5 Wimbledon takeaways: Djokovic closes Grand Slam gap

Serbia's Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Australia's Nick Kyrgios in the final of the men's singles on day fourteen of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, Sunday, July 10, 2022. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

The diligent maintenance workers, frenetic ball boys, and bewilderingly patient chair umpires can breathe a collective sigh of relief.

The third Grand Slam of the tennis calendar has wrapped up from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. A familiar champion and legend is back hoisting a trophy he has held dearly for years, while a new face of tennis won her first ever major.

Here are five things we learned from the Wimbledon Championships:

Novak remains untouchable on grass, closes Grand Slam gap

He is back in the winner’s circle.

Frankly, it didn’t take all too long.

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic captured his seventh career Wimbledon crown and 21st major overall as he defeated first-time finalist Nick Kyrgios to win the men’s singles crown.

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It’s his first slam of the season and could prove particularly critical if he is unable to compete in New York at the U.S. Open.

Djokovic has endured a tumultuous 2022 for his lofty standards.

He missed out on his most dominant slam in Australia and was the butt of ridicule and jokes as he was barred from competing in Melbourne due to his vaccination status and ultimately deported.

His lack of matches and tournament play allowed his world no. 1 ranking to slip away, as Daniil Medvedev took hold of it in February.

He then failed to defend his French Open crown from last season, bowing out to his rival Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

A visit to the All England Club would put his season on track.

After a strong first week of tennis, dropping only one set, Djokovic found himself on the brink of defeat in the quarterfinals, trailing talented young Italian Jannik Sinner two sets to love.

The great champion was unnerved by the lopsided scoreline as he buckled down, reduced his unforced errors, and elevated his defensive play to storm back for a 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory.

The match also featured the shot of the tournament:

Djokovic would then rally from a set down in the semis and dismiss British crowd favourite Cameron Norrie.

While pundits anticipated a possible showdown with Rafael Nadal, it was instead Australian bad boy Nick Kyrgios in the championship match, as Rafa pulled out of the field with an abdominal injury.

Djokovic weathered an early storm from the huge serving Aussie, and after staving off three break points at 5-3, 0-40 in the second set, he had full control of affairs.

Djokovic would win in a tidy four sets and has now extended his match winning streak at the All England Club to 28.

He’s officially surpassed the legendary Roger Federer in the grand slam tally, and rests just one behind Rafael Nadal for most men’s singles majors all time.

This title also ties Djokovic with Pete Sampras for second most Wimbledon titles ever amongst men’s players.

Him and Nadal have now combined to win 15 of the last 17 major titles since 2018.

Rafael Nadal was stopped by his toughest opponent – his body

He is one of the greatest tennis champions in the history of the sport, and incredibly, he has achieved so many records and accolades despite his consistently ailing body.

Rafael Nadal, who was on a quest to win the 2022 calendar slam and capture all four majors, had to pull the plug on his Wimbledon run ahead of the semifinals, after suffering a seven-millimetre abdominal muscle tear.

The injury noticeably affected the Spaniard in a thrilling quarterfinal match against Taylor Fritz, as Nadal was serving at a significantly reduced speed, and was often seen wincing in pain between points.

Somehow, despite his pain, Nadal rallied for an enthralling 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4) win over Fritz in a four-hour, 21-minute epic.

After mulling it over for hours, Nadal decided it wasn’t worth risking further injury and withdrew from the tournament ahead of his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal is no stranger to injuries, which are as much a part of his history in this sports as the achievements.

The Spaniard has missed 12 separate majors in his career due to injuries, while he’s had to pull out or withdraw from five others.

Nadal is now anticipating a three-to-four-week recovery from the abdominal injury as he hopes to get fit for the summer hard court season and the U.S. Open.

A new major champion in Rybakina – a victory for introverts everywhere?

She is soft spoken on and off the court, rarely expressing much emotion in even the most crucial junctures of a tennis match.

Don’t question it because she’s also a Grand Slam champion.

Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina stunned favourite Ons Jabeur of Tunisia with an impressive 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory to become the latest major champion at Wimbledon, a victory that capped off a brilliantly level-headed and highly skilled two weeks at the All England Club.

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Rybakina has a game that’s tailor-made for the grass courts.

She has a booming first serve which she can spot precisely, a powerful forehand and a wide strike zone, and she’s surprisingly agile and quick even given her six-foot frame.

She gained momentum early in the event when she decisively defeated Mississauga’ Bianca Andreescu 6-4, 7-6 and would steadily build more confidence from there. After solid victories over Petra Martic and Ajla Tomjlanovic, she was in imperious form in the semifinals, defeating veteran and 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3.

Rybakina’s mental fortitude shone through in the finals against Jabeur, as she quickly regrouped after dropping the first set, and decisively held her nerve in the critical juncture of the third.

Jabeur was making a charge, but Rybakina thwarted three break point chances from 0-40 down at 3-2 to get a crucial hold of serve.

She would coast to victory from there.

Although her match point celebration was low on electricity, an outpouring of emotion came in press afterwards.

The 23-year-old is still a relative unknown amongst the more casual followers of the sport.

Canadian fans will have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with her in August at the National Bank Open in Toronto.

Norrie emerges as a new British hopeful

In 2013, Andy Murray ended a 76-year long draught for Britain, becoming the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry’s triumph in 1936.

Murray would add another tally in 2016, soared to world no. 1, and has been an exemplary champion and ambassador in the sport for years.

While the 35-year-old, despite a metal hip, is still competing on tour, he is no longer making runs at majors.

Usher in Cameron Isaiah Norrie, a consummate professional who has promptly risen up the rankings in the last year and a half.

The 26-year-old notched his first career ATP title back in July of 2021, hoisted the Indian Wells crown last October, and has added two additional trophies and a final to his resume this season.

He leapt nearly 50 spots in the rankings from 2020 to 2021, reaching world no. 12, and even competed at the ATP Finals.

As the top ranked British number one, he also proved his penchant for the grass at Wimbledon.

The savvy left hander played his best match of the event in overcoming veteran David Goffin 3-6, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 to advance to his first career major semi-final.

He then put up a valiant challenge against Djokovic, winning the first set before ultimately succumbing to the great champion in four competitive sets.

Britain will now be leaning on Norrie and last year’s US Open champion Emma Raducanu to lead the charge in the sport.

Raducanu won her opening match before falling to France’s Caroline Garcia 6-3, 6-3 in the second round.

Russians and Belarusians MIA, big names also fall

It was the most contentious talking point of Wimbledon 2022 – the absence of Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the event.

Competitors from the two countries were barred from competition by organizers as Wimbledon and the UK government opted to take a political stance against Vladimir Putin’s ruthless regime and its invasion of Ukraine.

The absence did leave a void in both fields of competition as star players such as Daniil Medvedev, Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, Andrey Rublev, and Karen Khachanov (to name a few) were all sidelined from the event.

Furthermore, several household names and highly ranked players bowed out early.

World no. 4 Stefanos Tstsipas was unable to solve the enigma that is Nick Kyrgios, losing in four sets in a contentious third round match.

Felix Auger-Aliassime, Canada’s top ranked singles player, was dismissed in the opening round by American Maxime Cressy.

Proficient grass-court competitor and early contender Hubert Hurkacz faltered in his first-round encounter, losing to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

World no. 2 Anett Kontaveit continues to struggle on the grand slam stage, as she had a second-round exit.

2017 champion Garbine Muguruza lost in her first match, while Greece’s Maria Sakkari was stopped in the third round.

Lastly, 23-time major champion Serena Williams, who rightfully took Centre Court to a thunderous ovation, lost her first singles match of the year, going out in the opening round to France’s Harmony Tan 7-5, 1-7, 7-6.

One can only hope Williams is able to make another return to the All England Club, as the chances are waning at her age of 40.

For Canadian fans of tennis, fingers will be crossed that she makes an appearance at the National Bank Open.

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