Novak Djokovic vs. Nick Kyrgios
I am going to keep this short. Kyrgios does have a head-to-head advantage. 2017 was not Novak’s best year in terms of health, confidence, or results. So the two head-to-head matches probably don’t mean too much in 2022. Kyrgios knows he can win. That is the extent of what their head-to-head matches mean.
Nick Kyrgios has one clear advantage. His serve is a massive weapon that will lead to a number of routine holds. One could debate other shots between the two. Nick probably also has the better overhead. Most other strokes would either be a draw or lean in Djokovic’s favor. Movement, balance, and flexibility also fall into Djokovic’s corner.
Kyrgios is a shotmaker. He can hit some winners from improbable positions and from unorthodox techniques.
Kyrgios and Sinner are the two best opponents Djokovic will face in his 7 matches at Wimbledon.
I do not think Nick Kyrgios will get under Novak Djokovic’s skin. They seem to have become friends since Novak Djokovic’s detainment and expulsion from Australia earlier this year. I don’t think that matters much, but it does make me think a Tsitsipas-Kyrgios feel for this match is unlikely. Even if deep acrimony existed between the two finalists, Novak Djokovic is a truly accomplished veteran who is unlikely to be rattled.
I think the match comes down to a few things:
- How well does Nick Kyrgios serve? If he does not serve well, I cannot see this being close, but I expect him to serve well. He almost always does.
- How well does Novak Djokovic take care of his service games? If Novak can manage a lot of 40-0 and 40-15 games he can more easily weather any massive cuts Kyrgios may take at a return.
- How much does Nick rise to or shrink from the occasion? First-time major finalists are already a bit unpredictable. Nick Kyrgios can be unpredictable in any match. This is an X-factor. If he zones, he will be really hard to beat, but it is hard to stay in the zone for 3 full sets. If he clams up, he will almost certainly lose. Anything in the middle, and we have a normal tennis match.
- How well does Novak Djokovic return? One would expect him to return well given that he almost always does. There have been cases in Wimbledon championship matches in which a great server has used grass to befuddle a great returner. John McEnroe clobbered Jimmy Connors in 1984, and Pete Sampras mystified Andre Agassi in 1999. But there are cases in which great returners pressured great servers en route to a title. Jimmy Connors beat McEnroe in 1982, and Andre Agassi beat Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic in 1992. Grass plays differently than it did in any of those matches, but if Novak can steal a few points and a few breaks that no one else on tour could, Kyrgios may be in trouble.
- Who plays better in tiebreaks? I expect at least 1 set to reach a tiebreak. That set could be pivotal.
This match comes down to serves, returns, and tiebreaks. Eliminate all of the other noise, and we have a grass court tennis match. Tell me who in 2022 plays better grass-court tennis than the 6-time champion and #1 seed Novak Djokovic?
My Pick: Novak Djokovic in 4 sets
Kyrgios has a chance and is a dangerous opponent. On balance though, Novak has to be the pick.