Tennis

Djokovic takes greatness to further heights


Two weeks have come and gone at the All England Club, site of the Wimbledon Championships.

On the men’s side, a familiar face captured yet another major title as Serbian Novak Djokovic further solidified his extraordinary greatness with another Grand Slam.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty affirmed herself as an elite superstar with a second major crown. Meantime, a pair of Canadians delivered career-best results on the grass-court surfaces. Here are five takeaways from Wimbledon 2021. Feel free to read while consuming strawberries and cream.

More History from Novak

He’s operating on another planet.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic added another chapter to his lengthy autobiography. He defeated Matteo Berretini 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 to triumph for a sixth time at Wimbledon and moved into a three-way tie with Roger Federer and Rafael for 20 major titles.

All the usual mastery was on display, with clutch and pinpoint serving when he needed it, powerful and penetrating two-handed backhands, deft touch around the net, and spectacular defensive skills and mind-bending flexibility.

The achievements from Djokovic have been extraordinary. He’s collected eight of the last 12 majors and commanded the world No. 1 ranking for a record 329 weeks as of Monday.

He’s the only player in history to win all four majors, all nine Masters 1000 events, and the end-of-season ATP Finals.

He also became the fifth man in history to win the first three Grand Slams of the season, and first since Rod Laver did so in 1969.

As for all the GOAT talk?

There’s ultimately only one significant achievement missing on his resume: an Olympic gold medal. He’ll have to make a firm decision on whether he attends the Tokyo Olympic Games later this month.

The Ash Barty Party is on

She’s a dynamic, brilliant all-surface player with a lethal forehand, cutting backhand slice, and a tremendously sharp tennis I.Q. So why don’t we talk more about the greatness of Ashleigh Barty? Now is certainly the time to.

The women’s world No. 1 captured her second Grand Slam title and first at the All England Club, defeating Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 in a compelling, high-level final. Let’s enjoy the victory, with commentary by iconic actor and fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman.

It was a stunning two weeks of tennis from Barty, who was coming off of a nagging hip injury that forced her out of Roland Garros early and raised question marks about her health entering Wimbledon. Even more special is she won this title on the 50-year anniversary of Australian Evonne Goolagong’s first triumph at the All England Club. Barty has shown remarkable consistency across the tour; since winning the French Open in 2019, she’s had a stronghold on the number one ranking. She has a tour-leading four titles and five finals this season, and a win/loss record of 35-6. She is now a fully fledged superstar.

Big strides from Canadians

A pair of Canadians took significant strides at this year’s edition of Wimbledon, with deep runs into the second week of the major.

Twenty-two-year-old Denis Shapovalov reached the semifinals of a slam for the first time in his career, before bowing out to Novak Djokovic 7-6, 7-5, 7-5.

While the loss to Djokovic left him devastated, as he lamented missed opportunities in the first two sets, he produced an exceptional level of tennis throughout the tournament.

He scored big wins over Andy Murray, Roberto Bautista Agut, and Karen Khachanov en route to the final four. He dictated play with his serve and heavy groundstrokes but also played more efficiently from the back of the baseline, reducing his errors.

Shapovalov now returns to his career high ranking of No. 10. This event could be a turning point in his young career.

Fellow countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime also took a significant step, with his first ever major quarterfinal. The Montreal native is just 20 years old and has already reached eight ATP finals, and recorded five wins over top 10 players.

He’s also risen to a career-high No. 15 in the ATP rankings.

With the North American hard-court swing next, expect greater things ahead.

Next Gen rue missed opportunities

While 25 year-old Italian Matteo Berrettini produced a fantastic tournament of tennis at Wimbledon, reaching a first-career Grand Slam final, multiple stars from the next generation of players wilted on the grass.

Fresh off his maiden Grand Slam final, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece exited early, falling to American Frances Tiafoe in the opening round of the tournament.

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev of Russia was confident of his title chances ahead of the event, but fell to Hubert Hurkacz of Poland in the round of 16 and wasn’t shy about his feelings on the loss.

“When you’re second in the world, fourth round is a really bad result,” he said to press.

Medvedev was a US Open finalist in 2019 and has won three Masters 1000 titles, but is still seeking that first Grand Slam.

Fellow Russian Andrey Rublev was hoping to book a spot in the quarterfinals and set up a potential showdown with the eventual winner, Novak Djokovic.

He instead fell to unseeded Hungarian, Marton Fucsovics in the round of 16. Similarly, world No. 5 Alexander Zverev also went out before the quarterfinals.

If this generation of players hopes to wrestle any major titles away from the Big Three of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, they must take care of business early on in tournaments and avoid upset losses.

Age or rust for Roger?

Federer’s quest for a ninth Wimbledon crown fell short in 2021, as he exited in the quarterfinals of the tournament, losing to Hubert Hurkacz of Poland 6-3, 7-6, 6-0.

The loss also raised questions of Federer’s ability to still contend and compete for major titles at the highest level of the sport. He turns 40 years old in August and is not far removed from two knee surgeries which kept him sidelined for 15 months.

He was asked in press if it was his final time playing Wimbledon. “I don’t know,” quipped Federer.

“My goal was always to try and play another Wimbledon. I was able to make it this year. Everything that comes after, we’ll have to sit down and talk about it.”

Given his lack of play, a run to the quarterfinals here was quite a feat.

Federer has only competed in five events since the 2020 Australian Open, lacking the necessary match play to truly have a great shot at winning big titles. But King Roger is a generational, once-in-a-lifetime athlete and perhaps the most important figure in tennis history.

Let’s not script out any career obituaries for a legend in this sport as only he will know when it is time to hang it up.





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