A WIMBLEDON final featuring Nick Kyrgios was never going to be a quiet, civilised affair.
The controversial Aussie firebrand ranted and raved and F-bombed his way to defeat – the eight-year-old future king Prince George treated to some choice language, the BBC apologising and everyone else trying to pretend it wasn’t magnificent fun.
Novak Djokovic survived a first-set shellacking to clinch his fourth straight Wimbledon title, his seventh in total and his 22nd Grand Slam in all, with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 victory.
And the Serb – the subject of such controversy when he was deported from Australia for refusing to be vaccinated against Covid back in January – simply drove Kyrgios to distraction with the intensity and tenacity of his tennis.
Kyrgios repeatedly shouted and swore at his backroom team, family and friends and demanded that umpire Renaud Lichtenstein that a woman who was allegedly ‘drunk out of her mind’ be thrown out of the front row for shouting at him between points.
It was the first Major final of the 27-year-old’s career – and the 32nd of Djokovic’s – and the difference in experience levels and temperament ultimately told.
During the first set, Kyrgios was pumped up in all the right ways – fully focussed, thumping aces and scattering chalkdust with his accuracy.
But as soon as Djokovic began to turn the screw in the second set, Kyrgios was shrouded in red mist – seemingly convinced, wrongly, that the world was against him.
For Wimbledon bigwigs, already embarrassed by a Russian playing under the flag of Kazakhstan winning the women’s title during a ban on Russian players, this was not the final they would have wanted.
One bloke considered a major threat to global health during the pandemic against another branded an ‘evil bully’ and facing a criminal charge for assaulting his ex-girlfriend.
Yet it was also an encounter between possibly the greatest tennis player of all time and one of the game’s most controversial and compelling characters.
Prince George – a future King of Australia too, as it stands – said he was rooting for Djokovic when asked pre-match.
But the eight-year-old was clearly in a minority on Centre Court.
There are plenty of pearl-clutching middle-England housewives who secretly love a bad boy. And during Kyrgios’ march to the final, there have been a fair few Dick Emery-style declarations along the lines of ‘ooh, you are awful – but I like you’.
Kyrgios had won both of his two previous meetings with Djokovic, both in straight sets, in North America in 2017.
And after being afforded the luxury of a semi-final walkover, after Rafa Nadal’s injury withdrawal, Kyrgios was straight into his brilliant maverick best.
In his first service game, he produced a 125mph second service ace, followed by an underarm serve.
BETTING SPECIAL – LATEST OFFERS AND FREE BETS FOR WIMBLEDON
And in the fifth game, he broke aided by a Djokovic double fault as the Serb made a similarly rusty start to his semi-final success against Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Kyrgios nailed back-to-back aces to clinch the first set – but after Djokovic broke him to love early in the second, the muttering and chuntering began from the Aussie.
At first, it seemed to help – Kyrgios forced four break points as Djokovic served for the set, bringing the roof off Centre Court with one impossible winner at the net.
But the Serb, with his extraordinary workrate and elasticity on the baseline, held his serve and we were level.
The fireworks were still there as Kyrgios was twice lobbed and twice played shots between his legs in successive points – winning one of them.
Then as he served at deuce in the fifth game, Djokovic was distracted by the female heckler in the front row and when he netted he was warned for an an audible obscenity, claiming it was a ‘f***ing joke’ that the woman ‘who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks, talking to me in every single point’ had not been ejected.
A Kyrgios ace knocked Djokovic off his feet soon after but then, at 4-4, after the Aussie had gone 40-0 up he lost five points in a row and went into a prolonged rant at his box – telling them they were too relaxed when he seemed to be coasting to a service hold.
But after Djokovic served out, Kyrgios refused to capitulate – the set going with serve.
The Aussie was calm until he held for 6-5 and did not challenge a poor line call against him, he had a lengthy rant at the umpire, claiming he had to ration his challenges due to several going against him.
Djokovic dominated the tie-break – with Kyrgios screaming at his friends and family ‘why are here? Any of you?’ – before the reigning champion racked up five championship points and seized the third.
More to follow…