August 12, 2022

LONDON – This is it.

Novak Djokovic, the six-time champion, will face Nick Kyrgios for the Wimbledon title.

For Djokovic, it’s a record 32nd Grand Slam final and a chance to close in on Rafael Nadal on the all-time winners list, with his 21st major. For world No. 40 Kyrgios, it’s a first slam final and an opportunity for him to join a long list of Australians to have won the title.

At 35, Djokovic has the experience; at 27, Kyrgios has the firepower and the advantage, in theory, of having had a few extra days off after Nadal pulled out ahead of their scheduled semi-final.

Kyrgios has won his previous two encounters, but both were in 2017, a year when Djokovic struggled with injuries and motivation. A lot has happened since then, but the final, as Djokovic said, is likely to include ‘fireworks’.

Why Novak Djokovic will win

Well, because he’s Djokovic, a man who hasn’t lost on center court since Andy Murray beat him in the final in 2013. Since that day, he’s taken his Wimbledon title tally to six and one more would put him level with Pete. Sampras and only one behind Roger Federer.

That’s probably motivation enough, but Djokovic also knows that due to his refusal to get a COVID-19 shot, the rules in the United States and the fact that entering Australia is prohibited , it could be nine months before he can play another Grand Slam. He may not have many more chances.

In addition, grass is a surface on which he excels, just as much as on hard courts. His serve has a bit more pop and his returns, still the hallmark of his game, are still as good as ever. He won 59% of the points on his opponent’s second serve, a figure that illustrates the pressure he puts on the server.

And then there is the experience. Djokovic knows what it’s like to prepare for the final, he knows how to handle nerves and even though Kyrgios has a huge serve and massive groundstrokes, he’s better than anyone at absorbing power.

Why Nick Kyrgios will win

Kyrgios says despite all his confidence in himself, he never really thought he would ever play in a Wimbledon final. But after coming through his first round match and going through several controversial moments, he played outstanding tennis to reach his first slam final.

He will go to the final with confidence, not only because of his form, but also because he won his two matches with Djokovic. Even though both were in 2017, he will remember the fact that he won both straight sets and didn’t lose serve in either match.

Although John Isner hits more aces and others don’t make as many mistakes, Kyrgios’ serve is among the best. He’s averaging 24 aces a game – more than half of his first serves don’t return, he’s only been broken six times and he lands 70% of his first serves. If he does that against Djokovic, he will have a chance.

He also had a few days off after Nadal’s withdrawal, so he should enter the final fresh and eager to leave. With warm weather forecast for the final, chilliness could be a factor.

What’s going to happen ?

On paper, and given his experience, Djokovic must be the favourite. But he’s started his last two games slow, two sets against Jannik Sinner and one set against Cameron Norrie, so he’ll want to avoid another one. Kyrgios has the firepower to knock anyone off the pitch, but he’ll probably have to play the perfect game and serve his best to get there. Chances are Djokovic will find a way, perhaps in four tight sets.