Novak Djokovic won his sixth Wimbledon title to equal Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s record of 20 men’s Grand Slam victories after fighting back to beat Italy’s Matteo Berrettini.
The 34-year-old Serb won 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-3 in front of a passionate and vocal 15,000 crowd on Centre Court.
Top seed Djokovic has now won all three Grand Slam men’s titles in 2021.
“Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream for me when I was a kid,” said the world number one, who dropped a set for only the second time in the SW19 fortnight.
“A seven-year-old boy in Serbia constructing a Wimbledon trophy with improvised materials and standing here with a sixth real trophy is incredible. It is amazing.”
Having already claimed the Australian Open and French Open, Djokovic is the fifth man in history – and only the second in the Open era after Rod Laver in 1969 – to win the first three majors of the season.
And with Djokovic retaining his crown at the All England Club, he has moved a step closer to becoming the second player to achieve a ‘Golden Slam’.
Only Germany’s Steffi Graf in 1988 has ever won all four majors and the Olympics in a calendar year.
Berrettini saved two match points at 5-3 in the fourth set with a controlled volley and a 101mph forehand winner down the line. But the Italian could not fight off the third as he sliced a backhand into the net.
Djokovic fell flat on his back with his arms outstretched after sealing a hard-fought victory, while Berrettini’s contrasting emotions on the opposite baseline – bending over double with his hands on his knees – illustrated the effort he had expended in defeat.
After taking the acclaim of a rapturous Centre Court crowd, Djokovic climbed up to his support team to celebrate before finding a few spare seconds to have a selfie with one young fan.
‘The journey is not stopping here,’ vows Djokovic
Djokovic has made no secret of the fact he is motivated by creating history, having already spent more weeks as world number one than any other man and now targeting the most major titles.
When Djokovic won his first Slam at the 2008 Australian Open, Federer – who is almost six years older than the Serb – had claimed 12 of his 20 majors. Djokovic was still stuck on one when Federer claimed his 16th in 2010.
Now, Djokovic has moved level with Federer – and Nadal, who caught up with the Swiss at last year’s French Open – for the first time.
“I have to pay tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport and the two greatest players I have faced,” said Djokovic, who won his second Grand Slam in 2011 and has now won a total of 19 in the past decade.
“They are the reason why I am where I am today. They made me realise what I had to do to get stronger – mentally, physically and tactically.
“The last 10 years have been an incredible journey that is not stopping here.”
Not only did Djokovic have to contend with Berrettini’s fierce serving and thumping forehand, he also had to deal with the loud vocal support for the popular Italian.
There were moments when Djokovic seemed irked by chanting of his opponent’s name, responding with steely glares and exchanges with the crowd.
Despite that, there was nothing other rapturous acclaim when he sealed a third successive title on Centre Court.
Berrettini beaten but not down
It was not a straightforward afternoon against the in-form Berrettini, though.
The world number nine warmed up for the All England Club by lifting the Queen’s title, extending his winning record on the British grass courts this summer to 11 matches by reaching the SW19 final.
There was a tense start from both men in a stadium allowed a 100% capacity, with two double faults from Djokovic in the opening game showing even the all-time greats still suffer from nerves on the biggest of occasions.
After settling down to break for 3-1 and then move 5-2 ahead, Djokovic missed a set point in the eighth game and was unable to serve out in the following game as Berrettini broke back.
It felt as though Berrettini needed to win the first set to stand any chance of victory and it seemed the Centre Court crowd also knew how important the tie-break was for the Italian.
Holding a 6-4 lead, he landed a 138mph ace down the middle to clinch the opening set after one hour and 10 minutes.
Djokovic came out fighting at the start of the second set. After breaking in the first game, he earned another in the third when the pressure told on Berrettini and he dumped a forehand into the net on the third break point.
From a 5-1 lead, Djokovic was pegged back to 5-4 again after Berrettini fended off three set points in the ninth game.
Unlike the first set, Djokovic had the comfort of a double break and at the second attempt served out to love to level.
With the crowd chanting in support of Berrettini, Djokovic gained an early break in the third set which he would not concede. The Serb responded to that break by prodding his temple to indicate his mental resolve and clarity of thought in the most tense moments of the biggest matches.
A tight fourth set hung in the balance until Djokovic set up a break point at 3-3 with a glorious cross-court forehand winner. Berrettini produced a double fault, giving Djokovic a lead that he would not relinquish.
“I’m really happy with the final and hopefully it will not be my last one here or my last one in a Slam,” said Berrettini.
“I’m so honoured to be here and it’s been a really great run for two weeks.
“Also with [winning] Queen’s, I could not ask for more, well, maybe, a bit more.”
‘Djokovic has taken tennis to another level’ – reaction
Former British number one Tim Henman on BBC TV: “It has really been a fantastic tournament with a very worthy winner. Djokovic had an incredible tournament, he came in as a huge favourite and he put in an absolute masterclass in the two weeks. No doubt the best player won this tournament.
“He talks about his hunger, desire and motivation but there is no doubt he want to be the leader of that conversation when it comes to numbers of Grand Slams. The calendar Grand Slam is absolutely on the cards and is one of the greatest achievements in the sport. After the challenges of 2020 to have the players back in the stadium – it’s a great way to finish.”
Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli on BBC Radio 5 Live: “It is entirely sensational that Novak has been able to win the 20th Grand Slam. What a final – we have been so lucky to witness such a great level from both players. Berrettini pushed Djokovic – it takes two players to have such a great fight. Novak Djokovic has just taken tennis to another level.”
Six-time Grand Slam champion Boris Becker on BBC TV: “It has been a difficult three weeks, just playing and being in the hotel, you need great people around you on your side and it’s great for Novak to show his appreciation for his team.”