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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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Kevin Anderson beats John Isner in second-longest Wimbledon match

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As John Isner endured the second-longest Grand Slam match in history — and his second-longest match in Grand Slam history — he asked chair umpire Marija Cicak to end the madness with a tiebreak.

“I was joking, of course,” Isner said.

Neither Isner nor South African Kevin Anderson wanted their Wimbledon semifinal to become an instant classic in this fashion — Anderson winning 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 in 6 hours, 36 minutes.

That’s 99 games, 102 combined aces and 569 points.

“It’s really tough on both of us, and at the end I feel like this is a draw between the two of us,” Anderson said after stopping to sign autographs along with Isner after the match. “Somebody has to win. I apologize if I’m not more excited right now, so many mixed emotions.”

Isner was bidding to become the first U.S. man to make a Grand Slam singles final since Andy Roddick at 2009 Wimbledon, to end the nation’s longest drought in his 41st career Grand Slam.

“Right now I feel terrible,” the 33-year-old Isner said, noting he developed a foot blister at some point in the match. “It stinks to lose, but I gave it everything I had out there, and I just lost to someone who’s just a little bit better.”

The eighth seed Anderson made his second Grand Slam final after losing to Rafael Nadal at the 2017 U.S. Open. He’s the first South African to make a Wimbledon final since 1921 and the oldest first-time Wimbledon finalist in the Open Era at age 32.

On Sunday, he plays Nadal or Novak Djokovic, who have a combined 29 major titles.

Djokovic leads Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9) in the other semifinal that started so late on Friday that it couldn’t finish before Wimbledon’s 11 p.m. curfew (despite the Centre Court roof). It resumes Saturday at 8 a.m. ET, before the women’s final between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber.

Isner was (and maybe still is) best known for 2010 Wimbledon, when he beat Frenchman Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in the fifth set in the longest match in tennis history (11 hours, 5 minutes over three days). The U.S. Open is the only one of the four Grand Slams that has a fifth-set tiebreak. Isner and Anderson want the others to follow suit.

“It’s long overdue,” Isner said.

Anderson proposed going to a tiebreak if a fifth set gets to 12-all.

“I really hope this is a sign for Grand Slams to change,” he said. “It gets kind of ridiculous at some point. … I can feel the crowd. They’re pretty antsy for us to get off the court.”

Anderson must regroup after spending 10 hours, 50 minutes on court between his five-setters in the quarterfinals (upsetting Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set) and the semifinals. That’s 48 minutes more than any player’s total at the World Cup this past month.

In 2010, Isner was ousted in a speedy 74 minutes in the match following his marathon, saying afterward that he didn’t have a chance.

“I need to reset as much as possible,” Anderson said.

Isner labeled Wimbledon his “house of horrors” ever since that Mahut epic. An otherworldly serve and strong forehand could not get him past the third round at the All England Club until this year and had never played on Centre Court until Friday (aside from the London Olympics).

The University of Georgia product has been the most consistent of a U.S. men’s contingent that has shown flashes since Roddick’s retirement in 2012. But neither he nor the others of his generation — Sam Querrey (2017 Wimbledon semifinalist), Jack Sock (ranked No. 8 as recently as February) and others — have broken into the sport’s highest tier.

In nine years since Roddick’s last Grand Slam final, U.S. women have reached a combined 21 Grand Slam finals (16 via Serena Williams). In the near 15 years since Roddick’s 2003 U.S. Open title, U.S. women have won a combined 21 Grand Slam titles (17 via Williams).

This has been a career year for Isner. The 6-foot-10 tower bagged his biggest career title at the Miami Open, one of the most prestigious non-major tournaments. He also made the fourth round of the French Open and matched his career-best ranking of No. 9.

Isner had held serve 110 straight times since the start of the tournament before Anderson, a former NCAA tennis rival, broke him four times. At least Isner left with a record 214 aces for the tournament, breaking Goran Ivansevic‘s mark of 213 from his wild-card title run in 2001.

“It’s up to me to not let this match linger, going forward, when I get back in America playing on the hard courts, which is my favorite surface,” Isner said as he shifts focus to the U.S. Open starting in late August. “I have to hit the delete button on this. It will be tough.”

