Novak Djokovic equalled Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles by winning his third successive Wimbledon crown at the All England Club this afternoon.
The Serb lost the first set on a tie-break to number seven seed, Italian Matteo Berrettini, but fought back to win in three sets – 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
It is the world number one’s sixth Wimbledon – and the three greatest players, arguably we have ever seen, now have 20 slams between them.
Berrettini saved a set point at 5-2 down in the first set, before recovering to win it on the tie-break with an ace down the centre line in a set lasting well over an hour.
Both players started nervously, the Italian forcing break point in the very first game – but that was more to do with the champion serving two double faults, the Serb eventually holding serve.
The first break came in the fourth game when Djokovic set up break point with a rasping forehand down the line, before forcing the Italian into an error to secure the break at 3-1.
Four service holds followed before the game of the set – which included seven deuces. Berrettini dug deep to save a break point before eventually taking the game – and shortly afterwards forcing a tie-break.
Berrettini quickly took control of the breaker, racing into a 3-0 lead before the champion recovered to 3-3. But a powerful cross-court drive gave the Italian back the mini advantage, and from there he held the points on his serve – winning it with an ace.
The crowd were mainly behind the Italian, holding up signs saying ‘Forza Gladiator’ and ‘It’s coming Rome’. One shouted out ‘Italy now, England later’.
But the Serb is not the champion he is without a huge amount of spirit. His response was to break the Italian’s first two service games of the second set, racing into a 4-0 lead in quick time.
Berrettini responded with a break of his own, then courageously saved three set points at 3-5 to force Djokovic to serve for the set, which he did to love to take it 6-4.
The players took a well-earned break after the second set – with the match already lasting just short of two hours.
And when they returned Berrettini showed he wasn’t going away, racing through his opening service game of the third set to love – the Serbian responding with his own love service game to make it 1-1 – the crowd responding with chants of ‘Matteo’ and ‘Novak’.
In the third game Berrettini, the first ever Italian – man or woman – to appear in a singles final here, recovered from 0-30 to 30-30, but Djokovic forced a break point and took it when the Italian hit a soft backhand into the net.
By now both players were showing moments of brilliance, and the rallies were getting longer – and more tense. Berrettini forced Djokovic to deuce in the next game thanks to a searing forehand down the line, but the Serb held his nerve to take a 3-1 lead.
Then Berrettini forced two break points of his own, with the Serb having to call on all his resolve to recover – with an ace – to preserve his advantage at 4-2.
Djokovic responded to the earlier calls of ‘Metteo, Matteo’ from the Centre Court crowd with a cupped ear – and his fans responded in kind by chanting their hero’s name.
The Italian reduced the deficit to love in no time, his game-winning forehand down the line applauded by the champion.
Djokovic had to be at his absolute best now, and he was beginning to show glimpses of it – one cross-court forehand was particularly graceful during his next service game which he took to 30 to force Berrettini to serve to stay in the set at 3-5.
Berrettini held to 15 to make it 5-4 Djokovic, leaving the Serb with the opportunity to serve out for a two sets to one lead.
It was 15-0 when Berrettini hit a forehand long, and 30-0 when he hit another into the net. Djokovic then netted for 30-15, before bringing up two set points with a lovely touch drop-volley which was too good.
From the next point the champion hit a relatively simple forehand long before Berrettini hit a forehand wide to give Djokovic the set to lead 2-1.
The fourth set went with serve – Djokovic saving two break points in the sixth game to level at 3-3, a delicate cross-court effort at the net winning the best point of the match, with the crowd rising to both players.
He took control of the next game at 15-30 with a fantastic backhand cross-court winner and then gave himself break point with a sublime cross-court forehand, before a double fault gave the champion the break – and the lead 4-3 in the set.
As the finish line approached, so Djokovic’s ball-bouncing increased – at one point he bounced it 16 times as his service games became more and more tense affairs.
At 3-5 Berrettini was forced to serve to stay in the set. Djokovic brought up match-point but the Italian showed his steel and saved it with a volley at the net.
Djokovic responded with his own drop volley to bring up a second championship point, but Berrettini responded with a courageous forehand down the line.
But when Berrettini hit a forehand into the net the Serb had his third chance for victory, and dropped to the floor in elation when again the Italian netted.
Picturd top: Novak Djokovic celebrates winning the Gentlemen’s Singles final against Matteo Berrettini (Picture: PA)
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