Djokovic wins 4th Wimbledon
Novak Djokovic acknowledged that he was worried. His coach was, too.
Could Djokovic ever return to the top of tennis? To the heights he’d already reached? Could he put aside the time lost to a painful right elbow that required surgery and the disappointment of poor-for-him results? Could he end a Grand Slam drought that lasted more than two years?
All of that fretting seemed misplaced Sunday night. Back at his best, Djokovic became Wimbledon’s champion for the fourth time, grabbing a lead right away against a weary Kevin Anderson in the final and holding off a late challenge to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3).
“There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I can get back [to the] desired level or not. But that makes this whole journey even more special for me,” Djokovic said.
“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.”
It is Djokovic’s 13th major trophy, the fourth-highest total in the history of men’s tennis, trailing only Roger Federer’s 20, Rafael Nadal’s 17 and his childhood idol Pete Sampras’ 14.
But it’s also Djokovic’s first since he completed a career Grand Slam at the 2016 French Open.
“It was a long journey,” the 31-year-old from Serbia said. “I couldn’t pick a better place, to be honest, in the tennis world to peak and to make a comeback.”
A year ago at the All England Club, Djokovic quit during his quarterfinal because of the elbow, then took the rest of 2017 off.
After the operation in February, Djokovic’s results were mediocre. He realized later he tried to come back too soon.
“I really was impatient,” he says now.
In April, he reunited with Marian Vajda, the man who had coached Djokovic for years before Boris Becker and Andre Agassi did.
“I always had doubt,” Vajda said. “I was thinking really negative.”
They built “the new Novak,” as Vajda explained it.
Retooled his serve. Made adjustments to other strokes.
Still, Djokovic was so dispirited by his upset loss at the French Open last month that he vowed, in the heat of the moment, to skip the grass-court circuit.
Good thing he didn’t stick to that.
Because he fell out of the top 20 for the first time in more than a decade, the No. 21 Djokovic is the lowest-ranked Wimbledon titlist since Goran Ivanisevic in 2001.
Djokovic looked far more like a guy who used to be No. 1.
Anderson could be excused for exhaustion. His semifinal was the second-longest Grand Slam match in history, lasting more than 6 1/2 hours until he edged John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set. And that followed another extended fifth set in his 13-11 upset of eight-time champion Federer in the quarterfinals.