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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 November 2018

Novak Djokovic crushes tired Kevin Anderson to clinch fourth Wimbledon singles title

Serbian former world No 1 makes remarkable career comeback to lift 13th grand slam trophy

Serbia's Novak Djokovic is fourth in the all-time list of grand slam singles title winners in the men's game. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters
Serbia's Novak Djokovic is fourth in the all-time list of grand slam singles title winners in the men's game. Andrew Couldridge / Reuters

Novak Djokovic overcame “many moments of doubt” to end the toughest year of his career with the Wimbledon title following a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 win against a visibly exhausted Kevin Anderson yesterday.

Djokovic, 31, retired from his Wimbledon quarter-final in 2017 and has endured a ­frustrating 12 months, caused primarily by a long-term elbow injury.

However, the Serbian former ­No 1 has rediscovered his form and fitness, peaking at the ideal time to clinch his fourth Wimbledon title and 13th overall grand slam.

“It’s more special as it’s the first time I can hear my little boy say ‘daddy, daddy’,” said Djokovic, whose son Stefan was up in the players box.

A comprehensive victory for Djokovic was no doubt aided by Anderson’s previous round exploits.

Anderson spent a ­combined 11 hours on court in his ­quarter-final and semi-final wins over defending ­champion Roger Federer and American John Isner respectively, and it was clear early on that the eighth seed was struggling for sharpness.

The dangerous and reliable serve lacked zip, and the footwork was too ­ponderous, particularly against Djokovic’s deep and powerful returns.

Having arrived in the final with 172 aces to his name, ­Anderson managed just 10 ­yesterday.

Djokovic was in no mood to play nice and a 29-minute first set saw the Serbian race into the lead.

­There was no improvement from Anderson in the second set, either, as the South African soon found himself 4-1 down as Djokovic continued to dominate all aspects of the match.

However, just as it seemed Anderson was down and out, he displayed remarkable powers of resolve to come out fighting in the third set.

He had five set point chances to take the match to a fourth, only for Djokovic to hold his nerve and win the championship in the tie-break.

“I would like to congratulate Kevin, he deserves it,” ­Djokovic said.

“He’s had an incredible run, he’s had quite a few hours out on court, and being in his first Wimbledon final he didn’t play his best for two sets. But in the third set he was the better player and I was quite lucky to get through.”

It was only a matter of weeks ago that Djokovic, one of ­tennis’ all-time great ­champions, revealed his concerns regarding his future in the sport and the fears over whether he could ever reclaim past glories.

Winning Wimbledon has certainly gone some way to banishing those concerns.

“It’s easy to talk now! But I really had to trust the process and put trust in myself,” said Djokovic, who will move up to No 10 in the world rankings.

“I owe a great thanks to my team, to everyone who has been supporting me during the last couple of years that have not been easy.

“I had the surgery and was absent from the tour for six months and faced this sort of severe injury for the first time.

“I didn’t know what to expect and had many moments of doubt and didn’t really know if I could come back to the level to compete.

“This is my first grand slam final in a couple of years and there is no better place in the world to complete the ­comeback.

“This is a sacred place in the world of tennis. I always dreamed of holding this trophy as a young boy so this is very, very special.

“I have had that privilege to be part of these finals five times and I’ve won four titles.

“I’m really grateful and I’m trying to enjoy the moment and cherish it with the people close to me and everyone around the world.”

For Anderson it was more grand slam final heartbreak, having lost in straight sets to world No 1 Rafael Nadal in his major final debut at the US Open last year.

“I tried my best. I came close to taking it to a fourth set but Novak is a true champion of our sport,” said Anderson, who was the first South African in the men’s final in 97 years and will rise to No 5 in the world rankings.

“I am definitely not as fresh as I was at the start of the week. “But I’d have given another 21 hours to have the opportunity to play out here, it really meant a lot to me.

“The first two sets, Novak beat up on me pretty bad.

“But this is an amazing tournament and players give everything to be on this court. Only a few have done it."