Wimbledon, London July 2-15, 2018; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Grass
Final: (12)Novak Djokovic d. (8)Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3)
The Serbian No. 12 seed swept past eighth-seeded South African in a final watched by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. During the trophy ceremony, his three-year-old son, Stefan, joined his wife Jelena in the players’ box on Centre Court, shouting out “Daddy, Daddy” as Djokovic began to speak to BBC television interviewer Sue Barker. “It was a long journey, especially considering that elbow injury that took me out from the tour for six months,” said Djokovic. “When I started training again, [when I] came back on the tour and played in Australia, I played with the pain… It took me several months really to regain the confidence, go back to basics, start to hit as many balls on the practice court as possible so I could feel comfortable playing at a high level.” Anderson got off to a nervous start, striking a forehand long at 30/30 and then double faulting at break point to gift Djokovic the first game. Djokovic won 12 of the first 15 points to seize early control of the final. Although Anderson has contested the 2017 US Open, the occasion at the All England Club, coupled with nerves and stellar groundstroke play from Djokovic, ensured the South African’s potency on serve and movement was compromised. Djokovic soon led 5:1 after just 21 minutes and Anderson received treatment for a right arm injury at the end of the one-sided first set. Djokovic carried the momentum into the second set, breaking Anderson’s serve in the first and fifth games. Although Anderson was more competitive, Djokovic kept the upper hand in longer rallies and kept his opponent on the backfoot with changes in groundstroke pace. Anderson created his first break point at 2:5, 30/40, but he struck a backhand long in an 18-stroke rally and Djokovic won the next two points for a commanding lead. Anderson grew in belief in the third set, finding his service rhythm (having hit just two aces in the first two sets) and groundstroke depth to prevent Djokovic dominating baseline rallies. One break point went begging on Djokovic’s serve at 3:4, but the pressure kept building on the Serbian, who saved two set points at 4:5. Anderson slipped in retrieving a deep forehand that hit the baseline on the first set point, which ended with Djokovic striking a forehand drop shot winner close to the net. Djokovic was again able to step into the court, two points later, in saving a second set point with a crosscourt forehand winner. Errors crept into Djokovic’s game and at 5:6, Anderson could not convert three further set point opportunities. Each time, Djokovic struck his serve to Anderson’s forehand. A forehand pass by Djokovic at 2:1 in the tie-break propelled the former World No. 1 onto an emotional win. “The first game I got a break of serve, which was a perfect possible start,” said Djokovic. “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 setpoints down and then played a perfect tie-break to finish.”Stats of the match.
2nd semifinal: (12)Novak Djokovic d. (2)Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(9), 3-6, 10-8
“I’m really, really pleased. I was very emotional after the match, as well, because it’s been a long 15 months for me, trying to overcome different obstacles,” Djokovic said. “To be where I am at the moment is quite satisfying.” A quarter-final showing at Roland Garros and a runner-up finish at the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club left the 68-time tour-level champion saying, ‘I’m there’. And the Serbian showed it under the roof on Saturday when play resumed following Friday evening’s suspension due to curfew, after three sets, staving off some of Nadal’s best tennis to clinch his second five-set victory against the Spaniard. Djokovic has now triumphed in eight consecutive major semi-finals, and is 29-9 in five-setters. “I think I played a great match,” Nadal said. “I have not much more inside me. I gave it my best, and that’s it. It’s fair to say that was a great match and he beat me. Well done for him. That’s all. That’s sport.” There was no doubt that the Spaniard would come out swinging in the fourth set with his back against the wall. And after saving two break points in the first game, Nadal broke Djokovic with aggressive returning, dictating play with his forehand. And while the No. 12 seed took advantage of a sloppy third service game by Nadal to break back, Nadal rebounded. He once again found his aggressive best to break for the second time in the set, before recovering from 0/40 when serving out the set to force a decider. Nadal consistently targeted Djokovic’s forehand in the fifth set, especially on the most pressure-packed points on his