Inspired and almost error-free, Novak Djokovic swept aside South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in straight sets 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3) to win his fourth Wimbledon singles title and 13th Grand Slam.
There was very little that the Serb did wrong on Sunday, except for a patch in the final set where he put himself in precarious situations, only to rediscover his brilliance to emerge unscathed time and again.
His opponent, who was troubled from the very beginning of the match by a sore elbow, seemed like a shadow of the player who had downed Roger Federer and John Isner to reach the final; by the time he regrouped himself in the third set, it was too late.
Electing to serve, Anderson handed over the game, in fact virtually threw it away, thanks to some atypical over-hitting. Djokovic consolidated the lead and then broke Anderson once again, forcing him to net a low volley, to go up 4-1.
Djokovic finally closed out the set 6-2, playing well within himself, making only two winners but, quite remarkably, only one unforced error. In contrast, Anderson made 11 unforced errors, many of them coming from spraying the ball either long or wide.
The second set, before which Anderson had his elbow treated, followed a similar pattern. The rangy 6ft 8in South African seemed stiff and his movement uncoordinated; in contrast, the hands, feet and eyes of Djokovic worked in perfect concert.
Djokovic broke early again and was unthreatened on serve until he was serving for the set at 5-2. Anderson earned one break-point after drilling a wonderful shot down the line. But the Serb levelled the game after a long rally, which ended with Anderson’s slice going too long. Then, he closed out the next two points emphatically.
But by now, it was apparent that Anderson was loosening up, getting back into the groove, and rediscovering some of his mojo. A net cord gave him another break-point when the game was 4-3, but Djokovic came back strongly once again, forcing an error.
From here on, the pressure was on the Djokovic serve, which seemed to virtually come apart. Leading 5-4, Anderson, stroking the ball with the old fluency, growing in confidence and getting louder in his self-exhortation, had a set-point at 30-40.
On the next point, Djokovic got a little lucky with the miscued return of serve landing on the baseline, allowing him to dictate play and level to deuce with a drop shot. But he would go on to double fault three times in the game, riding out the challenge with an interesting mix of cleverness, chance and chutzpah.
There were two more set points for Anderson at 6-5, making a total of six break-points in the third set. But this was the last sniff he would get at scripting yet another heroic turnaround.
Djokovic was unstoppable in the tie-break, securing the first two mini-breaks with a sharp forehand down-the-line pass and a ball that landed uncomfortably at the volleying Anderson’s feet. Up 6-3 after putting away an easy smash, all it took was another good serve to win the championship.
The Serb made far fewer errors — 13 to Anderson’s 32. He was also brilliant off the second serve in the first two sets, winning a striking 86% and 71% of them; the corresponding figures for Anderson were 36 and 44%. It was the slippage in the Djokovic second serve, which he won only 50% of in the third set, that gave Anderson the window of opportunity he failed to fully open.
Not many had believed Djokovic would get so deep into the tournament, leave alone win it. His last Grand Slam victory was at the 2016 French Open and his last ATP win was at Eastbourne in July last year.
Ironically, this victory will take him up only to No. 11 in the world rankings. What it will do though, now that he is firmly back from the beyond, is to ensure that everyone regards him as a serious contender — starting with the U.S. Open in August.
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