Novak Djokovic revels in ‘extra special’ emotion of seventh Wimbledon title | Wimbledon 2022

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Novak Djokovic said his seventh Wimbledon crown will go down as one of the most emotional victories of his career after he defeated Nick Kyrgios in the men’s final on Sunday.

Sent home from Australia in January because of his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Djokovic has now equalled Pete Sampras on seven wins and taken his grand slam tally to 21, one more than Roger Federer and one behind Rafael Nadal.

“I’m obviously over the moon with joy and happiness of experiencing this moment once again,” Djokovic said.

“I’ve said it many times, this tournament is extra special for me because it has been the first tournament that I’ve ever watched as a kid that got me to start playing tennis. It’s not a coincidence that this place has such relevance in my life and career. It’s a relief, as well, considering what I’ve been through of course this year. It adds more value and more significance and more emotions, of course.”

Kyrgios, appearing in his first grand slam final, admitted he was “gutted” to lose but said had he won he feared he would have lost motivation at achieving the ultimate goal of winning the biggest tournament in tennis.

“I feel like the trophy was attainable today,” he said. “[But] I feel like if I had won that grand slam I think I would have lacked a bit of motivation, to be honest. Coming back for other tournaments, like 250s and stuff, I would have really struggled. I [would] kind of [have] achieved the greatest pinnacle of what you can achieve in tennis.”

Novak Djokovic is interviewed on Centre Court by Sue Barker after beating Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon men’s singles final
Novak Djokovic is interviewed on Centre Court by Sue Barker after beating Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon men’s singles final. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Djokovic said his deportation from Australia had a big effect on his mental health. “Certainly this year has not been the same like last years,” he said. “It has started the way it has started and it has affected me definitely in the first several months of the year. I was not feeling great generally. I mean, mentally, emotionally, I was not at a good place.

“I wanted to play, but at the same time when I went out on the court in Dubai, [which] was the first tournament of the year, I just felt so much pressure and emotions happening. I wasn’t feeling myself on the court. I realised at that point that it’s going to take some time, that I have to be patient, and sooner or later I will get myself in the state, optimal state, where I would like to be.”

Djokovic lost against Nadal in the quarter-finals of the French Open and arrived at Wimbledon without any grass-court match practice. But for the fourth time in a row he came out on top, weathering the storm after Kyrgios took the first set.

The former world No 1 said staying calm under pressure, such as when he was 0-40 as he served for the second set at 5-3, was the crucial difference. “I knew that that probably was one of the key elements today in order to win against him. Not that he’s not composed, but he has never played in a Wimbledon final. We know that also he kind of has his ups and downs in the match.

“My experience of playing in this kind of occasion before could eventually decide [it]. That’s what happened really. That 40-love game, he’ll probably be very upset with himself for losing that game. I didn’t win it; he lost that game with his unforced errors. I just stayed there and pushed him to the limit, and I got the reward.”

Kyrgios said he was still proud of his performance. “My level is right there,” the Australian said. “I feel like you look at what Novak has done to some other opponents … I’m right there. I played a slam final against one of the greatest of all time, and I was right there.”

Djokovic may not be able to play the US Open because of his vaccination stance, but he said he would still like to if possible. “I’d really love to go,” he said. “[But] I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or whatever you call it to enter United States, or exemption. I don’t know. I don’t think exemption is realistically possible. I think it’s just whether or not they remove [the rules] in time to get to USA.”

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If Djokovic is unable to play in New York or in Australia next January, where he is banned from entry for three years, Djokovic may not play another grand slam tournament until the French Open next year, by which time he will be 36. But he said his desire remains as strong as ever.

“I don’t feel I’m in a rush really to end my career in a year’s time or two years’ time or whatever it is. I’m not thinking about it. I want to keep my body healthy because that’s obviously necessary in order to keep going at this level [and] of course, keep myself mentally sane and motivated to compete with the young guns.”

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