serve. The 32-year-old Nadal faced break point at 3:4, successfully forcing an error with his serve by attacking the Serbian’s forehand. And in the next game, it looked like the Spaniard would use the momentum to storm to a break of his own, gaining a 15/40 advantage as the three-time champion’s forehand began to go awry. But this time it was Djokovic who came up with clutch serves to escape the game. The Serbian faced two more break points at 7-all, erasing the first with aggressive play and the second with an ace. But Nadal clipped the baseline with a forehand down the line to earn a fifth break point in the decider. This time, however, the left-hander gained control of the point and approached to Djokovic’s vulnerable forehand, but the No. 12 seed had the answer with a curling crosscourt passing shot winner, gesturing to the crowd to cheer. “I hit a great backhand across. I decided to go inside. It worked very well a lot of times, hitting backhands and going to the net,” Nadal said. “He played a great passing shot. If he missed, we would be here talking how brave [I] was that [I] went to the net. He hit a good passing shot.” Djokovic made solid contact on a forehand return while leading 9:8 with a triple match point, placing it deep in the court. And after aggressively attacking Nadal’s forehand, the Spaniard hooked a shot wide to end the battle. It was an epic meeting between two of tennis’ all-time greats. And fittingly for such a tightly contested match, the rivals finished with identical stat lines, hitting 73 winners to just 42 unforced errors apiece. Nadal will remain No. 1 in the ATP Rankings in Monday, as he just needed to reach the fourth round to guarantee his grip on the top spot.
1st semifinal: (8)Kevin Anderson d. (9)John Isner 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24
Anderson won the longest semi-final in Wimbledon history (since 1877) against Isner to reach his second Grand Slam final (also 2017 US Open). Anderson became the first South African man to reach the Wimbledon final since Brian Norton in 1921, after a victory – the 300th tour-level win of his career – over Isner in 6 hours and 36 minutes! The fifth set alone lasted 2 hours and 55 minutes. South African-born Kevin Curren advanced to the 1985 Wimbledon final (l. to Becker), but played under the American flag, having switched allegiances in 1985. “You’re really in a war of attrition out there,” said Anderson. “It’s way beyond a normal tennis match or tactics. I mean, it’s just who’s going to outlast each other… [But] I’ve put myself into the finals of Wimbledon, which is half of a dream come true. ” It was the longest match on Centre Court, beating the previous record of 41-year-old Richard Pancho Gonzales outlasting fellow American Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 in 5 hours and 12 minutes over two days in 1969. The longest match at Wimbledon – and the sport’s history – is Isner’s 70-68 fifth-set victory over Nicolas Mahut of France in the 2010 first round over 11 hours and five minutes. “I don’t know what got me through today’s match other than just a will to try to succeed, keep pushing myself,” admitted Anderson. “I knew it was going to be a tough match playing John… The match was so even throughout. I obviously felt I had a few chances in the third set serving for it. Even in the [third set] tie-break, I had a set point and hit a double fault. He played some great points. I think one of the reasons for the double fault was [that] I felt like he was being really aggressive on my serve [and] that forced me to go for a little bit more. Then once you’re in the fifth set, in those sort of settings, on the court for over six hours, it’s really tough [on your body]. You just have to try to keep going. I tried as much as I could to just keep fighting. I take a lot of pride in that. Fortunately, I was able to find a way over the finish line.” Isner, who came within two points of victory at 6:5 in the deciding set, recovered from 0/30 on six occasions in the epic finale, before Anderson broke serve at 24-all. The South African, who looked fresher throughout the fifth set, fell over when hitting a backhand return with Isner serving at 0/15, then got up to strike a left-handed forehand during a short rally en route to breaking serve. “I feel pretty terrible,” said Isner. “My left heel is killing me. I have an awful blister on my right foot. I’ve felt better before. A few days’ rest, maybe more than that, and I’ll recoup and try to get all healed up again. Hats off to Kevin. He stayed the course incredibly well, played very well. It was a good win for him. He earned it, so. He played pretty well, I think, in the fifth set. I didn’t have many chances.” Isner was at his aggressive best in the early stages and came close to capitalising on Anderson’s tendency