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Tennis | London | Ricky’s pick for the Wimbledon/ final: Djokovic vs. Kyrgios

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic plays for a seventh Wimbledon title when he faces Nick Kyrgios in Sunday’s final. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

An opponent ranked No. 40 in the world is the only thing that stands in between Novak Djokovic and a seventh Wimbledon title–21st Grand Slam title overall.

Of course, that hardly tells the real story.

Outside of an all-Big 3 showdown, Djokovic vs. Nick Kyrgios is just about as mouthwatering of a matchup as you can get. That is exactly what the All-England Club will have in store for Sunday afternoon, when the two fiery competitors and somewhat controversial characters collide for the third time in their careers.

Kyrgios has won each of their two previous encounters–and in straight sets, too. The Aussie prevailed 7-6(9), 7-5 at the 2017 Acapulco event and 6-4, 7-6(3) a week later in Indian Wells. Djokovic has never broken the Kyrgios serve and he has generated a grand total of one break point.

Grass won’t exactly give Djokovic a better chance of handling his opponent’s serve, but you have to think a Grand Slam final situation favors the 35-year-old. He has won 20 major titles and is 6-1 lifetime in Wimbledon finals. Djokovic finds himself in another one following victories over Soonwoo Kwon, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Miomir Kecmanovic, Tim van Rijthoven, Jannik Sinner, and Cameron Norrie. The third-ranked Serb hasn’t been at his best and he even lost two sets against Sinner, but he has done enough to advance.

Nick Kyrgios of Australia took a walkover into his first major final. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

Kyrgios also endured plenty of bumps along the way to championship Sunday. The 27-year-old needed five sets to survive his opener against Paul Jubb before beating Filip Krajinovic (straights), Stefanos Tsitsipas (four), Brandon Nakashima (five), and Cristian Garin (straights). Kyrgios will be well rested, though, because he got a walkover from Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

“I’m going to take every positive,” the world No. 40 said of his free pass through the semis. “I get to rest my body a little bit. It’s not bad going in there feeling fresh. I had a shocking sleep [on Friday] night, though, to be honest. I probably got an hour’s sleep just with everything, like the excitement. I had so much anxiety; I was already feeling so nervous, and I don’t feel nervous usually.

“I was just restless–so many thoughts in my head about a Wimbledon final. That’s all I was thinking about. I was thinking just playing, obviously imagining myself winning, imagining myself losing…everything. I’ve never been here before, so it’s definitely where Djokovic has the advantage from the get-go. He can draw from experience; he’s done it so many more times. He knows the emotions he’s going to be feeling. I don’t know that; I don’t know anything like that.”

It’s completely true. He had previously been to just a pair of Grand Slam quarterfinals (one at Wimbledon)–none since 2015. Technically he has still never even played in a slam semifinal. Now he is in a final, having previously not been past the third round of any major since the 2020 Australian Open.

“In a way it’s a surprise because (of) his ranking,” Djokovic commented. “He has never reached a Grand Slam final. So maybe not too many people [were] giving him big chances to reach the finals.

“I think between us players, we always know how dangerous he is–on grass particularly–because of his game, because of his attitude on the court being so confident, just going for it, being a very complete player…. These are the occasions where he loves, where he thrives, [on] a big stage. So in a way it’s also not surprise for me that he’s there.

“Honestly, as a tennis fan I’m glad that he’s in the finals because he’s got so much talent.”

Tennis fans should love the matchup and the “fireworks”–in Djokovic’s words–that will be on display, even if they may not love the players involved. Generally considered to be the two main villains of the sport, Djokovic and Kyrgios at least have something in common but their games are completely different. Djokovic may be the best returner in tennis history; Kyrgios is probably one of the two best current servers on tour.

It will be a great contrast in styles, and through two head-to-head meetings Kyrgios’ serve has gotten the best of Djokovic’s return. On grass it could certainly happen again. However, over the course of what could be five sets and on the stage of a major final, intangibles are likely to be a huge factor. By the underdog’s own admission, Djokovic has a big edge in that department.

The top seed should be able to battle his way across the finish line for a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title, but it will likely be much more difficult than many are expecting.

Pick: Djokovic in 5

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.