Less than six weeks ago Novak Djokovic suggested he might skip the grass-court season. On Sunday he became Wimbledon champion for the fourth time of his resurgent career in ruthless fashion.
A merciless 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-3) victory over a lethargic Kevin Anderson on Centre Court got Djokovic his first title of the year to remove any shadow of a doubt that he – now a 13-time grand slam winner, one adrift of Pete Sampras – is, mentally and physically, back at his best.
The Serbian showed signs he was regaining the unbeatable form that saw him complete his career Grand Slam at the French Open in 2016 when he returned to Roland Garros after two tumultuous years beset by injury and coaching changes, but a shock quarter-final loss to Marco Cecchinato left him in a state of despair and down at 22nd in the rankings.
"I don't know if I'm going to play on grass," he said, likely caught up in the heat of the moment, during a terse news conference in Paris. "I'm not thinking about tennis."
But a hiking holiday with wife Jelena - and without their two children – enabled the mindful Djokovic to "recalibrate". Coupled with the further evolution of his new serving technique to a point where his troublesome elbow, a key factor in him slipping outside the top 10 for the first time since October 2006 this May, was comfortable, he was convinced otherwise.
Djokovic, who has amended the dimensions of the racquets to ease the burden on his elbow when serving, quickly changed his tune and opted to warm up for Wimbledon at the Fever-Tree Championships. Following 6-1 6-2 win over John Millman in the first round at Queen's, he said: "Right now it's all about tennis, all about improving, and getting on a high level."
The Serbian made it to the final, but failing to convert a match point in the second set before losing to Marin Cilic left question marks over if he still had the mentality of an uncompromising champion.
A stunning five-set victory over world number one Rafael Nadal in a five-hour Wimbledon semi-final that spanned two days and a one-sided display in the showpiece against Anderson provided an emphatic response.
The South African knew he would have to back up his big serve to have a chance in this final, but his main weapon was nowhere to be seen in the first set.
Djokovic is one of the greatest returners and Anderson's first serve percentage of 45 in the opening set, coupled with 11 unforced errors, saw the Serbian take the set in under 30 minutes.
Anderson, also a runner-up at last year's US Open on his grand slam final debut, subsequently received treatment on his right biceps – the effect of spending 21 hours on court at the All England Club prior to the final evidently having taken its toll – but his fortunes remained the same.
The 12th seed had comfortably played the equivalent of one match fewer than Anderson during the championship and remained in complete control, coming off better in baseline rallies and moving his beleaguered opponent around the court as much as possible.
Anderson managed to find some of the spirit that saw him fight from two sets and match point down against eight-time champion Roger Federer and overcome John Isner in a titanic six-and-a-half-hour semi-final to get his first break point at 5-2 down in the second set. Djokovic was unforgiving and shot down his hopes of getting back into the match.
The last meeting between these two at Wimbledon in 2015 saw Anderson force a fifth set after falling two down and he courageously found the deepest reserves to try to repeat the trick.
However, the eighth seed was unable to convert any of the five set points that came his way as Djokovic loosened up and displayed his major mettle and held his nerve at the crucial moments.
The stoic Djokovic forced errors from Anderson in the tie-break and it ended up being another crushing defeat in a major final for Anderson, who has overcome knee, shoulder, groin, hip, thigh and ankle injuries since 2016 to take his game to new heights.
But he came up against one of the all-time greats in Djokovic, who provided a display befitting the tag to secure a return to the top 10.
Opting against skipping the grass-court season well and truly proved the right decision.
