Wimbledon’s last act: An anticlimax starring Djokovic
12:48 PM
Art Spander in Kevin Anderson, Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon, articles, tennis

By Art Spander

WMBLEDON, England — In this land where Shakespeare wrote, “This blessed plot, this realm, this England,” Wimbledon 2018 went against the basic rule of theatre and fiction.

After a fantastic build-up, hours of suspense and history, the conclusion to the tale was anti-climatic.

Not because Novak Djokovic triumphed — he’s a one-man show full of subplots — but that his 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory over a weary Kevin Anderson in the final Sunday was hardly what we had hoped.

Although it’s probably what many expected.

It was flat and lifeless, a dreary contrast to the semifinals, which were wonderfully competitive if, in this modern age of instant gratification, a bit too long — well, more than a bit.

Anderson needed 6 hours, 36 minutes for his win over John Isner in one semi, finishing 26-24 in the fifth set; Djokovic needed 5 hours 16 minutes (and two days) to get past Rafael Nadal, finishing 10-8 in the fifth set. How do you top that?

You don’t. You get too overly tired players, if one, Djokovic, now a four-time Wimbledon winner and 13-time Grand Slam winner, has the pedigree and the better all-around game. And no less significantly, as he mentioned, the experience in Wimbledon finals.

It’s not fair, perhaps, to describe the game of the 6-foot-8 Anderson, a South African who played for the University of Illinois and lives in Florida, as the tennis version of a one-note samba. But his strength is his serve. And against Djokovic, one of best returners ever, Anderson’s strength was a weakness.

Serving to open the match on yet another glorious 85-degree afternoon, Anderson was broken. You sensed his opportunity was, too. “Novak beat up on me pretty bad,” said Anderson. He now has been in two Slam finals, losing in the 2017 U.S Open to Nadal.

From 2013 through early 2016, Djokovic, now 31, owned men’s tennis, Of the 16 Grand Slams over that period he won seven and was in five other finals. He won four in a row, starting with the 2015 U.S. Open through the 2016 French.

Then at the 2016 Wimbledon, he hurt his elbow. That, along with some coaching changes — Boris Becker out, Andre Agassi out — and rumored family problems, dropped him into a void.

Djokovic finally underwent surgery on the elbow in February.

“After that, I had a really good recovery,” he said. “I thought maybe too fast. I wasn’t ready to compete ... It took me several months to regain the confidence, go back to basics. I had to trust the process ... Playing against Nadal in the semifinals here was the biggest test that I could have, specifically for that, just to see if I could prevail.”

Djokovic is from Serbia, and while he speaks English well he tends to sound as if the words were linked together by, no, not Shakespeare, but a government employee — if one with the great ability to cover every inch of a tennis court.

He was aware of his opponent’s tactics — and tiredness, although Djokovic had fewer than 24 hours to recover from the Nadal semi.

“I knew Kevin spent plenty of time on the court in the quarters (a five-set win over Roger Federer) and semis, marathon wins. I did too. He had a day to recover. But at the same time, I knew it was his first Wimbledon finals, and it really is a different sensation when you’re in the finals.

“It was my fifth, and I tried to use that experience, that mental edge that I have, to start off the right way. The first game, I made a break of serve that was a perfect possible start. After that, I cruised for two sets.”

Anderson, 32, conceded he was nervous. And he said his body “didn’t feel great.”

Nor did the match, which required only 2 hours, 19 minutes (Anderson’s fifth set against Isner alone was some three hours).

“I didn’t play great tennis in the beginning,” said Anderson. “I definitely felt much better in the third set. I thought I had quite a few opportunities to win that third set.

“I would have loved to push it to another set, but obviously it wasn’t meant to be.”


Article originally appeared on Art Spander (http://artspander.com/).
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