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He may not be as popular as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, but it’s getting harder and harder for even Novak Djokovic’s haters to deny he’s probably the greatest men’s tennis player in history.
Yesterday, the 34-year-old Serb overwhelmed Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in the Wimbledon men’s final to win his 20th Grand Slam singles title. That puts Djokovic in a three-way tie with Federer and Nadal for the men’s record and it seems inevitable the mark will soon belong to Djokovic alone. Federer is about to turn 40, hasn’t reached a Grand Slam final in two years and, coming off two knee surgeries, appeared to be on his last legs during his quarter-final loss at Wimbledon. Nadal, 35, was born only a year before Djokovic but seems much older. After falling to Djokovic in the semifinals of the French Open (Nadal’s signature event) last month, the Spaniard withdrew from Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, saying his body couldn’t handle that kind of workload anymore.
Meanwhile, Djokovic looks as strong as ever. He’s been ranked No. 1 for 17 consecutive months and has won the first three majors of the season — the Australian Open, the French and Wimbledon. No man has done that since Rod Laver captured the ultra-rare calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969.
Djokovic will be favoured to match Laver’s feat at the U.S. Open in September, and he has a chance to do something even more historic — win the season Slam and Olympic singles gold in the same year. No man has ever pulled that off, and only one woman has done it: Steffi Graf in 1988. Only three other players have even won all four majors and Olympic gold in singles (the so-called Golden Slam) over the course of their entire careers: Nadal, Andre Agassi and Serena Williams.
The Tokyo Olympics might be Djokovic’s last chance to not only join that club, but to take a seat next to Graf at the head of the table. They’re also an opportunity for him to fill the only hole in his resumé. For a player of his stature, Djokovic’s Olympic record is disappointing. The only medal he has to show for his three appearances is a bronze from 2008 in Beijing, where he lost to Nadal in the semis. No shame in that, nor in falling to eventual champion Andy Murray in the 2012 semis at the All England Club, where the Great Britain team member was playing on home turf. But Djokovic, Serbia’s flag-bearer for the London Games, was upset in the bronze match by Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro, who went on to shock the top-seeded Djokovic in the first round four years later in Rio.
Despite all those reasons to play in Tokyo, Djokovic is still on the fence. He said after his Wimbledon victory yesterday that he’s “50-50” on going to the Olympics. Federer also hasn’t made up his mind, while several big-name players have already dropped out. On the men’s side, that includes Nadal, No. 6-ranked Dominic Thiem and 10th-ranked Canadian Denis Shapovalov (who lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon semis). Serena Williams and No. 9 Simona Halep are skipping the women’s event.
The Tokyo Olympics could sure use Djokovic to inject some star power into the tennis events. And, given the historical plane these Games can put him on, Djokovic might decide he needs them too.
It’s coming home? More like it’s coming Rome. England fancies itself the cradle of soccer, and it had the catchy slogan to remind us (and remind us) of that throughout this year’s European Championship. To be fair, it wasn’t all talk. England has an exciting team, led by top scorers Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling and capably managed by Gareth Southgate. And, with the final two rounds of the tournament taking place at London’s Wembley Stadium, it looked like the pieces were finally in place for the English to win their first major title since the 1966 World Cup. But it ended in more heartbreak yesterday, with Italy rallying from an early 1-0 deficit to win the Euro final on penalty kicks and stun the boisterous full house at Wembley. Read more about the match here, and more about England fans’ despair here. Sadly, some of that despair manifested itself in racist comments made online toward three Black players who missed their penalty kicks. Read more about that here.
And in case you missed it…
A few more things from the weekend that you should know about:
As England’s drought continued, Lionel Messi’s ended. Though he’s considered one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Messi was always knocked for never delivering a major international trophy to Argentina. He’d come close a few times, helping his country reach the final of the 2014 World Cup and three Copa America tournaments (South America’s version of Euro). But all of them ended in defeat. The wait finally ended Saturday when Argentina defeated Brazil 1-0 in the Copa America final at famed Maracana Stadium in Rio on a first-half goal by Angel Di Maria. It’s Argentina’s first major title since 1993, when Messi was six years old. Read more about the long-awaited win here.
Canada got off to a good start in the Gold Cup. This tournament is North and Central America and the Caribbean’s answer to Copa America or Euro. It’s taking place in multiple U.S. cities this time. After giving up an early goal in their opener yesterday, the Canadians rallied to beat Martinique 4-1. Cyle Larin, Jonathan Osorio and Stephen Eustaquio scored for Canada in the first half, and substitute Theo Corbeanu tacked one on in the 89th minute. Canada faces Haiti on Thursday before wrapping up its group-stage matches Sunday against the United States. The top two teams from each group advance to the quarter-finals. Canada last won the Gold Cup in 2000 and reached the semifinals as recently as 2007, but hasn’t made it past the quarters since then. Read more about the win over Martinique here.
Canadian Tour de France rider Mike Woods earned the polka dot jersey. Not as good as the yellow jersey, obviously, but still a pretty big honour. The spotted shirt is worn by the leader of the King of the Mountain chase — a competition within the competition at the world’s most famous cycling race that rewards the best riders in designated climbs on each stage. Woods got to wear it after taking the lead on Saturday. He’s since dropped to second in the competition, and 30th in the overall rankings, through 15 stages.
Conor McGregor caught a bad break. You wouldn’t know it from his 1-3 record in his last four fights, but the colourful Irishman remains the biggest draw in mixed martial arts. How much longer that can last is up in the air after McGregor lost to Dustin Poirier for the second time this year on Saturday night — and in gruesome fashion. The main event at UFC 264 was stopped after the first round, which ended shortly after McGregor’s lower leg buckled grotesquely. Turned out it was broken, and McGregor had surgery the following day to repair fractures in both his tibia and fibula. He’s already selling his next fight (whenever that is), vowing to “build back” from the “illegitimate loss.” Read more about the McGregor-Poirier fight and the injury here.
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