Wimbledon 2015: Novak Djokovic collects his wits and starts to tame South African hurricane

World No 1's clash with Kevin Anderson halted by bad light tied at two sets each

Click to follow
The Independent Online

In the depths of a titanic struggle, Novak Djokovic actually summoned the means to smile at the force of the hurricane he faced in the form of South African Kevin Anderson. At the time, he was beginning to lose his control on a second-set tie-break which he led 4-0 and still managed to lose. That took him two sets behind, staring at the prospect of elimination and being asked to conjure up something to cope with a force of service and groundstrokes which were making his tennis look ordinary.

The reigning champion’s laconic air implied that he knew there was a way out and he was right. Djokovic set about a recovery going into the evening which revealed quite what an obstacle he poses, collecting the next two sets before the light died. The fourth-round match was suspended, raising the prospect of an absorbing deciding set when the two return to Court One, where they will open proceedings at 1pm on Tuesday.

Anderson, aiming to become the first South African man to reach a Wimbledon quarter-final since Wayne Ferreira 21 years ago, did not make the final at Queen’s this year by chance. He revealed that much in the force of the groundstrokes he traded with the Serb, as much as by the 131mph serves he powered down out wide.


There had been 32 aces from Anderson by the time the light went, when the possibility of transferring the players to Centre Court was rejected in favour of Tuesday’s return, to the frustration of a three-quarters full court.

It takes a serious kind of pressure to make Djokovic blink first but it was his double-fault which gave Anderson a second set point in the first tie-break, which he seized by dialling out one of those wide service aces.

He picked up further momentum, rapidly breaking Djokovic early in the second set to lead 3-1 with an inside-out forehand which forced him wide, then calmly dispatching the easy, open-court volley which came his way. The world No 1 broke back immediately, requiring the heights of his game to do so. A return winner on another of the 130mph missiles cut the deficit to 40-30 and placed enough pressure on the 29-year-old to force a fateful double-fault.

But the Anderson tie-break comeback, from two mini-breaks down, revealed the level of resolve the champion was up against. Djokovic had arrived with nothing less than his usual game but found an individual buoyed by his strong grass season, intent on making his self-confidence pay out big.

The revival struck Anderson like a bolt. Djokovic’s own range of groundstrokes shifted as he, like Anderson, began using a fuller width of court. Anderson was broken in his first service game of the third set. Djokovic’s eye was in and he coped more comfortably with the missiles. A further double-fault contributed to the double break from which Djokovic took the third 6-1.

The critical break in the fourth set took Djokovic to  3-1 and he did not look back. He would have wanted to see the match out last night, while Anderson is best served by the chance to rest and reflect. From here, it looks deeply unwise to bet against the champion.