to hit his serve to Isner’s forehand. Anderson also got himself into trouble by dropping his backhands short, which provided his opponent a way back into the point. Isner’s best opportunity to break came on his third of three break points at 1-all, when he narrowly missed a backhand crosscourt volley. Anderson, who had been broken on nine occasions in five previous matches, breathed a huge sigh of relief to come through the 13-minute game. At 4:5, Isner, who had not been broken in 99 service games during the grass-court major this year, struck a double fault at 30/30 to gift Anderson a set point, which he saved with an unreturned second serve. In an inevitable tie-break, Isner ripped a forehand winner to open up a 3:1 lead and went on to gain a 4:2 advantage before he lost three straight points. Anderson saved one set point with a smash, then set up his first set-point chance with a crosscourt backhand that Isner could not return. Isner struck a 120 miles-per-hour second serve at 6:7, but hit a forehand into the net (the American’s 14th unforced error of the 63-minute set) to end a short rally. Isner regrouped and continued to hit his spots on serve, while both players hoped to get a strong racquet on a return. At 4-all, on Isner’s serve, the opportunity came for Anderson when he struck a forehand winner down the line at 30/30. Isner saved the break point when he struck a forehand volley off a big first serve. A few games later, the 6’10” American made sure in the second set tie-break, winning the first five points with aggressive intent from inside the service box. Anderson saved Isner’s first two set points with an ace and an unreturned serve, sowing a seed of doubt in Isner’s mind. But on Isner’s third set point opportunity at 6:5, he fired his 19th ace of the 54-minute second set and roared in delight. In a match of small margins, Anderson managed to strike a backhand return down the line off a body serve to break Isner for a 5:3 lead in the third set. It was the first time Isner had been broken in 110 consecutive service games at this year’s championship, ending the American’s chances of breaking Pete Sampras’ tournament record of 118 straight service games between the Wimbledon third round in 2000 and the 2001 second round. Isner had come into the match against Anderson as the first man to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals without dropping serve since IBM statisticians began keeping such records in 1992. Anderson’s lead was short-lived, however, as he whipped a forehand into the net at 30/40 in the next game. Isner, who won eight of 11 points to get back to 5-all, soon received on-court treatment to tape up a blister on his right serving hand. While he struck his third double fault of the match at 5:6, 30/15, the set was destined for another tie-break. In a dramatic 20 points, Anderson saved two set points at 5:6 (unreturned serve) and 6:7 (with a forehand pass). When he struck a backhand winner pass at 7-all, Anderson held his first set point, but rushed and hit a double fault. A forehand approach winner helped Anderson to his second set point opportunity at 9:8, but Isner fired an unreturned serve. On Isner’s third set point chance at 10:9, Anderson got caught out of position off a deep return from Isner and hooked a forehand response wide. Both players left Centre Court prior to the start of the fourth set. Anderson broke Isner’s serve for a second time in the fifth game of the fourth set, hitting a forehand that Isner stooped low for and hit wide. Yet, just like in the third set, Isner bounced back immediately for 3-all after a backhand winner down the line. Two games later, at 4-all Anderson broke Isner to 30 with a backhand crosscourt winner, then watched three set point chances come and go on his own serve. At the fourth time of asking, Anderson clinched the set when Isner hit a forehand return into the net. After the ninth game of the deciding set, Isner received on-court treatment to re-tape a blister on his right index finger. The American came within two points of victory at 6:5, with Anderson serving at 30/30. Isner then recovered from 0/30 and saved one break point at 30/40 at 7-all; from 0/30 at 9-all; from 0/30 and 30/40 at 10-all; from 15/40 at 17-all; and from 0/30 at 21-all, 22-all and 23-all. Anderson, looking fresher as the set progressed, won 14 straight points on his serve from 14:15, 40/30 to 18:19, 15/0. The South African finally broke Isner’s serve to 15 at 24-all. The 33-year-old Isner had been attempting to become the 12th American man to reach the Wimbledon final in the Open Era (since 1968). He had previously beaten Anderson in their past five meetings. On Friday, he struck 129 winners, including 53 aces, in the epic Centre Court-encounter and drops to a 21-12 record in 2018. Stats of the match.
