Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent
Novak Djokovic is happy to see Nick Kyrgios living up to his potential by reaching a Wimbledon final, even though he knows the danger that poses.
The Australian had not been beyond the fourth round at a grand slam for seven years prior to this tournament and has spoken openly about his mental struggles and reluctance to fully commit to the sport.
Now ranked 40th, Kyrgios skipped the whole clay-court season to stay at home in Australia but has made no secret of his ambitions at Wimbledon, where he first broke through as a teenager in 2014.
Djokovic said: “In a way it’s a surprise because of his ranking. He has never reached a grand slam final. So maybe not too many people are giving him big chances to reach the finals.
“I think, 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.
“It seems like mentally he’s at a better state than where he was some years ago. These are the occasions he loves, where he thrives, in a big stage. So in a way it’s also not a surprise for me that he’s there.
“Honestly, as a tennis fan, I’m glad that he’s in the finals because he’s got so much talent. Everyone was praising him when he came on the tour, expecting great things from him.
“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.”
While Djokovic has the grand slam experience on his side, Kyrgios can take confidence from the fact he is one of only three players – along with Jiri Vesely and Marat Safin – to hold a winning record against the 20-time grand slam champion from multiple meetings.
They have played twice before, both on hard courts in 2017, with Kyrgios, who is bidding to become the first Australian man to claim a grand slam singles title since Lleyton Hewitt here 20 years ago, winning in straight sets on each occasion.
While he has had his run-ins with both Djokovic and Rafael Nadal in the past, Kyrgios has spoken graciously about both this week and has great respect for what they have been able to achieve.
“I don’t think anyone will fill those shoes,” said the Australian. “I feel like if I ever am able to lift a grand slam trophy, please don’t put the pressure on me to do another one.
“The one thing for sure, whether I win or lose on Sunday, I’m going to be happy. It’s such a great achievement that I thought I’d never be a part of. Especially at 27. I thought it was the later stages of my career. But I just never thought it would be right here. I have a chance.”
Djokovic will contest his 32nd grand slam final and eighth at Wimbledon, where the only player to beat him at this stage was Andy Murray in 2013.
Victory on Sunday would bring him a 21st slam title, putting him ahead of Roger Federer and one behind Nadal.
Despite all his experience, it was Djokovic who struggled with nerves early on in his semi-final against Cameron Norrie before recovering to win in four sets.
“I’m aware of what’s on the line,” said the 35-year-old, who, unless things change, will be unable to play at either the US Open or next year’s Australian Open.
“Every match, every grand slam that I get to play at this stage of my career, there is a lot on the line. I don’t know how many grand slam opportunities to win the trophy I will still have.
“So, of course, I’m approaching it with positive attitude and self-belief and willingness to win.”