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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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WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles returns to U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles‘ comeback continues at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Friday night.

Biles enters her second meet since the Rio Olympics, where she earned four gold medals.

She is a clear favorite to win her fifth U.S. all-around title, which would break the record she currently shares.

LIVE STREAM: U.S. Gym Championships — 8 p.m. ET (for Olympic Channel subscribers)

Biles showed her comeback was for real at her first meet back three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic despite an uneven bars fall. Her all-around score was the highest in the world since Rio.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of Biles’ first national title, when she was a braces-wearing, first-year senior gymnast oozing with talent but also unproven. She became so dominant that the prevailing notion was that everyone else was competing in a non-Simone division.

A new generation of women go up against Biles in the two-day meet that concludes Sunday.

That includes Ragan Smith and Morgan Hurd, who won the U.S. and world all-around titles in Biles’ absence last year, and Riley McCusker, who led the U.S. Classic going into the final rotation.

Gymnasts are competing to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

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Ragan Smith defends U.S. gymnastics title, competing through pain

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BOSTON — When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.

At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).

But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.

Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.

In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.

“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.” 

“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”

Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.

“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday.

Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.

Only two gymnasts per nation can compete in a world all-around final. If Biles is one of them, then Smith has to beat out Morgan Hurd (who won the 2017 World all-around title after Smith’s injury) and Riley McCusker (second to Biles at the U.S. Classic).

Smith, the youngest Rio Olympic alternate, is determined to compete on the elite level through 2020. She can take motivation from her bedroom wall and that dry-erase board, both of which had the same quote posted — “She believed she could so she did.”

“These coming up years, it’s definitely who’s in the game the longest. It’s definitely who’s not injured,” she said. “That’s pretty much who they pick, I feel like. You’re training your whole life for one year of gymnastics because that’s when you have to be at your highest peak. I definitely feel like it’s who’s in the game the longest and who can survive and who can help their body the best.”

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