The Wimbledon title clash – Djokovic’s eighth at SW19 and a record 32nd Grand Slam final — and Kyrgios’ first appearance in a major final – isn’t the best place to fan the fires of a budding bromance, but that’s where they’ll meet at lunch-hour on Sunday.
The six-time Wimbledon champion steered clear of romance while saying the two were in a better space since January when the outspoken Kyrgios backed the embattled Djokovic, whose vaccine stance created quite the stir in political corridors.
“As a tennis fan, I’m glad that he’s in the final because he’s got so much talent,” Djokovic said. “Everyone was praising him when he came on the Tour.”
Kyrgios leads the head-to-head 2-0, having won both encounters, back in 2017 in straight sets. The matches were played on outdoor hardcourts. Djokovic, the 20-time major winner, has known it and done it several times over at this level. “The experience that I have, playing in the final against someone that has never played a Grand Slam final before could be in my favour,” the 35-year-old said, before wondering if those parameters would actually hold against Kyrgios.
“Knowing who he is and how he goes about his tennis, his attitude on the court. He doesn’t seem to be under much pressure,” Djokovic said. “He plays lights-out every time he steps out onto the court. A lot of power in his serve and his game. I’m sure he’s going to go for it.” Kyrgios’ understanding of ‘experience’ is of a road not taken.
“You win a match, you have a day off, you practice, you go again over a two-week period,” Kyrgois said of his routine during the title run to the Australian Open alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis in January. “I realized in Melbourne that it’s a really long time in one place. You can’t really go to the city. You can’t enjoy your time as much as you would like to. You kind of have to stay in your house, take your mind off things.” “In Melbourne I realized that even in doubles you do really need to just get your stuff done quick and clinical, then just rest,” he said.
“Earlier in my career, I didn’t realize that these days off and practice are so crucial.” How the affluence of Djokovic’s expertise, particularly on this surface which he rules with his rapier-like return, would weigh against the Kyrgios serve, which incidentally tops the leaderboard for aces in the tournament at 120, is the question the final will answer.
Djokovic, who has been inhaling from a bottle during matches, perhaps a treatment for bronchial issues he is known to have struggled with in the past, didn’t want to get into that discussion. He preferred to dissect Kyrgios’ serve.
“His motion for the serve is so fluid and just very quick. He can hit any angle. He tosses it forward so he can come in, serve and volley. It’s tough to read his serve. On grass I would assume it’s even tougher… and to return, he has many free points,” Djokovic said. “He just puts additional pressure on your serve. A very complete player. It’s going to be a game of small margins.”