4th quarterfinal: (2)Rafael Nadal d. (5)Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Nadal dug deep and played with great courage on Wednesday to edge past fifth-seeded Argentine in a high drama encounter at The Championships. Both players often found themselves on the grass in an all-time great match, which transfixed spectators on-site as England’s footballers played Croatia in Moscow in the World Cup semi-finals. Nadal twisted and slid about from behind the baseline, once chasing a ball and ending up in the crowd, while Del Potro produce multiple diving volleys in the Centre Court classic that lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes. “I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set,” said Nadal. “I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms, [it has] been a positive match. Only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set. For the rest of the things, great news, semi-finals of Wimbledon again. Great match, emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Great feelings.” Nadal needed to bide his time in a brilliant first set, which lasted 54 minutes and was full of long rallies. Del Potro was, at times, predictable in his service patterns and although he struck 14 winners, Nadal was patient. Del Potro recovered from 15/40 at 3:4, but hit a backhand into the net in the 12th game on Nadal’s second set point opportunity. The second set briefly swung in Del Potro’s favour, when Nadal committed four forehand errors at 4-all. Del Potro, who had hung in and fought hard, came within two points of clinching the set in the next game, but Nadal bounced back to strike a forehand winner into space for 5-all. Clever service placement by Nadal, coupled with speed up the court, took him to a 6:3 lead in the tie-break. Yet a second double fault at 6:5 let Del Potro back in. Nadal was unable to return a big Del Potro serve at 7:6 and the popular Argentine grew in confidence. At 8:7, on his first set point, Del Potro struck a crosscourt forehand that hit the net cord and bounced too low for Nadal to scramble back. “Of course I was worried when I lost the second set,” said Nadal. “Winning 6:3 in the tie-break, it’s true that he played two great points with his serve, but then I made a very important mistake.” Nadal tightened up his game, but in serving second in the third set, he felt the pressure. Having lost just one of his service points in four games, Nadal found himself in a deep hole at 4:5, 0/40, when Del Potro’s aggression counted. Del Potro struck a forehand winner on his first set point opportunity to end the 44-minute set. Prior to the start of the fourth set, Nadal took an off-court break and returned in a determined mood to break in the fifth game, largely courtesy of three forehand errors from Del Potro. On second serve returns, Nadal stepped in from behind the baseline and managed to wrestle the momentum away from Del Potro. Two set point chances went begging at 5:3, with Del Potro serving at 30/40, when Nadal hit a slice backhand into the net, and at Ad-Out, when Del Potro hit a forehand winner. But the Spaniard remained focused and took the pair’s sixth Grand Slam championship meeting (Nadal leads 4-1) to a decider, finishing with a crosscourt backhand winner in a hold to 15. Nadal appeared to be the fresher in the opening exchanges of the decider. But once again Del Potro had the advantage of serving first in the set and at 1-all, 30/30, both players showed just how much they wanted a place in the semi-finals on Friday. At the end of a lengthy baseline rally, Del Potro dived full length – a la Boris Becker – to return an angled backhand from Nadal that looked destined for a winner. Nadal soon used the drop shot to earn quick points, with Del Potro behind the baseline and he earned the break for a 3:2 lead. “Once Rafa breaks my serves, then the match becomes difficult for me,” said Del Potro. “I had also my chances to break back in the fifth, and I missed some forehands. I think the key of the match was only three, four points in the end, and he took the chances.” In a tense eighth game, which featured six deuces, Nadal saved four break points to take a 5:3 lead and edged closer to his 28th Grand Slam championship semi-final with a forehand winner. The Argentine kept working and fighting, but in fading light it was Nadal who held his nerve for a Friday blockbuster against Djokovic.
