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Months ago, Novak Djokovic couldn’t even play tennis.
Now, he’s on top of the tennis world, and he’s looking just as dominant as ever.
After a year of battling injury, a lack of motivation, coaching changes and frustration, Djokovic has claimed his fourth career Wimbledon title — and first Grand Slam in over two years — with a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 victory over Kevin Anderson.
Djokovic got a quick break in the first set and was in control
In the first game of the match, Djokovic earned a break against the big-serving Anderson when Anderson double-faulted down 30-40. Djokovic kept his foot on the pedal with simple holds sandwiched around an Anderson hold. The Serbian star got another break in the fifth game with after a phenomenal backhand return that left Anderson no room at the net.
Up 4-1, Djokovic slammed the door shut with a hold at love and another easy hold, taking the set six games to two in just 29 minutes. The 31-year-old Serb was simply dominant in the opening set, winning 10 of his 12 first-serve points (83 percent) and committing just one unforced error. Anderson committed 11. Anderson’s biggest weapon, the serve, produced just two aces, and he put just nine of 20 (45 percent) first serves in play.
Djokovic dominated the second set
For the second straight set, Djokovic broke Anderson in the first game, and things were relatively simple from there. He got another break in the fifth game and backed that up by pulling out a tough hold that went to deuce.
Two games later, Djokovic survived Anderson’s first break opportunity, 30-40, after an Anderson groundstroke went long following an extended rally. He went on to put the game and the set away with a big serve two points later.
Though Anderson’s first serve percentage jumped to 64 percent in the set, he won just 50 percent of those points, an testament to Djokovic’s terrific returning skills. Anderson’s biggest undoing, once again, was the unforced error: He committed 14 to Djokovic’s six in the set.
Anderson played a better third set but couldn’t pull it out
Anderson began to find his footing in the match in the third set. He held each of his first four service games, and he even got his second break opportunity of the match in Djokovic’s fourth service game, but he couldn’t capitalize.
Anderson then held and created another two more break opportunities — both to win the set, but Djokovic saved both and eventually won the game, emphatically pumping his fist and yelling at the crowd with the set tied at five games apiece. After another Anderson hold, Djokovic staved off three more break (and set) points to move to a tiebreak. In the set, Anderson converted zero of his six break chances.
The two finalists combined to win their first three service points, but Djokovic gained the upper hand on the fourth point with a terrific passing shot up the line. Djokovic then used terrific defense to force an error from Anderson, going up 4-1. At the changeover, Djokovic led 5-1.
After Djokovic sprayed one wide, Anderson sent one into the net, giving Djokovic four match points at 6-2. He needed just two to finish his fourth career Wimbledon title.
Fatigue played a factor on both sides
Both players came into the final following extenuating circumstances.
In the quarterfinal, Anderson, 32, came from two sets down to upset top-seeded Roger Federer in a lengthy five-set match. Then, in the semifinal, Anderson again went five sets, this time in a marathon match with John Isner. The two men combined for the longest semifinal in Wimbledon history: six hours and 36 minutes. Anderson won the fifth set 26-24, but the match prompted debate over whether Wimbledon should switch to a fifth-set tiebreak.
The Anderson-Isner match going long forced Djokovic to begin his semifinal against Rafael Nadal hours after it was scheduled. Djokovic and Nadal played three sets on Friday night and then another two Saturday morning, with Djokovic winning the fifth set 10-8 less than 24 hours before the final started. It was the second-longest semifinal in Wimbledon history at five hours and 15 minutes
Though Djokovic faced the quicker turnaround time, it was Anderson who was more affected by the pure length of his previous matches. Coming into the final, Anderson had played nearly five-and-a-half more hours of tennis than Djokovic had (21:01 vs. 15:34) over the fortnight at the All England Club.
In between the seventh and eighth games of the first set, Anderson exchanged a few words with a trainer, and he received treatment on his elbow following the first set. Anderson has received treatment on various ailments throughout the tournament, and playing a 50-game fifth set in the semifinal certainly wasn’t helpful.
Djokovic now has the fourth-most Grand Slam titles ever
After surgeries and coaching changes, Djokovic very much looks like the force that, at one point between 2015 and 2016, won five of six Slams and went to the final in the one he didn’t win.
Djokovic showed his patented outstanding defense and court coverage, returned Anderson’s serve with aplomb and was terrific from the baseline, often turning defensive shots into opportunities to go on the attack. The lanky Serbian star came into Wimbledon as the No. 12 seed — he’s currently No. 21 in the world — and glided through the first five rounds, not dropping a set. He then beat Nadal in impressive fashion over the two-day semifinal and turned around and bested Anderson on short rest. As long as he remains healthy, he’s very much back in top form.
With the victory, Djokovic now has 13 career Grand Slam titles and moves past Roy Emerson for fourth-most ever. Djokovic is one major title behind Pete Sampras for a tie for third-most Grand Slams ever. He’ll pursue that 14th title at the US Open, a title he has won twice before, starting in late August.
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