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Novak Djokovic sweeps Kevin Anderson for 4th Wimbledon title

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Novak Djokovic, after the injuries, the coaching changes, the undisclosed private issues, the ranking drop, is a Grand Slam champion for a 13th time, and for the first time since he was the world’s best player more than two years ago.

The Serb swept a surely exhausted Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3) for his fourth Wimbledon title. In the 50-year Open Era, the only men with more are Roger Federer (eight), Pete Sampras (seven) and Bjorn Borg (five).

He celebrated as he did after his previous Wimbledon titles, tasting the Centre Court grass.

“I had a double portion this year to treat myself,” Djokovic said. 

Djokovic, seeded 12th and ranked 21st, became the lowest-ranked man to win Wimbledon since Goran Ivanisevic‘s run to the 2001 title as a wild card.

“I had many moments of doubt,” he said. “I didn’t know, really, if I could come back to the level to compete.”

Djokovic’s resurgence has not been as improbable as the serve-and-volley Croat, but still impressive.

Sunday marked his first Grand Slam final since the end of a stretch where the Serb was in his own class. He once held all four Grand Slam titles, something neither Roger Federer nor Nadal has done.

Then came the struggles, accompanied and for a large part caused by off-court changes.

He cited “private issues” in summer 2016, split from coach Boris Becker that fall, was coached by Andre Agassi for less than a year, missed the 2017 U.S. Open for an elbow injury, then underwent surgery to fix it in January.

He came to Wimbledon having won two tournaments in the last two years and none in the last 12 months, his longest drought since his first of 69 ATP titles at age 19 in 2006.

“I had to really trust the process, and I’ve said this before, I had to trust in myself,” he said. “There’s no better place in the world to make a comeback.”

The Djokovic of old lit up a closed-roof Centre Court in the semifinals, a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8 win over Nadal. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have now won the last seven Grand Slam titles and 46 of the last 54 dating to the 2005 French Open. It had many declaring that Novak was back.

“I’m very close, if not better,” the 31-year-old said Sunday.

Upon winning the title, Djokovic’s first words in an on-court interview were not about overcoming adversity.

“It feels amazing because, for the first time in my life, I have someone screaming daddy, daddy,” Djokovic said, pointing to 3-year-old son Stefan, who was clapping while being held by Djokovic’s wife, Jelena. Stefan wasn’t allowed into Djokovic’s box until after the match due to a Wimbledon rule for children younger than 5.

Anderson showed the effects of spending 10 hours, 50 minutes playing between the quarterfinals (upsetting Federer 13-11 in the fifth) and semifinals (26-24 in the fifth over John Isner).

The eighth seed had six unforced errors in the first two games and was broken three times in his first five service games. In the 6-hour, 36-minute semifinal, he was broken twice in 99 total service games. He also received treatment on his right arm, near the elbow, after the first set.

In all, Anderson was 0-for-7 on break points, while Djokovic converted all four of his break chances on the 6-foot-8 South African’s serve.

Anderson, the oldest first-time Wimbledon finalist in the Open Era at age 32, was seeking his first Grand Slam title after losing to Nadal in the 2017 U.S. Open final.

“The first two sets Novak beat up on me pretty bad,” Anderson said. “I’m definitely not feeling as fresh now as I was coming into the week.”

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2019 USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships TV schedule

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NBC, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold combine to air live daily coverage of the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, starting Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa.

The top three per individual event are in line to qualify for the world championships in Doha in late September and early October, should they have the world standard time or mark.

Sprint trio Christian Coleman (100m and 200m), Noah Lyles (200m) and Michael Norman (400m) headline the event. Each is 23 or younger and fastest in the world this year in his primary event.

Allyson Felix and Justin Gatlin represent the veterans. Felix, a 33-year-old with 17 combined Olympic and world titles, is entered in her first meet since having daughter Camryn via emergency C-section at 32 weeks on Nov. 28.

Gatlin, 37, has a bye into worlds as the defending 100m champion. He could be Coleman’s biggest threat in the 100m after breaking 9.9 seconds for the first time since the Rio Olympics.

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Day Time (ET) Network Key Events
Thursday 3:45-11 p.m. NBC Sports Gold 100m first round, 10,000m finals
Friday 1:30-9 p.m. NBC Sports Gold 100m finals, 400m semifinals
7-9 p.m. NBCSN
Saturday 2-6 p.m. NBC Sports Gold Finals: 400m, women’s 1500m, 100m hurdles
4-6 p.m. NBC
Sunday 4-9 p.m. NBC Sports Gold Finals: 200m, men’s 1500m, 110m hurdles
7-8 p.m. NBCSN
8-9 p.m. NBC

Beachvolley Vikings, sport’s top team, inspired by Kerri Walsh Jennings

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HAMBURG, Germany — Kerri Walsh Jennings smiled at the decade-old picture of her posing with a young Anders Mol.

Since Walsh Jennings met Mol, the now-22-year-old and his 23-year-old Norwegian partner Christian Sorum have become the top-ranked team in the world.

