Wimbledon: Novak Djokovic finally sees the light against Anderson

Andy Murray could still face Roger Federer in epic semi-final in bottom half of draw

Novak Djokovic in action against Kevin Anderson during their resumed fourth round match at Wimbledon: the Serb was relieved to win. Photograph: Seán Dempsey/EPA

Novak Djokovic in action against Kevin Anderson during their resumed fourth round match at Wimbledon: the Serb was relieved to win. Photograph: Seán Dempsey/EPA

 

Not one for small gestures, Novak Djokovic hunkered down and with his fingers planted a kiss on the damp grass of number one court. He knew it, Kevin Anderson knew it: if not for the South African blinking in the 11th game of the fifth set, the world number one, top seed and defending champion could still be on court in the gloaming facing serving bombs and throwing mini-tantrums.

As the two players resumed their final set after bad light forced them off court on Monday evening at 2-2, there was credible belief that Djokovic could be troubled. His place in the quarter-final against Marin Cilic had been distilled down to a one-set shoot-out after momentum was abruptly halted as twilight fell over London.

Anderson’s blink was just a few seconds of doubt, a brief head funk that coughed up two double faults. It handed Djokovic a service break for 5-6. At that point a crack appeared and the Serb saw light.

Double faults

Boris Becker

The killer double faults arrived a point after Anderson’s 40th ace of the match and in the previous game at 4-5 down, the champion had to serve to stay in the match, a queasy four points for Djokovic’s more ardent fans.

Within no more than a five-minute window Anderson was pressing for the biggest championship upset in years and then vainly scrambling to stay in the tournament.

The win also protects Djokovic’s historic position of not failing to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final since 2008, when he lost in the second round to Marat Safin. He would also have been the first top seed to lose before the quarter-finals since Pete Sampras in 2001.

But he met Anderson’s serving fire with his own ice and just as Roger Federer had done against Sam Groth and Andy Murray against Ivo Karlovic, he clung on and waited until the hot serving cooled.

Djokovic had also faced break points in the fourth game of the final set but just as Serena Williams had done against Heather Watson a few days before, he weathered the crisis as champions can.

He put the first two sets out of his mind. He dismissed the bad light decision that worked against him. He ignored the rain that sent the players back to the locker room. But there was no doubt about his main emotion after the 6-7(6), 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-4, 7-5 win. It was relief.

“It was a very difficult match, one of the most difficult in my Wimbledon career, that’s for sure,” said Djokovic. “So with that kind of serve and the aggressive ground strokes, he’s a very, very tough opponent on any surface, especially on grass.

“I was hanging in there even though I was two sets down I stayed calm and mentally strong. The fifth set today was very frustrating, very tense. I had no chances until that 11th game when he made those two double faults. All in all until the last point I didn’t know that I was going to win.”

Big names

Gilles SimonPhilipp Kohlschreiber

“I mean, I got things figured out at the moment. Clearly having the extra week helped me be perfectly prepared for Wimbledon. So I think less question marks going into this tournament.”

Murray has also been comfortable so far and there has not been the same mania. Acceptance that he belongs has been hammered home by the Scot, who plays unseeded Vasek Pospisil. It can’t get better midway through the second week.

Stan Wawrinka, coming into the second week a little under the radar despite being French Open champion is 1-1 with Richard Gasquet. The seeding suggest a Djokovic v Wawrinka semi-final in the top of the draw and an epic, manic, emotional Murray against Federer in the bottom half.

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