“Pure elation right now. Very, very happy to be in this position right now in the semi-finals. With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot. I think I can keep doing damage here,” Isner said. “This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.” The 33-year-old American didn’t play perfect, but he stepped up exactly when he needed to during only his second Grand Slam quarter-final (2011 US Open, l. to Murray), showing more poise and combativeness than the 28-year-old Raonic, who was trying to reach his third Wimbledon semi-final. Before this fortnight, Isner had never reached past the third round at SW19. But it’s all come together for the 6’10” right-hander the past two weeks, in large part thanks to his world-class serve but also because of his aggressive returning and active net play. Isner erased the only break point he faced against Raonic and has yet to be broken this fortnight through five matches. He also broke Raonic three times, including twice in the final set. The American won 81 per cent of his net points (30/37). “I’ve been serving and volleying pretty well. I think I’ve covered the net well. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot. I’ve had some game plans in each match. I’ve executed them, I think, almost to perfection,” Isner said. “In the big points, this whole tournament, I’ve been calm and collected and felt like I’ve played them well.” After Raonic won the first-set tie-break, it looked as if the Canadian would take a two-set lead. He saw a set point come and go at 6:5 in the second-set tie-break, after Isner had double faulted for 4-all. But the American came back, breaking Raonic at 7-all and serving out the set. Isner’s return game gradually improved as he became more comfortable in the third set, and he broke in the fifth game. He faced trouble on his racquet, though, at 5:4, 30/40. But just as he had done against Ruben Bemelmans (6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5) in the second round, when Isner faced two match points on his serve, Isner served his way out of trouble before racing through the final set. He finished with 25 aces to bring his tournament-best total to 160. “I didn’t have many chances,” Raonic said. Isner’s Wimbledon result is further evidence that he, at 33 years old, is playing the best tennis of his career. In April, he won his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open, and at Roland Garros, Isner made the fourth round for only the third time in his career. The American is set to climb to a new career high of No. 8 in the ATP Rankings on Monday when the new rankings are released.
2nd quarterfinal: (8)Kevin Anderson d. (1)Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11
Anderson recovered from two sets down, and saved one match point, to stun eight-time champion Federer at Wimbledon on Wednesday to claim one of the most important victories of his career. The eighth seed, competing in his first quarter-final at the All England Club, recovered from the brink of defeat after Federer held match point at 5:4 Ad-Out in the third set. The defending champion was on the verge of clinching a record-breaking 35th consecutive set at SW19, but Anderson rallied with aggression to reach his second Grand Slam semi-final after 4 hours and 14 minutes. “I have already gotten tons of messages from support back home,” said Anderson. “Obviously at this sort of event, playing against an opponent like Roger is going to have a lot of coverage. Again, I really hope it’s an example of sticking to your dreams and keep believing in yourself. I always say I was in the same position, it’s not easy coming from South Africa, it’s very far from the tennis scene… I felt the first set obviously wasn’t great for me. I was a little bit unsettled starting the match out. I thought I settled down much better in the second set. Even though I lost it in a tie-break, I felt I played a much, much better set of tennis. Obviously in the third set, I just tried to compete as hard as I could. I was able to hold serve throughout. Obviously [Federer] had that one match point, but I played a good point and was able to get that break. I feel like once I did that, I really settled down well and felt pretty comfortable out there.” The No. 8 seed snaps a six-match losing streak against Top 5 opposition to record five consecutive grass-court match wins for the first time. Anderson’s last victory over Top 5 opposition came at the 2015 US Open, when he defeated Andy Murray in the Round of 16. “He’s got a nice, big serve that he can rely heavily on… There’s nothing really that shocked me because I’ve seen Kevin play many, many times in the past,” said Federer. “Even if the matches have been maybe sometimes one-sided… you always know he can pick it up, and all of a sudden you won’t see breaks for some time.” With both men holding serve with relative ease in the 4th set, Anderson made the crucial move in the seventh game. While Federer faltered on his forehand, Anderson fired his into the corner to earn two break point opportunities. A fortunate backhand return for Anderson, which hit the net cord, forced Federer into another forehand error. That moment proved to be the decisive moment of the set as Anderson held serve, after saving break point, in the tenth game to ensure a deciding set. With neither man able to make inroads in their return games, Federer, after failing to convert break point in the eighth game, eventually made a second bid for a break at 6:5. The Swiss moved up the court, lifting his level of aggression to create an opportunity in the 12th game, but Anderson matched Federer, with huge hitting off his forehand and serve to level the score. Both men continued to hold serve comfortably until 11:11, with Federer making four fatal errors to concede a crucial break. Anderson took full advantage in the following game, holding serve to 15 to complete a stunning comeback. “I guess there was definitely a moment [where I lost control of the match] at some point,” said Federer. “Is it missing match points? Is it getting broken at 5-all after that?”. Federer becomes the third man in history to lose at least 20 matches squandering match point(s), following all-serve guys, Isner (26) & Karlovic (21).
