Novak Djokovic’s claimed his fourth Wimbledon title in straight sets as he overcame a late fightback from a valiant Kevin Anderson.
A 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 scoreline does not accurately depict the clinical ease with which Djokovic tore apart the South African world No.8 in the first two sets. From there Anderson put on a brave rearguard but the task ahead of him in overturning Djokovic’s lead was far too great.
The Serb has endured what is, by his standards, a Grand Slam drought dating back to the 2016 French Open and was in utter ecstasy as he lifted his 13th title, one he hopes will presage a new era where he once more rivals Rafael Nadal, who he beat in a brilliant semi-final, and Roger Federer for titles.
Under the baking heat of Centre Court Anderson, bearing the scars a long and winding path to his second Grand Slam final, never stood a chance against Djokovic, who in the first two sets was merciless at isolating his opponent’s weakness and exploiting them.
At six foot eight inches Anderson is never going to be lithe and spritely around the court but that draining victory of Isner, and the previous battles against Federer and Gael Monfils, weighed heavily on the 32-year-old, whose every approach to the net looked like the last yards of a marathon.
It was all to pleasurable for Djokovic to simply move Anderson like a puppet on a string, patiently waiting for his opponent to crack. It was a tactic that rarely failed.
Anderson’s best hope of victory lay in that first serve and it was evident how much he feared what Djokovic could do with the second when he incorrectly challenged a delivery that flashed a good few inches beyond the line.
A nervy double fault handed Djokovic his first break in the match’s opening game. The advantage was soon doubled when Anderson’s clumsy approach shot was flashed straight back at his feet.
Centre Court was roaring Anderson on in his Sisyphean labour, greeting a rare break point towards the end of the second set as though it were match point, but the sense that a crowd might have turned against him only ever seems to fire Djokovic up.
He broke immediately in the second and simply refused to break his stranglehold on the match, stealing Anderson’s serve again in the fifth game, at least until the end of the second set.
Anderson resisted valiantly in the third, throwing everything he had into the last few games, when a break would have won him the set. For a split-second it looked like he had, Centre Court screaming in joy when Djokovic’s forehand seemed to be looping to safety.
It landed just inside the baseline as Djokovic proceeded to save five set points. The effort of getting so deep into the third set proved too much for Anderson, who wilted in the tiebreak.
A peerless pass from Djokovic set him on the way and victory was soon secure.
For all that Anderson’s exhaustion meant this was no true contest Djokovic was exceptional, his serves arrowing onto the white lines and sending delicate white puffs of titanium dioxide flying into the air.
It was only a year ago, here at the All England Club, that Djokovic’s injury woes had first begun, an elbow injury forcing him to retire in the quarters. When he made a disappointingly early exit from Roland Garros the Serb had even considered skipping Wimbledon. Thank goodness he didn’t.
This was Djokovic at his brilliant best, a reminder perhaps to the watching Andy Murray that a brutal injury does not necessarily spell the end. But also a warning to the Scot and the rest of the Big Four that Djokovic is well and truly back to his best.
Source: Evening Standard