Novak Djokovic has taken another step toward tennis immortality after claiming a record-equalling 20th grand slam title with a four-set win over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon final.
His hard-fought 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 6-4 6-3 victory ensured he became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim the first three slams of the year.
Overall he joins Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with slam win No.20.
Asked what it meant to draw level with his two great rivals, Djokovic said: “It means none of us three will stop!
“I have to pay a great tribute to Rafa and Roger. They are legends of our sport. The two most important players I ever faced.
“They are the reason I am where I am today. They made me realise what I had to do to improve.
“The last 10 years has been an incredible journey that is not stopping here.”
Federer had 16 grand slam titles when Djokovic won his second in 2011 but over the last decade the Serbian has hunted down his great rivals to achieve what had looked impossible, and the world No.1 does not seem likely to stop there.
He has already made it known he is chasing the “golden slam” – all four major titles and an Olympic singles gold medal in one year, which only Steffi Graf has ever managed previously.
“I could definitely envisage that happening,” Djokovic said of winning all four slams in a year.
“I’m going to give it a shot. I’m playing well and playing my best tennis at grand slams is my priority.”
Berrettini gave it a good go despite heavy strapping on his left thigh, recovering from a poor start to win the first set, but he was unable to become Italy’s first Wimbledon champion.
Djokovic has now won three consecutive Wimbledon titles and six in total.
The 34-year-old Serbian, who came into the title clash having beaten Berrettini in both of their previous meetings, opened a 5-2 lead in the first set with an early break but the Italian fought back to force a tiebreak which he clinched to draw first blood.
It was only the second set the Serbian had lost in this year’s championships.
He reacted by racing to a 4-0 lead in the second set before going on to level the match.
A single break of serve in the third and two more breaks in the fourth were enough for Djokovic to close out the contest in front of a raucous Centre Court crowd, who kept on chanting the Italian underdog’s name.
Djokovic sealed his place in the record books on his third match point when Berrettini’s backhand slice landed in the net.
“That was more than a battle. Congratulations to Matteo for a fantastic tournament. It was a tough match today. He’s a true Italian hammer,” Djokovic said.
“Winning Wimbledon was always the biggest dream as a kid. I have to remember how special this is and not take it for granted and be aware this is a huge honour and privilege.
“From being a seven-year-old constructing a trophy out of raw materials to standing here with a sixth trophy. It’s incredible.”