Three-time former champion Djokovic moved into his eighth semi-final at The Championships on Wednesday with a victory over Nishikori, the No. 24 seed from Japan, in 2hours and 35 minutes. The Serbian, who retired in the 2017 Wimbledon quarter-finals with a right elbow injury against Tomas Berdych that resulted in a six-month injury lay-off, is returning to peak form at just the right time. Djokovic lost just eight of his first-service points (52/61) and won 18 of his 20 points at the net against Nishikori. “I think we were quite even until the middle of the third set, then I managed to step up and play up a gear,” said Djokovic. “I ended this match really well.” Djokovic highlighted his growing confidence and tremendous athleticism from the front and back of the Centre Court, in the fourth game at 15/30, when a forehand down the line left Nishikori lunging for the ball. Two points later, Nishikori mis-timed a deep backhand, which clipped the baseline, to give Djokovic a 3:1 advantage. But the Serbian struck a double fault in the next game to hand the break back to Nishikori. Nishikori, who set up his favoured backhand stroke down the line with serves out wide, particularly on the Ad-court, got back to 3-all, but subtle changes of groundstroke pace by Djokovic reaped dividends in the eighth game. The 38-minute set ended with Nishikori committing a backhand error. Nishikori came through a 10-minute first game in the second set, then began to change his approach by coming to the net against one of the sport’s greatest returners. He earned a confidence boost by recovering from 0/40 at 1-all, much to the frustration of Djokovic, who received a code violation for racquet abuse. Having battled to two service holds in 17 minutes, Nishikori was gifted a 3:1 lead, courtesy of his Serbian opponent attempting to hit a sliced drop shot into the net. Djokovic tightened up his game, putting Nishikori under pressure, but could not make the breakthrough. Djokovic proved to be adept at the net and quick on approach in the third set, when he highlighted his mental capabilities and flexibility in recovering from 0/40 at 2-all. The 31-year-old capitalised on early fatigue from Nishikori, letting out a roar when he broke the Japanese for 30 for a 4:2 advantage and won eight of the next nine points to dominate. “I think that was the biggest chance I had,” said Nishikori, when asked about the fifth game of the third set. “But he played three great points. Maybe things change if I got the game. I mean, he was also playing great tennis. I know it’s not going to be easy holding my serve, even after I break him, but after that he was playing better. I think he was playing more aggressive and didn’t give me any free points.” Nishikori bounced back by breaking in the first game of the fourth set, but it only heightened Djokovic’s motivation and soon the Serbian couldn’t miss, forcing Nishikori to strike one extra ball in their baseline rallies. From 0:1, a fired up Djokovic won 16 of the next 20 points with exceptional hitting. Djokovic struck his 39th winner – a forehand – on approach to the net for victory.
* Djokovic vs. Nishikori and Nadal vs Del Potro on Centre Court, Anderson vs Federer and Isner vs Raonic on Court No. 1