It was devastating news to see Rafael Nadal withdraw from Wimbledon on Thursday before his semifinal clash against Nick Kyrgios. Rafa had to say goodbye to his chances at not only his 23rd slam title to extend his lead over Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer but also goodbye to his chance for a Grand Slam. However, if we can't get a Nadal-Djokovic final, I am happy that it is Djokovic vs. Kyrgios.
Storylines and notes heading into the final
With six Wimbledon titles, Djokovic has a chance to tie Pete Sampras for the second-most in history — one short of Federer. It would be his 21st Slam title, surpassing Federer and putting him one behind Nadal for most all time.
At Wimbledon, Djokovic holds an 85-10 record, reaching the Final on seven occasions, with his only loss being to Sir Andy Murray in 2013. In Djoker’s six wins, only two have gone to five sets and both were against Federer in 2019 and 2014.
In majors, Djokovic has a 333-47 career record and this is his 32nd Grand Slam final, breaking a tie with Federer for the most in men’s history. Not including this event, Djoker has played in 124 finals in his career with 87 total titles. That’s a 70 percent winning percentage. That’s a lot of experience.
Kyrgios, on the other hand, despite his talents, is playing in the first major final of his career. Had he faced Nadal that would have been his first semifinal in a major, but instead, he skips right over that and finds himself on the biggest stage, Centre Court of Wimbledon, against arguably the best grass-court player of all time. The 27-year-old has played in only nine finals, winning six of them, but none was on grass. Overall, Kyrgios is 51-29 in major matches, and though it seems like he could fit the bill nicely to challenge Djokovic, he still has an uphill battle on deck.
Novak Djokovic (-400) vs. Nick Kyrgios (+320)
-4.5 (-140), +4.5 (+100) or
-5.5 (+110), +5.5 (-155)
OV/UN 38.5 (-125) or
OV/UN 39.5 (-110)
How Nick Kyrgios can win
What makes the Australian so potent? Similar to Matteo Berrettini, Kyrgios has a big-time serve and big-time forehand. The difference between the two: Kyrgios has an additional weapon with a big-time backhand, making him that much more of a threat. In five matches, he has served 121 aces. That’s a lot of free points. He needs to bring his A-plus serving in this match and keep the points short by using the serve and volley, and not letting Djokovic find his rhythm. On the return, he needs to start the point, and put the ball away quickly by either whipping a return down the line or coming into the net.
Short points, short points, short points. Kyrgios, who does not match up to Djokovic's fitness, does not want to get into an extended rally with him. The longer the point, the better for Djokovic and it will only frustrate the Australian.
Kyrgios also needs to be focused throughout the entire match. In his post-match conference after his win over Cristian Garin, Kyrgios said he didn’t toss out any underhand serves or go for any other unconventional tactics because he quickly realized that the Chilean was a strong returner and could contend if Kyrgios slipped even just a bit. He needs to hold on to that concentration because now he’s facing the best returner on tour and possibly of all time, who has one of the strongest minds not just in tennis but in sports.
How Novak Djokovic can win
The game plan is pretty much the same for both players. Both men have all the shots to win this title. Both will need to put the point away quickly and pull one another out of position. You do so by playing a net game, adding in a drop shot, and implementing the slice. Both players are capable of doing all these things.
So, then where are the edges? Fitness, experience, and mental toughness. All three go to Djokovic.
Then there’s history. Kyrgios is one of a handful of players who is undefeated (2-0) against the Serbian. However, both matches were in 2017 and played on hardcourt at a time when Djokovic was coming off rest and potentially facing injury concerns. In his career, Djoker has suffered relatively few injuries, but in 2017 he played in just 10 total tournaments (the fewest of his career up to that point) and won just two titles (his fewest since 2010) before sitting out most of the year because of an elbow injury.
His first loss to Kyrgios was in the Acapulco quarterfinal in early March. That was only Djoker’s fifth match since winning ATP Doha in early January. Then he faced Kyrgios again in the Round of 16 the week after at Indian Wells. Kyrgios is a tough player to face in back-to-back weeks off rest.
The other detail that is overlooked: but both losses came immediately after Djoker faced and defeated one of the most game's challenging players in Juan Martin del Potro.
How to wager the Wimbledon final
If you hopped on Djokovic early with me, your job is done. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
This will be a mental battle, which means I like Djokovic's chances. This is Kyrgios’ first time here. That has to be a part of the handicap. In his major career, including this week, Kyrgios has played in only 14 five-set matches, going 11-3. Only one of those wins was against a top-15 player in Richard Gasquet (No. 14, 2014 Wimbledon). Looking at Kyrgios’ resume against top-five opponents in majors, there are losses to Daniil Medvedev, Grigor Dimitrov, David Ferrer, and Nadal (three times) in four sets, and to Federer and Murray (three times) in three sets. Only once has Kyrgios pushed a top-level opponent, losing to Thiem in five in last year’s Australian Open. Djokovic is 37-10 in five-set matches.
Kyrgios nearly lost in the opening round to Paul Jubb, a 22-year-old ranked No. 219 on tour, and then went another full five against Brandon Nakashima, a 20-year-old American player ranked No. 56. Djokovic is a man who spent 373 weeks as the No. 1 ranked player. I’m riding my Djokovic futures.
If you don’t have a Djoker future, there's one option that makes the most sense to me.
Novak Djokovic vs. Nick Kyrgios prediction
Djokovic to win 3-1 (+245)
For Kyrgios to win one set, it is priced at (-185). That’s still a high-dollar risk for someone who's never been in this position before. Call me crazy, but I can envision Djokovic winning in straight sets (+135). However, if any set goes to a tiebreak, the edge goes to Djokovic with a 65 percent win record in his career over Kyrgios’ 59 percent. Djoker is 9-3 in tiebreaks this year, while Kyrgios is 9-8. Tiebreaks become more mental than anything else.
Why not the over? Unless this match goes five sets, I trust Djokovic to be the solid returner that he is, to know how to play the pressure-point situations at 4-4 or 5-5, to know how to navigate a tiebreak in a major final, and to find another gear and play at a level Kyrgios has no answer for.
This is a tough outcome to predict, but I’m sticking with my futures ticket and riding with the best grass-court player who has a strong mindset. He's not part of the Big Three for nothing.