17. Oktober 2018
|Pogba and Mourinho disagreement over Instagram video, confirms Pereira|
|Nuggets coach Malone signs contract extension|
|Mayweather accepts Khabib´s challenge: ´We´re fighting´|
|Slovenia sack Kavcic as head coach|
|Morgan and Rashid star as England win rain-reduced ODI in Sri Lanka|
|Romagnoli aims to make Gattuso proud in Milan derby|
|Naldo signs Schalke extension|
|Bills to start quarterback Anderson against Colts with Allen out|
|O´Sullivan makes 147 at ´hellhole´|
|Barcelona know when captain Messi is angry – Abidal|
|Bertens loss hands Pliskova last WTA Finals berth|
|Liverpool star Mane undergoes hand surgery|
|F1 Raceweek: Happy hunting ground for title-chasing Hamilton - US GP in numbers|
|Canelo signs record-breaking DAZN deal|
|England hit by another Vunipola injury absence|
|Gruden: Oakland Raiders ´aren´t tanking´|
|Chiesa focused and happy at Fiorentina|
|We´ll see what´s possible - Henry not limiting Monaco´s ambitions|
|Wembley sale off after Khan offer withdrawn|
|Football needs people like Arsene - Pires keen for Wenger return|
|Abbas five-for torments woeful Australia as Pakistan take control|
|Henry: Wenger and Guardiola inspirations for my coaching career|
|Pires backs Henry and Vieira for Ligue 1 success|
|Bolt rejects Valletta offer|
|Wenger ready for January return to management – but where?|
|NBA 2018-19: The LeBron James effect on teams he has joined|
|Svitolina qualifies for WTA Finals after Pliskova loses|
|Genoa will sell ´superstar´ Piatek, admits president|
|Moutinho targets European qualification with Wolves|
|Embiid: 76ers-Celtics isn´t a rivalry, they always kick our a**|
|Vinicius ´calm´ as he waits for Real Madrid chance|
|Nothing else to say - Ramos posts clip of supposed Sterling stamp|
|Chiellini joins Mind the Gap campaign to help players prepare for retirement|
|Injured Kusal Perera replaced by Kusal Mendis in Sri Lanka squad|
|Big names return for Scotland´s November Tests|
|Essien tells Loftus-Cheek to stay and fight for Chelsea chance|
|Nainggolan relishing challenge of first Milan derby|
|Curry: Slap me if I tire of championship celebrations|
|Sevilla don´t fear Messi or Barca – Kjaer|
|Low: Dropped Muller is still very important for Germany|
|Hayward put ´dark memories´ behind him with Celtics return|
|I hope I´m in Klopp´s good books! - Koeman jokes after resting Wijnaldum|
|Rested Fellaini should be fit for Manchester United, says Martinez|
|France´s mentality must be right - Lloris|
|Bellinger seals dramatic win as Dodgers level up NLCS|
|Curry, Durant lead Warriors past Thunder|
|Kjaer surprised by LaLiga-leading Sevilla as Machin´s men remain grounded|
|A-League preview: Honda the big arrival as fascinating season awaits|
|Mexico 0 Chile 1: Sanchez helps La Roja to late win|
|Celtics too good for 76ers in NBA opener|
|United States 1 Peru 1: Flores salvages late draw for visitors|
|Martinez not worried about Belgium depth|
|Red Sox move ahead of Astros in ALCS|
|Depay ´a joy to watch´, says Koeman|
|Timberwolves owner looking to trade Butler, backs Thibodeau|
|Shepard says Giants have ´total faith´ in Manning|
|Hazard is out of this world – De Ligt enjoys Belgium test|
|Tite: Brazil were better than Argentina|
|Foley eyes World Cup after re-signing with Wallabies, Waratahs|
|Low slams decisive France penalty call|
|I fined him for his goal at Old Trafford! Giggs delighted for Wales hero Wilson|
|Matuidi lauds Deschamps´ tactical nous after Germany win|
|Scaloni excited by Argentina despite Brazil loss|
|Tsonga back in business, Dzumhur dumped out in Moscow|
16. Oktober 2018
|Germany suffer six defeats in a year for first time|
|Many clubs have asked about Piatek - agent|
|Bartomeu: Barca open to defensive reinforcements after Vermaelen injury|
|Bonn spoil PAOK´s landmark European game|
|Konta conquers Mertens in Moscow|
|Republic of Ireland 0 Wales 1: Wilson stunner moves Giggs´ side top|