The shared 20:20 vision of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is over — three is now the crowd at the top of men’s tennis.
As the sun set on a unique Wimbledon on Sunday night the game was left in the extraordinary position of having three immortals duking it out with 60 major titles split between them.
Novak Djokovic joined the other two on 20 when he claimed his sixth Wimbledon title against the spirited Matteo Berrettini. Cheered on by a British crowd in a manner Italy’s footballers could only dream of, the 25-year-old Roman could not prevent a 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 defeat which took three hours and 24 minutes.
He will be back, but so will Djokovic, who became the first man since Rod Laver to win the first three majors of the season. The calendar Slam is on at the US Open and only the most foolhardy would bet against the Serb.
Novak Djokovic showed his championship quality to win his 20th Grand Slam title in a thrilling Wimbledon final on Sunday
Kissing his sixth Wimbledon title, Djokovic capped off a mightily impressive two weeks in south west London to win the title
He wore the biggest smile at the end as he edges one step closer to winning the Golden Slam – all four Slams in a single year
The Serbian’s success sees him draw level with long-time rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles
The world No 1 was all smiles in the end following more than three hours on court with Matteo Berrettini, who played sublime
Djokovic raced into the crowd after sealing victory over Berrettini to celebrate with his coaches in his own players’ box
Berrettini was in his first Grand Slam final and after a rocky start he soon made it interesting by winning the opening set
It should not be forgotten that this year there was only a two-week gap between the clay of Roland Garros and the grass — at its most perilous in the early rounds — of SW19. So this was the trickiest hurdle to surmount and it would explain why, including on Sunday, Djokovic was never really at his best in the past fortnight.
Consider also that the 34-year-old only had one Grand Slam to his name when Federer had 16. In reality, while Nadal has largely monopolised Paris, when it comes to the other surfaces and big tournaments one player has really dominated the last six years.
The great Swiss looks to have run out of road, while Nadal was so broken by his defeat at Roland Garros he did not make the trip across the Channel this time. Their parity with Djokovic is looking both temporary and defenceless.
We saw again in this final, as we did in the semis against Denis Shapovalov, that the Serb lives rent free in the heads of opponents when it comes to so many crunch points. That advantage has been hard-earned over a long period. His ability to lock in and force other players to take the initiative under the greatest pressure is arguably his biggest single attribute.
At 5-2 down in the first few gave Berrettini much hope but he settled and began to make life difficult for the Serbian
Djokovic impressed in neutralising Berrettini’s wicked serve but after losing the first set the Italian soon found momentum
A huge crowd turned out to watch inside the All England Club as space was firmly at a premium watching on Henman Hill
History weighed heavily upon him here and this was not one of his great performances. He was fragile at times, his second serve sitting up to be punished, but it was enough, as it so often is.
In the two big duels of the match his returns just edged the Berrettini powerhouse serve, while his backhand shaded his opponent’s similarly clubbed forehand. He knows better than to panic and when he went behind he played within himself, working out that the conservative way would probably be sufficient. He made 21 unforced errors to Berrettini’s 48.
The Italian will only improve for this experience and has announced himself in the past four weeks to a UK audience. Yet he could not join the esteemed list of players who have won both Queen’s and Wimbledon.
Centre Court was packed like old times, and while that scene may alarm some people it was obviously felt safe enough by Sir Patrick Vallance, sitting maskless in the Royal Box.
The volcanic eruption of the arena which greeted Berrettini taking the first set was a beautiful sound, no matter what your view, or who you support. It had been an eventful opener and one which both players, clearly nervous, had looked reluctant to win.
Djokovic was extremely edgy at the start, serving three double faults in the first two games and allowing a first break point. Luckily for him the Italian was even more uptight and, as we have seen so often before, could not take his chances.
Djokovic was battling against the crowd but that’s not alien to him at SW19 and he soon found his groove to take control
A double fault was costly in the third set and Berrettini was left with his head in his hands having seen his grip weaken
Fist pumps helped motivate Djokovic in key moments and he soon refused to let his grip loosen with Berrettini battling
Somehow the Serb found himself 4-1 up and when he moved to 5-2 all looked predictable. There then followed a 22-point game which Berrettini held after saving a set point. That tipped Djokovic back into the anxiety zone and he was broken when the Italian reached a dropshot and flicked a winner down the line.
Berrettini knew he had to apply some scoreboard pressure to have any chance and he delivered in the tiebreak, going 3-0 up and then sealing it 7-4 with an ace smacked down the ‘T’.
As for most of this event Djokovic had not been at his imperious best, but he broke early and after getting ahead to 5-2 managed to serve it out, confidently, at the second time of asking.
The Italian was averaging 12mph quicker on serve but he needed to be more consistent than the 58 per cent first deliveries he was managing against the greatest returner of all time. He was duly broken early in the third as an increasingly assured Djokovic cleverly stole into the net.
Doing his best to keep the ball away from his opponent’s fearsome forehand he had a mini-crisis in the sixth game of the third but saved two break points, interacting with an increasingly boisterous crowd.
He was also slowing down the pace he was giving to Berrettini’s groundstrokes and drawing errors as a result. A forehand wide sealed a two sets to one lead. Just about keeping his head amid a highly charged atmosphere, at 3-3 in the fourth set the pressure paid off when Berrettini double faulted on break point to seal the outcome.
The stately Centre Court has been a symbol of continuity in disturbing times. So, increasingly, is the sight of Djokovic winning.
In an epic which soared beyond three hours on Centre Court, Djokovic pointed to the sky as he got a standing ovation
He opted for a moment of reflection as he was cheered by the sell-out crowd with history being rewritten in mens tennis again
Recap how events unfolded with Sportsmail’s Nathan Salt, as he provided live coverage of the men’s Wimbledon final, contested by Novak Djokovic and Matteo Berrettini.