For his 32nd Grand Slam final, Novak Djokovic will be entitled to a little novelty. He had already faced eleven different players with a major title as at stake. But Nick Kyrgios, never. And for good reason. The Australian had never reached the final of a capital tournament. It is not so common for the “Djoker” to cross swords with a novice. The first time was in Melbourne, in 2008, against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. But he was not yet the dominating Djoko of the 2010 decade.
He then had to wait more than ten years and the 2018 Wimbledon final to face a “rookie” again in the person of Kevin Anderson. Then, in 2021, one after the other, Stefanos Tsitsipas at Roland-Garros and Matteo Berrettini at Wimbledon. What do all these encounters have in common? Novak Djokovic came out on top to lift the trophy. Not easy to manage a first grand final. Even less when a monster of the stature of Djokovic.
“Playing against someone who has never played in a Grand Slam final could be a small advantage for me“, cautiously advances the one who will run for a 21st major title on Sunday. We understand his caution, but, objectively, the difference in experience is so gaping that it would be logical for it to play a role. Except, perhaps, with Kyrgios Hence the reservation of the number one seed: “We know him. He has a particular tennis, he does not seem to ask questions. He sends everything every time he’s on the courtStill, nothing looks like a first Grand Slam final. Nobody, not even Kyrgios, can know how he will react in this situation.
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Is Novak Djokovic surprised by the identity of his latest opponent? Yes and no. “In a way, yes it’s a bit surprising if we refer to his ranking, so maybe there weren’t many people to think he could reach the finalsuggests the Serbian. But we players know among ourselves how dangerous he can be, especially on grass. With his game, his attitude, his confidence, he is capable of anything.”
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The surprise, even the anomaly, is perhaps more due to the fact of having had to wait for Wimbledon 2022 for Nick Kyrgios to finally reach the final of a major tournament. “We all know what he’s been through mentally and emotionally over the past few years.says ‘Nole’ again. On and off the court, many things prevented him from fully focusing on the game and being consistent in his performance. But for a player of his quality, his place is here, in the final. He deserves it. And as a tennis fan, I’m happy to see him in the final.”
On the other hand, he is not necessarily delighted to have him as an opponent. The Aussie is a unique specimen, for better or for worse. But when he’s in a good mood, he can threaten, even beat, anyone. This is one of his characteristics, for Djokovic. “Look at his career, he almost always played his best tennis against the top players. That’s why we all have respect for him, because we know he won’t be afraid.“But the reciprocal is true. Djokovic no longer has the age and especially not the pedigree of someone who trembles.
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