Sunday, July 11, 2021

Djokovic ties record with 20th major singles crown

Novak Djokovic can earn the first men's Golden Slam ever
by winning the Olympics and U.S. Open. The title at Flush-
ing Meadows would give him the first men's Grand Slam
since Rod Laver in 1969. 2015 photo by Paul Bauman
   It appears to be only a matter of time until Novak Djokovic goes down as the greatest player ever.
   Maybe as little as two months.
   Djokovic tied Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with a record 20 Grand Slam singles titles today, defeating Matteo Berrettini 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 at Wimbledon. 
   Federer will turn 40 on Aug. 8, and Nadal, 35, is showing signs of his age. Meanwhile, the 34-year-old Djokovic can earn the first men's calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 by winning the U.S. Open, Aug. 30-Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. 
   "I can definitely envision that happening," Djokovic said with a laugh in an on-court interview. "I will definitely give it a shot. I am in great form, and I am playing well at the Grand Slams. So let's keep it going."
   Furthermore, a gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in two weeks could give Djokovic the first men's Golden Slam in history (the Olympics dropped tennis between 1924 and 1988).
   Djokovic won sixth Wimbledon singles crown, third among men in the Open Era (since 1968) behind Roger Federer (eight) and Pete Sampras (seven), and third in a row. He has won five of the last seven.
   "It was more than a battle," Djokovic said after improving to 3-0 against Berrettini. "Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream of mine as a child. I know how special this is, and I don't want to take it for granted.
   "I was a 7-year-old boy in Serbia, constructing a Wimbledon trophy with improvised materials in my room, and now I am standing here with six titles. It's incredible."
   The top-ranked Djokovic overcame 16 aces by the 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Berrettini to extend his winning streak to 18 matches and end Berrettini's at 11. 
   "For me, it's not the end; it's the beginning," said Berrettini, the first Italian player — man or woman — to reach the Wimbledon final.
   Djokovic led 5-2 (one service break) in the first set as the seventh-seeded Berrettini inevitably suffered the jitters in his first Grand Slam final. But Berrettini, who played with his left thigh taped after taking a nasty fall in Friday's semifinals, rallied for 5-5, saved a set point by chasing down a sharply angled drop shot and won the set with an ace down the middle.
   "There was a lot of tension," Djokovic admitted. "Then I started swinging through the ball."
   In the second set, Djokovic led 4-0 and served for it at 5-2, but Berrettini broke and overcame a 0-40 deficit by winning five consecutive points to hold for 4-5. This time, Djokovic held at love to even the match.   
   Djokovic broke for 2-1 in the third set on a Berrettini backhand error, saved two break points to hold for 4-2 and served out the set.
   Djokovic recovered from 0-30 to hold for 3-3 in the fourth set. Berrettini then double-faulted on break point. Djokovic held for 5-3 and broke serve for the match, converting his third championship point when Berrettini netted a slice backhand. 
   Mixed doubles final — No. 7 seeds Neal Skupski of Great Britain and Desirae Krawczyk, a native of Palm Desert, Calif., beat unseeded Joe Salisbury and Harriet Dart of Great Britain 6-2, 7-6 (1).
   Krawczyk and Salisbury won the French Open mixed doubles title last month.
   Skupski played for the Sacramento-area California Dream of World TeamTennis in 2015, the team's only season of existence. KrawczykSalisbury and Dart starred in Northern California Challenger doubles in 2017.

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