Novak Djokovic officially marked his return to the upper echelons of tennis winning his first Grand Slam title in over two years Sunday at Wimbledon, with a convincing victory over Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3) for his fourth title at the Championships.
“I would like to congratulate Kevin,” Djokovic said after. “I was quite lucky to get through. I’m very grateful to everyone who has been supporting me. The last couple of years haven’t been easy, facing for the first time a severe injury. I had many moments of doubt and didn’t know if I could come back. But there’s no better place in the world to make a comeback. I always dreamed of holding this trophy as a boy. This is a sacred place for tennis. It’s very special.”
Djokovic, who had not won a title of any kind in over a year, broke Anderson right out of the gate and raced quickly to a two set lead. Anderson had come off of a 6 hour, 36 minute marathon on Friday and looked sluggish and stiff, and could hardly challenge the former No. 1 who didn’t show much sign of fatigue following his 2-day epic with Rafael Nadal.
Credit to Anderson, though, in the third he picked his game up and behind his rocket serve, began to force the issue. After cruising to service hold after service hold, Djokovic’s delivery began to fall short as the title drew closer allowing Anderson to gain a handful of set point opportunities to extend to a fourth. But the Serb swatted two set points at 4-5 and three more at 5-6.
The missed chances weighed on the 32-year-old Anderson who lost five straight points to fall behind 5-1 in the breaker, and minutes later, Djokovic was a Grand Slam champion again.
“The first game I got a break of serve, which was a perfect possible start,” said Djokovic. “After that I cruised for two sets. In the third set, he started hitting his spots with the serve much better. He started swinging through the ball, making less errors. He was the better player in the third set, without a doubt. I was just trying to hold on and keep my composure in decisive moments. I served well, played some good shots when I was set points down and then played a perfect tiebreak to finish.”
Djokovic struggled for the first half of the season following right elbow surgery, but has worked his way back into form, quicker then even he expected.
“I did not expect to be back in the top shape already here in Wimbledon so quickly,” said Djokovic. “If you asked me after Roland Garros, I would probably maybe doubt that. At the same time there is a part of me that always believes in my own abilities, believes in my own quality of tennis. Whenever I come to the tournament and a Grand Slam, especially, I believe I can have a good opportunity to fight for the trophy.
“My ambitions are quite high. I think maybe I went against myself, especially the first few months post-surgery, because expectations were so high that I could not understand why I could not perform and play on the level that I’m used to,” he added. “But I want to thank all the people who were really close to me and really believed in me, as well.”
Anderson was playing in his second Slam final in the last year, and the former University of Illinois star has proven he’s no fluke after knocking out defending champion Roger Federer on Wednesday, then the incredible win over Isner. He’ll also move to No. 5 in the rankings.
“It was a tough start for me,” said Anderson. “You always have high hopes. Going into the match, I was hoping to draw on some previous experiences, playing at the US Open in the final, obviously playing Federer a few days ago. But I didn’t really find my form the way I wanted to. Of course, my body didn’t feel great. I don’t think you’re going to expect it to feel great this deep into a tournament when you’ve played so much tennis.
“But I was definitely quite nervous starting out the match. I didn’t play great tennis in the beginning. I tried my best to keep at it. I definitely felt much better in the third set. I thought I had quite a few opportunities to win that third set, especially a couple of the points where Novak hit a couple balls. I thought they were actually going out, managed to land right on the line. I would have loved to have pushed it to another set, but it obviously wasn’t meant to be.”
Djokovic’s 13 Slam titles are one back of Pete Sampras. More importantly, the win puts him right back in the mix with the hard courts coming up. The Big 3 are back.
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