Novak Djokovic defeated Kevin Anderson in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, moving himself into sole possession of fourth-place all-time on the men’s Grand Slam titles list. His 13 Slams means that he now trails Pete Sampras by one, but he still has a ways to go to match Rafael Nadal’s 17 or Roger Federer’s 20.
Djokovic came out firing, ready to show both his opponent and the world that he was in this match to win it. He broke Anderson’s big serve in the opening game of the match, and never looked back. He quickly got another break and ran away with the first set. The crowd sensed an impending domination, and were clearly trying to will Anderson into the match from the end of the first set onwards.
Djokovic served out the first set, and quickly followed it by opening the second set with a break of serve. The Serb was locked in on return, and the big-serving Anderson had a lot of trouble keeping Djokovic out of his service games. Djokovic, of course, has always excelled against huge servers in his career. He came into this match a combined 21-3 against Anderson, Milos Raonic, and John Isner. (The Serb is only 1-2 against Ivo Karlovic, but one of those losses came way back in 2008 and both of them came in smaller tournaments.) Anderson did his best to fight back and never gave up, but he was just consistently outclassed by a clearly superior player.
There was serious concern coming into this match that the Wimbledon final and World Cup final would overlap. After all, Wimbledon left themselves well under two hours (including the warmup) in which to complete the final before the World Cup began. Djokovic, though, made sure that wasn’t a problem.
That didn’t quite work out, though, as Anderson came out much better in the third set. He consistently held his serve to start, holding in his first five tries. He couldn’t make any headway into the Djokovic serve, though, and it seemed like we were heading for a tiebreak. Towards the end of the set, Djokovic actually struggled on his serve. He saved a break point while down 3-4, and then saved an incredible set point while down 4-5. A double fault forced him to save a second one, which he saved with a great forehand even after slipping a little.
Djokovic held, though, which put the pressure back on Anderson. The South African held easily, so Djokovic had to force a tiebreak. The Serbian had to save three more set points in the game, but he managed to hold to force the tiebreak. The first three points in the tiebreak went according to serve, but Djokovic earned the first minibreak to go up 3-1. He earned another win, and that was decisive, as he won the tiebreak and the match.
For Anderson, this has to be tough. He got through Federer in the quarterfinals and outlasted Isner in the longest-ever Grand Slam semifinal. He has reached two finals in the last four Slams, but he hasn’t been able to get over the hump and actually win one. With the way he is playing in the biggest tournaments, he may very well have more chances. On the other hand, he is 32 years old. And while the tall huge servers seem to have good longevity on tour, there’s no telling how much longer he’ll be at his best. Additionally, the way he lost has to be disheartening. He was outclassed from start to finish in this match, just like in last year’s US Open final against Nadal.
Djokovic now once again seems back in the hunt for the most Slams all-time. His injury-shortened 2017 season had people wondering if he’ll ever return to the top, but those concerns are now put to bed. If he stays healthy, he could be winning Slams for four or five more years. Will that be enough to catch Nadal and Federer? Only time will tell, but it seems like at least a possibility now. He will need to be competitive in Slams for at least four more years to make it happen, but if he can be this dominant this soon after injury, there’s no telling how dominant he’ll be and for how long.
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