“Those boys inspire me a lot,” she said. “That’s how I want Brooke [Sweat] and I to play, really.”

Walsh Jennings met Mol in his native country at the 2009 FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships in Stavanger. Mol attended with his father, Kare, who was coaching the Norwegian teams, as well as his brother Hendrik and cousin Mathias Berntsen.

Walsh Jennings noticed the young Norwegians, who are now nicknamed the “Beachvolley Vikings,” eagerly doing the pepper drill on the sand between matches from 6 a.m. until well after dark.   

“She walked by and told us, ‘Hey, you guys are so good that if you guys keep practicing, you’re going to be playing on this stage one day,’” Mol recalled.

Mol’s passion for the sport only increased as he hit puberty.

As a teenager, he derailed his family’s vacation plans in San Diego by making them battle traffic up to Los Angeles to hear Walsh Jennings give a speech.

Childhood photo of Mol and Walsh Jennings. Courtesy of Anders Mol.

At 13 or 14, Mol and his brother beat their parents for the first time. Impressive, considering Mol’s father was a former national indoor team player and his mother, Merita Mol (née Berntsen), competed in beach volleyball at the 1996 Olympics.

At 16, he enrolled in ToppVolley Norway, a beach and indoor volleyball school that is a two-hour boat ride north from Stavanger. For three years, the boys would attend classes, lift weights and train for a minimum of 20 hours per week. Free time often meant pick-up soccer matches, which occasionally proves useful on the sand.

“It doesn’t look like Hogwarts,” Mol said, “but it sounds like Hogwarts because everybody is like a big family in this school.”

When Mol graduated, he played a year of professional indoor volleyball in Belgium. But he quickly realized that he preferred the freedom of beach volleyball, where players book their own travel, hire their own coaches and schedule their own practices.

In 2017, Mol was named the international tour’s top rookie. By the end of the 2018 season, Mol and Sorum had firmly established themselves as the world’s top team, winning their final three international tournaments including the FIVB World Tour Finals.

They have not slowed down in 2019, winning three tournaments on three different continents over three weeks in May. They have won 36 of their last 38 matches.

“The best blocker right now is Anders, and the best defender is Christian,” said three-time U.S. Olympian Jake Gibb. “It’s not really fair.”

The only two teams who have defeated the Norwegians since April 28 — Germany’s Julius Thole/Clemens Wickler and Brazil’s Bruno Schmidt/Evandro Goncalves — did not offer any clues on how to do it.

Wickler admitted that “in no other stadium would we have won this game” after the Hamburg world championships semifinal played July 6 in front of more than 12,000 hometown fans, the largest crowd either team had ever experienced. Mol and Sorum rebounded to claim the bronze medal the next day over Americans Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb.

Bruno rebuffed multiple teams who approached him looking for the secret to beating Norway.

“I’ve never seen a player like Anders who is so powerful and so skilled at the same time,” said Bruno, the 2016 Olympic champion with former partner Alison. “Players like that raise the level of this sport.”

Much of their success can be attributed to their defensive scheme. Most teams play a “zone defense,” with each player defending half of the court. The Norwegians play a “read defense” that gives each player the freedom to react and move to where they think the attacking player will hit the ball.

NBC Sports analyst Kevin Wong compared the Norwegians to “free safeties” in football.

“They are the most innovative defensive team we’ve seen in a long time,” he said.

The pair is relatively unknown outside Norway — neither has a Wikipedia page in English — and even in Norway they claim they are nowhere near as famous as the Alpine skiers nicknamed the “Attacking Vikings.”

But that will change.

At worlds, the pair hired a videographer to capture content for their YouTube and Instagram channels. They launched a Beachvolley Vikings clothing line that includes a “Sleeping Christian” shirt. They patiently fulfilled each and every request for pictures and autographs after matches.

“They are like rock stars,” said American Taylor Crabb, talking extra loud to be heard over a crowd of teenage girls hoping to take a selfie with the tall, blonde Norwegians. “Fans can relate to them because they see guys around their age becoming the No. 1 team the world.”

It is not just fans who are lining up to see the Norwegians.

“I love to watch them play,” said 2016 Brazilian Olympian Pedro Solberg, who made his international debut when Mol was just 8. “Every chance I get to watch them I do, because I learn a lot from them.”

Whether Mol and Sorum struggle with anything is up for debate. When asked, Kare boasted about beating them at the card game “President and the bum.”

“They are really smart in beach volleyball,” he said, “but they are really stupid in card playing.”

But both players disputed their coach’s claim.

“It’s not true at all,” Sorum said. “He loses even when he has the best cards.”

The Beachvolley Vikings are just getting started. 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser pointed out that beach volleyball players typically do not peak until their late 20s or early 30s.

“In my book, they are already among the top teams to ever play,” he said. “There are no holes in their game. I don’t see why they can’t keep this going.”

OlympicTalk editor Nick Zaccardi contributed to this report.

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