LONDON (AFP, REUTERS) - Novak Djokovic overcame Matteo Berrettini, the Italian slugger with the build of a heavyweight boxer, to capture his sixth Wimbledon title on Sunday (July 11).
The Serb, who had admitted before the match that "it will mean everything" to capture a record-equalling 20th Grand Slam, dropped the first set but then eased to a 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 win.
He moved level with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on career majors with the victory and is now three-quarters of the way to the first Grand Slam in more than half a century. He will head to Tokyo for the Olympics in a few weeks but no man has ever won the four slams and an Olympic gold in the same year.
Djokovic, who has already captured a ninth Australian Open and second French Open in 2021, is just the third man to win all four Majors more than once.
“It was more than a battle. He is a true Italian hammer I felt it on my skin,” said Djokovic of Berrettini, before also paying tribute to Federer and Nadal. "Roger and Rafa are legends they are the reason I am where I am today.”
Berrettini, 25, the first Italian to reach a Wimbledon singles final, just fell short of emulating Boris Becker in 1985 in winning Queen’s on debut and then adding the Wimbledon crown a few weeks later.
“Novak is a great champion he is writing history on this court,” he said. “It is not the end it is the beginning for me.
“Without my family, friends and team all this would not have been possible so I just say Grazie Grazie.”
Federer tweeted: "Congrats Novak on your 20th major. I'm proud to have the opportunity to play in a special era of tennis champions. Wonderful performance, well done!"
The 34-year-old Djokovic, who came into the title clash having beaten Berrettini in both of their previous meetings, opened a 5-2 lead in the first set with an early break but the Italian fought back to force a tiebreak which he clinched to draw first blood.
It was only the second set the Serb had lost in this year’s championships. He reacted by racing to a 4-0 lead in the second set before going on to level the match.
A single break of serve in the third and two more breaks in the fourth were enough for Djokovic to close out the contest in front of a raucous Centre Court crowd, who kept on chanting the Italian underdog’s name.
Djokovic sealed his place in the record books on his third match point when Berrettini’s backhand slice landed in the net.