Djokovic’s “composure” beats Kyrgios at Wimbledon 2022
If people still don’t admire Novak Djokovic, they should read the transcript of the Australian immigration officers interrogating him at the airport in January before Australia detained and deported the defending Australian Open champion.
Djokovic’s answers showed extraordinary composure in the face of brutish bureaucracy and parochial politics. On the worst night of his life, Novak was the same thoughtful, balanced and empathetic person that we saw win 21 grand slam finals, including his 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 victory over Nick Kyrgios to win The Championships at Wimbledon on Sunday.
It’s this quality that caught Nick’s attention. “I played a hell of a first set and put myself in a position to obviously take a stranglehold of the match,” said Kyrgios after the match. “He’s just really composed. It’s weird, I felt like he didn’t do anything amazing today. He returned obviously the way he returns. But he was just so composed. That’s what I was just thinking to myself. In big moments, it just felt like he was never rattled. I feel like that’s his greatest strength, he just never looks rattled. He just looks completely within himself the whole time. Didn’t look like he was playing overaggressive, even though it felt like he was playing big.”
Nick added that he had trouble sleeping in the nights before the final due to the anxiety and pressure which finally lifted off his shoulders after the final.
Djokovic feels those pressures too. But he’s learned how to handle them. Djokovic said it was frustrating “seeing balls pass by” early in the match, which also put pressure on his own service games. “But I felt the ball really well from back of the court,” Djokovic said. “I just stayed there and pushed him to the limit, and I got the reward.”
Kyrgios said Djokovic, who hasn’t lost on Centre Court since 2013, drew upon his wealth of experience. “When you win an event that much, when you’ve been in those situations, it’s unbelievable. You can tell yourself you’ve been here before. The confidence and the belief in yourself, that only comes with achievement or something that he’s achieved like that many times. I can only imagine how confident he feels every day, especially at Wimbledon, walking around.”
Djokovic thanked Kyrgios for praising his composure. “I knew that that probably was one of the key elements today in order to win against him. Not that he’s not composed, but he has never played in a Wimbledon finals. We know that also he kind of has his ups and downs in the match. My experience of playing in this kind of occasion before could eventually decide or could help to my own advantage and favor.”
Djokovic pointed to Kyrgios losing his temper after blowing 40-Love leads with unforced errors. “I obviously wanted to play every point regardless of being 40-Love down. Just wanted to practice trying to get his serves back, eventually wait for the opportunity. It was presented actually. He played maybe a couple of loose points, double-fault, deuce, started talking to his box. I felt maybe that’s the moment where I could break his serve, which happened. It was a huge momentum shift I think because up to that point we were quite even. Two sets to one up, obviously things are looking slightly different.”
Djokovic took care of his serve and didn’t allow himself to get distracted by Nick berating his box for being too relaxed when he was up 40-Love.
As the match progressed, Novak increasingly exposed Nick’s footwork and positioning, and he wore down his legs. “I felt maybe in the fourth he was not moving from back of the court as good as he was doing that in the first two to three sets,” said Djokovic. “I felt in the tiebreak when it mattered, I managed to read his serve couple of times. Crucial 2-1 up for me, 3-1 up for me. Blocked his serve back in play. Made him play an extra shot, and he missed.”
Kyrgios said the fortnight at Wimbledon taught him about the mental fortitude required to win it. “It takes a hell of an athlete mentally and physically to win one of these things,” Kyrgios said. “Mentally it’s another beast. To come back here for two weeks in a row. None of the people in this room understand it. Like for me it hasn’t been easy the last three or four days to block everything out on social (media), just everything, and try and just find the balance. It’s so easy to access all that stuff. I’ve really tried to make a conscious effort of trying to focus on the task on hand.”
“I don’t think past tennis players understand that either, like the older guys. They don’t understand how much negativity and opinions get thrown your way. It’s hard. It’s really hard to deal with all that. I commend Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal. These guys, what they deal with must be insane. And that is, for me, that shows the sign of a champion. That’s what they deal with, as well, and then being able to perform, it’s incredible.”
Kyrgios said he was exhausted. “Even if it’s support … it’s just a lot mentally. Everyone’s supporting you. There are negative comments. Like the pressure of playing finals at Wimbledon. Am I going to do good? Am I going to behave well for me? There’s so many things.”
“Like playing Djokovic is a hard enough task as it is. To go out there, I feel like I lost this match, but I feel like there’s just weight off my shoulders. I feel like there’s so much weight on my shoulders all the time when I step out on the tennis court, now it’s just released and I feel amazing. This is the best I’ve felt the two weeks.”
“I was obviously super excited to be here and I had some high hopes, but I’ve never felt, to be honest, good. I just felt so much pressure. There’s so much, like, anxiety, pressure to do things or achieve things. If I don’t do well, like it’s just so much. So I feel unbelievable. Like I’m two beers deep.”
—words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media, all rights reserved