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Roger Federer upset in Wimbledon marathon

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Roger Federer had the opportunities. None bigger than match point in the third set. Two hours later, Federer had squandered a two-set lead, shocked in a Wimbledon quarterfinals marathon by No. 8 seed Kevin Anderson.

“I had my chances and blew them,” said Federer, who lost a Wimbledon match in which he had a match point for the first time. “It was just one of those days where you hope to get by somehow. I almost could have. So it’s disappointing.”

Federer lost from two sets up for just the fifth time in his career — and third at a Grand Slam — falling 6-2, 7-6 (5), 5-7, 4-6, 13-11 to the 6-foot-8 South African on Wednesday. It’s Federer’s earliest exit from Wimbledon since 2013.

“Not quite sure what to say right now,” Anderson, 32 and a former University of Illinois standout. “Beating Roger Federer here at Wimbledon will be one that I remember, especially in such a close match. I just kept on telling myself, ‘I have to keep believing.’ I kept saying that today was going to be my day, because you really need that mindset taking the court against somebody like Roger. If you go out there with doubts or unsure what’s going to happen, like I maybe did a little bit in that first set, it’s not going to go your way.”

Anderson plays 33-year-old, 6-foot-10-inch American John Isner in Friday’s semifinals. Isner ousted 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-3 to make his first Grand Slam semifinal in his 41st try.

“Pure elation right now,” said Isner, who has called Wimbledon his “house of horrors” since beating Nicolas Mahut 70-68 in that 2010 ultra marathon, never getting past the third round until now.

The other semifinal pits Rafael Nadal against Novak Djokovic, who own a combined five Wimbledon titles. Nadal, the No. 2 seed, outlasted No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in a 4-hour, 48-minute epic (same time as his 2008 Wimbledon epic win over Federer). Djokovic got past No. 24 Kei Nishikori 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

The top seed Federer, an eight-time Wimbledon champion, appeared to have his match all but won after two hours. He had a match point on Anderson’s serve in the third set.

But the 2017 U.S. Open finalist rose to the occasion, then snapped Federer’s record-tying streak of 34 straight Wimbledon sets won.

“At that point, I wasn’t thinking about losing,” Federer said. “I’m up two sets to one, it’s all good.”

But Anderson had found his game, going unbroken on serve through the last three sets en route to his first Wimbledon semifinal.

Anderson, after losing all of his previous eight sets against Federer, dispatched the 20-time Grand Slam champion in 4 hours, 14 minutes. It’s Anderson’s biggest win outside of reaching his one and only Grand Slam final in New York last year.

“After that [first set] I never really felt exactly 100 percent,” Federer said. “One of those average days you have to try and win the match, and I couldn’t get it done today.”

It marked Federer’s second-longest Grand Slam match by games after his 16-14, fifth-set win over Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final.

This loss was all the more shocking given Federer’s resurgence since the start of 2017, rising from No. 17 in the world (his lowest rank since 2001) to become the oldest No. 1 in history at age 36 while winning three Grand Slam titles (his first since 2012).

Before Wednesday, Federer’s last dropped set at the All England Club came in his 2016 semifinal loss to Canadian Milos Raonic, who later Wednesday lost a four-set quarterfinal to American John Isner 6-7 (5), 7-6 (7), 6-4, 6-3.

Next up for Anderson is the 6-foot-10 Isner, into his first Grand Slam semifinal in his 41st try. For Federer, he said it could take “a while” to get over this defeat or “half an hour.”

“Maybe the losses hurt more [at Wimbledon],” he said. “I don’t want to sit here and explain my loss. That’s the worst feeling you can have as a tennis player.”

He may also dwell on this fact: If Nadal wins Wimbledon, he will be within two Grand Slam titles of Federer’s record (20 to 18) for the first time since 2004, when Federer had two and Nadal had none. And Nadal is nearly five years younger than Federer.

As if Federer needed any more motivation to reclaim his Wimbledon crown next year.

“I wouldn’t call it unfinished business,” he said. “I feel like I did some good business in the past here already. So I’m all right. Just disappointed.”

Wimbledon continues Thursday with the women’s semifinals: Serena Williams vs. German Julia Görges and two-time Grand Slam winner Angelique Kerber vs. 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko.

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