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Wary Djokovic battens down the hatches

Novak Djokovic is bracing for a fierce defence of his Wimbledon crown, hailing Nick Kyrgios the complete package who is finally where he belongs on tennis’s greatest stage.

Contesting a record-setting 32nd grand slam final after eclipsing Roger Federer’s 31, Djokovic is a warm favourite to retain the trophy he’s held since 2018 and land a seventh Wimbledon title on Sunday.

The super Serb is riding a 27-match winning streak on London’s hallowed grass courts and staking a claim as the greatest of all time on the surface.

Yet in Kyrgios, who has yet to even win one grass-court title and is featuring in his maiden major final, Djokovic sees a huge threat to his dreams of a 21st slam to close to within one of Rafael Nadal’s benchmark men’s tally of 22.

Even Djokovic confessed to being surprised it had taken the supremely gifted Kyrgios until he was 27 to make a grand slam title match.

“Between us players, we always know how dangerous he is, on grass particularly, because of his game, because of his attitude on the court being so confident, just going for it, being a very complete player,” the top seed said.

“It seems like mentally he’s at a better state than what he was, where he was, some years ago.

“Of course, as time passes by, you’re maturing, you’re understanding yourself what you need to do in order to get yourself to the best possible, optimal state of mind, body and soul in order to perform your best.

“These are the occasions where he loves, where he thrives, in a big stage. So in a way it’s also not surprising for me that he’s there.”

The tennis fan in Djokovic said he was thrilled Kyrgios had finally broken through at the All England Club.

“Because he’s got so much talent. Everyone was praising him when he came on the tour, expecting great things from him,” Djokovic said after shattering British hopes with a 2-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 semi-final win over ninth seed Cameron Norrie on Friday.

“Of course, then we know what was happening throughout many years with him mentally, emotionally. On and off the court, a lot of different things that were distracting him and he was not being able to get this consistency.

“For the quality player that he is, this is where he needs to be, and he deserves to be.”

Djokovic, who has lost both his previous encounters to the Australian in straight sets on hard courts, is particularly wary of Kyrgios’s deadly serve.

“His motion for the serve is so fluid and just very quick. He can hit any angle really,” he said.

“He tosses it forward so he can come in, serve and volley. He puts himself in a great position to be aggressive or to stay back. But he’s always one metre in front of the baseline.

“It’s tough to read his serve. On grass I would assume it’s even tougher to read his serve and to return because he has so many free points.

“You could see that throughout this tournament, as well. He just puts additional pressure on your serve. He moves well. He’s got great hands. So a very complete player.

“It’s going to be a game of small margins. I hope I can be at the desired level, then really it’s a mental game in the end, who stays tougher and calmer in the decisive moments.”

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