It represents an interesting state of affairs when Novak Djokovic wins his fourth consecutive Wimbledon title – his 21st Grand Slam triumph – and yet there’s a sense of his losing opponent Nick Kyrgios being the real story to come out of the All England Club this year.
Despite ultimately going down 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to Djokovic, Kyrgios came out with intent only to fade as afternoon became evening in SW19.
And while he’s far from an unknown name, in his first ever Grand Slam singles final it was the Australian’s story that has resonated with many.
A man who has battled with himself in the past, in need of external help to keep him on track at times, his fiery appearance on Centre Court was a breath of fresh air.
“Absolutely not, I’m so tired,” he joked when asked whether he was hungry for more. “Myself, my team, we’re all exhausted.
“I’m really happy with this result, it’s probably the best of my career, and hopefully one day I’ll be here again but I don’t know about that.”
His run to the final wasn’t without controversy, mixing a personality that’s so compelling with elements of petulance that can be off-putting, but his superstar brand of tennis has kept fans engaged.
And though he continues to face issues off the court – including an allegation of assault made by a former girlfriend – there’s a sense of a breakthrough for Kyrgios, and that this is not the end for the Australian.
Djokovic and Kyrgios villains
Despite the disparity in titles, something he shares with the 2022 Wimbledon champion is the ability to be pinned as the villain but shine nonetheless.
Djokovic has not always enjoyed the backing of the Centre Court crowd but there’s a feeling of mellowing in his 35th year – he has smiled his way through this tournament and resonated with fans.
The addition of his seventh Wimbledon title may be his only one this year, with his vaccination status an obstacle to his potential appearance in the US Open, but Djokovic has closed the gap to Rafael Nadal’s current Slam record of 22.
The tennis on south west London’s premier court was astonishing under the Sunday sun and it took until the second set for Djokovic to win his first ever break of serve against the Australian – in their third meeting – and take his first ever set against the 27-year-old after Kyrgios had raced away in the first.
But from there there was always a feeling that the Serbian would eventually take the title. He became aggressive and accurate in trying to solve problems posed by Kyrgios while his opponent seemed to turn to his routine of shouting at coaches and complaining left, right and centre.
“He’s a bit of a God, I’m not going to lie,” Kyrgios said of his opponent as he held the silver plate for coming second at the greatest tennis tournament on the calendar.
“I never thought I’d be saying so many nice things about you considering our relationship – ok, it’s officially a bromance,” Djokovic replied.
“I’ve lost words for what this tournament and this trophy means to me,” he added. “It always has been and always will be the most special tournament in my heart, the one that motivated me to start playing tennis.
“I saw Pete Sampras win his first Wimbledon in 1992 and I asked my dad and mum to buy me a racket.
“I always dreamed of coming here and playing.”
There was an audible tone of reflection in the voice of Djokovic – his wait for another Slam could be nearly 10 months away – but there’s no suggestion he’ll stop in his chase for 23.
It was another brilliant Wimbledon final, a battle of personalities and styles, and a gentle reminder of the pure excellence the short grass season demands of its athletes.