Wimbledon | Djokovic and Anderson reflect on the final
BIG Daddy Novak Djokovic believes his fourth Wimbledon title triumph ranks alongside his greatest ever achievement.
The Serb overcame South African Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-2 7-6 on Centre Court where he held the golden trophy aloft while celebrating with three-year-old son Stefan.
It followed two years of battling a long-term elbow injury, motivation and erratic form after his previous Slam triumph at the French Open in 2016.
He was the better player in the third set, without a doubt. I was just trying to hold on and keep my composure in decisive moments. I served well, played some good shots when I was set points down, then played a perfect tiebreak to finish. Novak Djokovic
He said to Tennis Threads: “I think alongside the first Wimbledon title when I managed to get No. 1 of the world for the first time in 2011 and win my dream tournament, this is probably next to that the biggest achievement I had.
“It really is special considering the last two years, absolutely. I’ve never faced a major injury in my career before. I changed the racket. I also made some compensations in my game. I had to adjust. I had to get comfortable with that game. It took me a while. So I’m very, very pleased with this kind of achievement.”
The appearance of his first born – he also has a daughter Tara – also pointed how it was a motivation to have his son present at such an occasion.
The 31-year-old, who now has now won 13 Slams, said: “One of, if not the biggest, motivation I’ve had for this Wimbledon this year. I was visualising, imagining this moment of him coming to the stands, cherishing this moment with my wife and me and everyone.
“It’s hard to describe. I never had him in the box watching the tennis match. I was hoping that Wimbledon can be that tournament because he’s big enough now I think to stay quiet maybe for 30 minutes or so!
“There are special rules here, so we have to respect them. He’s under five years old, and you’re not allowed if under five to be present.
“Roger (Federer) I think had his girls and his boys as well I think last year and the years that he won at the trophy ceremony, so I was hoping I can have Stefan, too.
“He was not there till the very moment when I was walking to get an interview. He walked in. So that was just a moment that I will carry inside of my heart forever.”
Djokovic admitted there were times he felt he would never get back to his best.
He said: “There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I can get back on desired level or not. But that makes this whole journey even more special for me.
“It’s easy to talk now and look back at it and be kind of grateful, but I really am grateful to go through this kind of, so to say, mixed emotions, turbulences as well mentally, moments of doubt and disappointment and frustration, anger.
“But I’m human as all of you, I hope, here in this room. And we all have to face that. We all have to go through that. It’s a learning curve, it really is. Helped me, not just as a tennis player, but just as a human being to get to know myself on deeper levels. It’s usually in a struggle that you get to know yourself, you get to have an opportunity to rise like a phoenix and evolve and get better.”
Could Djokovic get back to his best consistently?
He said: “I understand that people are questioning whether I can consistently play on this level. Trust me, I am, too. At the same time, I can’t look too far on the road because I have to embrace and cherish this kind of accomplishment.
“If you’d asked me a month and a half ago whether I think I can win Wimbledon, part of me yes, I hope, but maybe I wasn’t that sure at that time of my level of tennis. This is obviously very pleasing and satisfying to be able to play the way I played in the last couple of tournaments, in Queen’s and Wimbledon. This is going to be a huge confidence boost and springboard for whatever is coming up.”
Djokovic had to save five set points in the third set but overall he was impressive.
He said: “I knew that Kevin spent plenty of time on the court in quarters and semis, marathon wins. I did, too. He did have a day off, a day in between semis and finals. I knew that probably had enough time for him to recover and to get out on the court and start playing at an expected level that he was playing on the last couple matches.
“But at the same time, I knew that it was his first Wimbledon finals, and it is a really different sensation when you’re in the finals of Wimbledon and any other tournament. It was my fifth, so I tried to use that experience probably, maybe that mental edge that I have, to kind of start off in a right way.
“The first game I made a break of serve was a perfect possible start. After that I cruised for two sets. In the third set, he started hitting his spots with the serve much better. He started swinging through the ball, making less errors.
“He was the better player in the third set, without a doubt. I was just trying to hold on and keep my composure in decisive moments. I served well, played some good shots when I was set points down, then played a perfect tiebreak to finish.”
Anderson, 32, hopes to learn from his slow start.
The eighth-seeded South African, a US Open finalist last year, said: “I was able to pick it up a lot in the third set. I felt I played really good tennis. Sort of as Novak alluded to in the interview, I don’t think he was just being nice. I definitely had more opportunities than he did. I didn’t face any breakpoints. I had five set points.
“A couple of them, the one I was almost starting to celebrate, it managed to land in.
“The biggest takeaway for me is sort of the belief, hopefully next time right from the beginning I’ll be able to play, you know, better tennis.”
Is Djokovic back to his best?
Anderson said to Tennis Threads: “It’s obviously tough to say. It’s a different set of circumstances. I’m not surprised that he’s been able to come back. He obviously is such a high-quality player. I practiced with him earlier this year out in Indian Wells. Even just practicing with him before this tournament.
“Obviously playing him today, you can definitely see the improvements he’s made since coming back from injury. Obviously, I think his match yesterday with Nadal was a big exclamation point to him to his physicality.
“I think he struggled with his serve coming back after the elbow, but I felt when I’ve played him before, I didn’t really notice. The serve was there today, how quick he was hitting it. I mean, if you look at the year he’s had before he was injured, it was one of the most dominating years of all time.
“If he can match that, it would be an amazing effort. I don’t think that’s a fair benchmark to set to anybody. Obviously, he’s just won a Grand Slam again, his 13th. I think guys at the top can expect to see him on the other side of the net quite frequently.”