MIKE DICKSON: Djokovic sets up final showdown for the ages

MIKE DICKSON: Novak Djokovic has set up a bad-boy showdown for the ages after reaching the Wimbledon final – where the formidable Serb will be gunning for a 21st Grand Slam against Nick Kyrgios

  • Novak Djokovic has set up a bad-body showdown for the Wimbledon final 
  • The Serb will take on Australia’s Nick Kyrgios on Centre Court on Sunday 
  • The match promises to be an exciting affair due to their respective personalities 
  • The six-time Wimbledon champion will be gunning for a 21st Grand Slam title  

The men’s singles final at Wimbledon tomorrow and it is time to pick your villain.

Going for his first Major will be Nick Kyrgios, the gifted but often wayward son of Canberra who, as ever, has come through the draw with controversy in hot pursuit.

Against him will be the insanely formidable Novak Djokovic, desperately trying to get back within one Grand Slam title of the absent Rafael Nadal.

Novak Djokovic has set-up a showdown for the ages for Sunday’s Wimbledon final

Nick Kyrgios progressed to the final after Rafael Nadal withdrew from the match through injury

It takes a lot to force a booing sound out of the genteel Centre Court crowd, but both of them inadvertently managed it at the end of the Serbian’s clinical dismantling of Cam Norrie.

Djokovic blowing kisses to a barracker in the crowd in the moment of victory set them off on Friday. It happened just when the arena seemed prepared to accept that the home favourite had been beaten by the better player.

Then came a further expression of disapproval – again mixed with some support – when on court interviewer Rishi Persad mentioned the name of Kyrgios in his polite interrogation.

So it will be a strange men’s Wimbledon final in terms of allegiances, and with not a Russian in sight. You have to go back to 1984, when John McEnroe crushed Jimmy Connors, to find a pair who inspire their fair share of loathing along with the usual admiration.

The Serb beat Norrie 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 on Centre Court to book his place in the final

Djokovic and Kyrgios are even more of an odd couple in the context of a sport which, if anything, often sees a surfeit of schmaltzy respect among its leading protagonists.

No Roger and Rafa love-ins here, and it might be all the more exciting for it.

Djokovic has been relatively well received at Wimbledon this year, much more so than would have been expected a few months ago.

His refusal to be vaccinated against Covid – which saw him deported from Kyrgios’s homeland only six months ago amid a firestorm of bad publicity – has barely merited a mention this fortnight.

As an issue it has withered here, rather like the stripping of computer points which is going to have such a distorting effect on the rankings.

The 35-year-old is searching for a 21st Grand Slam title as he pursues Nadal’s record of 22

Djokovic is desperate for the win regardless, and not just because there will be £2 million on the table.

As it stands, his position on vaccination means that he will not be able to compete at a Grand Slam until next year’s French Open. The United States will not allow him in, and he is serving a ban from entering Australia.

He needs a 21st Slam to keep in touch with Nadal’s 22. It explained his nerves at the start, and how he was never going to meekly submit in the face of Norrie’s impressive opening.

That is the problem in beating these titans of the modern game in the biggest tournaments. The best-of-five format allows them to regroup and use their experience, as the young Italian Jannik Sinner learned brutally in the quarter final.

Norrie could never get that close, although he can walk away with his head held high after a run which has introduced him to far wider constituency beyond tennis fans.

British No. 1 Norrie can hold his head high after his valiant performance against Djokovic

Djokovic paid him the compliment afterwards of comparing the British number one’s professionalism to his own. He told of how his opponent had brought his own set of scales into the locker room to measure his weight exactly before the match, which he considered impressive.

That kind of attitude has seen Norrie go from 71 at the start of last year to the cusp of the top ten.

There will come a day quite soon when the powers of Djokovic and Nadal will diminish. While as naturally blessed with talent as some, at his rate of improvement there is no reason why the 26 year-old lefthander should not be in the shake up that will naturally come about at the top of the game.

It has been a decent summer for the Brits, who can now field a football team’s worth of names on tour that are recognisable to the public. Right now, if you were appointing a captain, it would Norrie.

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