suddenly at 3-5, Berrettini was serving to stay in the match. Novak was equally determined to finish it off and after Berretini saved 2 Championship points, Novak converted the third to win his 6th Wimbledon and 20th Grand Slam title.

Congrats Novak. It is 20-20-20 now.

Amazing champion. Congratulations.

 

About the Author:

The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer. He can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi and Pragativadi.com does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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