“Hopefully we can, first of all, play,” Djokovic said with a weary smile when he was asked about his final with Anderson. The Djoker was joking, of course; he and Anderson will be there. The question is, who will have more left? Anderson is coming off a six-hour, 36-minute win over John Isner, while Djokovic is coming off a five-hour win over Rafael Nadal, with no day of rest. What looked like an impossible hill for Anderson to climb 24 hours ago, now looks a little more possible.
But is it probable? The 32-year-old Anderson is coming off perhaps the two most impressive wins of his decade-long career. In the quarterfinals, he beat Roger Federer for the first time, 13-11 in the fifth set; two days later, he won the second-longest match in Wimbledon history, 26-24 in the fifth set, over Isner, a player he hadn’t beaten in five years. But beating Djokovic may require Anderson, a Wimbledon-final rookie, to raise his game even higher. He’s 1-5 in their head to head, and his only win came 10 years ago in Miami. Djokovic is also a better returner than Federer or Isner, which could make life tough for the South African, who relies especially heavily on his serve on grass.
WATCH—Match point from Anderson’s win over Isner in Wimbledon semifinals:
WATCH—Match point from Djokovic’s win over Nadal in Wimbledon semifinals:
All is not already lost for Big Kev, however. Anderson and Djokovic have played twice at Wimbledon. Djokovic won one of those in routine, straight-set fashion; but in their second meeting, in 2015, Anderson led two sets to love, before Djokovic wriggled his way through, 7-5, in the fifth set. Still, that was a fourth-round match, and Djokovic was unfocused through much of the first two sets; it’s hard to imagine him starting a final that way.
What is easier to imagine is Djokovic having something of a letdown after beating the world No. 1, Nadal, 10-8 in the fifth set—that must have felt like a final, or at least a major accomplishment for Djokovic, who hadn’t reached a Grand Slam semi since 2016. So Cinderella could be alive, in the form of the 6’8” Anderson; he has looked like a man of destiny over the last four days. But I’m going to go against destiny and make the obvious pick anyway.
Strokes of Genius is a world-class documentary capturing the historic 13-year rivalry between tennis icons Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. It is timed for release as the anticipation crests with Roger as returning champion, 10 years after their famed 2008 Wimbledon championship – an epic match so close and so reflective of their competitive balance that, in the end, the true winner was the sport itself.
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