Twenty slams! Djokovic ties Federer and Nadal with a Wimbledon victory.

(AP) — WIMBLEDON, England — After over 2 1/2 hours, the Wimbledon final was tied at one set apiece, and Novak Djokovic’s attempt for a record-tying 20th Grand Slam victory was at a critical juncture, when he faced two break points while hundreds in the Centre Court audience

Perhaps bothered by the difficulty he faced between the lines on Sunday, and perhaps by the support shown for Matteo Berrettini, and perhaps by the weight of the milestone he was pursuing, Djokovic shrugged it all off and steeled himself, as

Djokovic, who is famed for his baseline dominance, raced forward on the next two points. Berrettini’s passing attempt was successful on each occasion. After the second set, Djokovic looked into the crowd and swung his racket while pointing to his ear. He achieved what he wanted, and a chant of “No-le! No-le!” erupted. Djokovic put his racket behind one ear, heard more noise, nodded, and smiled two points later, when he grabbed the game with a 118 mph ace.

The match was over an hour later — Djokovic had won 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 — and so was his declared aim to equal the total number of major titles won by his main opponents, Roger Federer (who had 20 in 2018) and Rafael Nadal (who did There is no other male tennis player who has more than fourteen.

Of course, Djokovic wants more.

“I consider myself the best, and I feel I am the best; otherwise, I wouldn’t be talking confidently about winning Slams and making history,” said Djokovic, a 34-year-old Serbian who is ranked No. 1 and has spent more weeks there than any other “However, I leave the dispute over whether or not I am the greatest of all time to others.”

It is, without a doubt, a popular issue. And each of the so-called Big Three has his own set of fans. This season may tip the scales in Djokovic’s favor among those who are still undecided.

Djokovic, who has now won the first three major tournaments of the year for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969, will go for a genuine calendar Grand Slam at the U.S. Open, which begins Aug. 30. Only two guys have gone 4-for-4: Don Budge in the 1930s and Laver twice in the 1960s.

During the trophy presentation, Djokovic informed the Centre Court fans, “I’m absolutely going to give it a chance.” “I’m in terrific shape and am obviously performing well….” So let’s do it again.”

At the All England Club, he won for the third time in a row, and he finished sixth overall. Nine at the Australian Open, three at the US Open, and two at the French Open round out the list.

“I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Rafa and Roger. They are legends in the making. Our sport’s legends. They’re the two most important guys I’ve ever played against in my career, “Djokovic remarked. “I believe they are the reason I am where I am today. They’ve assisted me in recognizing what I need to do to grow, psychologically, physically, and tactically. “

Federer and Nadal both congratulated one other on Twitter.

This was Djokovic’s 30th major final — only Federer has played in more, with 31 — and Berrettini’s first, since the 25-year-old Italian was seeded No. 7.

“Hopefully, it won’t be my last one,” Berrettini added.

It was a major sporting day in London for his country: the Italian soccer team faced England in the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium late at night.

Play began as the sun made a rare appearance throughout the fortnight, the sky visible in between the clouds, with Marija Cicak officiating, the first female chair umpire for a men’s final at a tournament that began in 1877.

Both players showed indications of nervousness in the first game, but Djokovic’s pair of double-faults contributed to the half-dozen total unforced errors. He was on the verge of breaking, but he managed to avoid it.

“I definitely felt slightly more apprehensive than I typically do,” Djokovic admitted.

Berrettini’s 6-foot-5, barrel-chested serves had line judges contorting to keep their heads out of harm’s way. Djokovic would occasionally take cover, crouching and holding his racket like a shield to deflect serves aimed at his body.

Few opponents can return serves at 137 miles per hour and win the point, but Djokovic did so at least twice. Berrettini’s huge forehands, which he blasts past most other players, kept bouncing off Djokovic’s racket.

Berrettini explained, “I didn’t play badly because I wasn’t feeling good.” “He forced me to perform poorly.”

That’s what Djokovic does: he makes his opponents work so hard just to win a single point, let alone a game, set, or match.

Djokovic led 4-1 in the first set, 4-0 in the second, and 3-1 in the third, so this one could have been over much sooner. However, he struggled in the first set, squandering a set chance at 5-2, being broken when serving for the match at 5-3, and then dropping four of the tiebreaker’s final five points.

Berrettini roared after he finished with a 138 mph ace, but later admitted that he couldn’t hear his own roar because the 15,000 spectators were so noisy.

But Djokovic is a fighter at heart. Berrettini’s greatest attempts were blunted, and he won over the supporters as well. Djokovic collapsed to the ground, arms and legs outstretched, as he was showered with applause. He rose a few moments later, flung his head back, stretched his arms, and basked in the mutual admiration for his achievement.

“He’s authoring the history of our sport,” Berrettini said, “so he deserves all the credit.”

It was a fun finale with a few beautiful moments. On one, Berrettini produced a tweener lob, which Djokovic intercepted with a back-to-the-court flick that ended up in the net. On another, Djokovic dipped into a defensive backhand to keep the point alive and rushed forward for a winner after Berrettini responded with a drop shot. Berrettini flipped his racket end over end, caught it, and smiled as Djokovic lifted his index finger, as if to remind everyone, “I’m No. 1!”

What else could he possibly do?

It appears that there isn’t much anyone can do to stop Djokovic.

Since turning 30, he’s won eight of the last 12 majors. And, despite all of the speculation about when the younger generation might push forward, Djokovic is holding off the youngsters on his own.

He is 21-0 in the three majors this year, with final victories against Daniil Medvedev, 25, of Australia, Stefanos Tsitsipas, 22, of France, and now Berrettini, 25, of Italy.

Djokovic only committed 21 unforced errors on Sunday, despite winning 31 games.

Djokovic’s returns are on par with anyone’s in history. His two-handed backhand is an ever-present danger. He has a great ability to anticipate and reach shots. And he’ll go to any length to win: Djokovic won 34 of 48 points at the net, and 7 of 9 when he serve-and-volleyed.

Above all, he has a characteristic that statistics can’t measure: He defined it as the ability to deal with stress.

When the tension and heart rate rise, Djokovic is either impervious — or acts as if he is — to such things.

It’s all about the experience. The guts and grit. The talent and dedication.

On top of a decade of success, Djokovic has had a year of dominance.

“The last ten years have been a wonderful experience that will not end here,” he remarked.

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