Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon triumph continues an incredible trend involving Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray.
It took Kevin Anderson an exhausting 21 hours to crawl into the Wimbledon final, but once he got there there was no mercy waiting as Djokovic dismissed the South African in three sets.
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Djokovic broke a two-year major drought with the tense victory, securing his fourth crown at The All England Club – and 13th career major – with a 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-3) win.
It marks the 16th-straight year that a member of tennis’ ‘Big Four’ has tasted glory at Wimbledon.
The quartet are are the only ones who have had the honour of lifting the famous pineapple-topped cup since 2002, when Lleyton Hewitt broke through for his maiden major.
Even when one of the heavyweights falter early in the championships, as twice champion Nadal did several times from 2012 to 2017, or is out injured, like Murray this year, there is always one of the Big Four waiting to slam the door shut on would-be intruders come finals’ day.
“This is such an amazing tournament for all of us players and we dedicate our whole lives to fight for a spot to be on this court,” Anderson said his 6-2 6-2 7-6 (7-3) finals loss.
“Over the last few years, there’s only been a few individuals who’ve made it out here so that’s what it had to take for me to get here. I would have given another 21 hours to have the opportunity to play here.”
WIMBLEDON WINNERS SINCE 2002:
2003 – Roger Federer, 2004 – Roger Federer, 2005 – Roger Federer, 2006 – Roger Federer, 2007 – Roger Federer, 2008 – Rafael Nadal, 2009 – Roger Federer, 2010 – Rafael Nadal, 2011 – Novak Djokovic, 2012 – Roger Federer, 2013 – Andy Murray, 2014 – Novak Djokovic, 2015 – Novak Djokovic, 2016 – Andy Murray, 2017 – Roger Federer, 2018 – Novak Djokovic
Anderson must have felt he had already played a few championship matches over the past week as he produced some super-human performances to stay alive.
He came from match point down to topple eight-times champion Federer 13-11 in the fifth set of a quarter-final that lasted over four hours.
But no one was rushing out to hand him a trophy.
He then survived the longest ever grand slam semi, six-hour, 36-minute epic against John Isner that he won 26-24 in the fifth.
His reward? A dip in the ice-bath to give his “sore” and “swollen” feet, and “jelly-like” legs a chance to recover.
Unfortunately for Anderson, the 43-hour gap he had between the end of his semi-final on Friday and the start of Sunday’s showpiece was simply not enough to get his fatigued and battle-weary body ready for what was the biggest match of his life.
“I barely slept on Friday night. Saturday was pretty tough,” said Anderson, who has now lost two major finals in 10 months after finishing runner-up to Nadal at the 2017 US Open.
“Seeing the doctors, seeing the podiatrist for my feet. There were a lot of thoughts going through my mind… ‘Am I going to be ready to play another five-set match on Sunday against somebody like Novak?’
“My body didn’t feel great.”
If Anderson wants any tea and sympathy, he will be better off seeking out Mark Philippoussis, Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic – the five other men who have tried and failed to gatecrash the Big Four’s exclusive club at Wimbledon.
But it was not all doom and gloom for the 32-year-old as his progress to the final allowed him to break into the top five of the world rankings for the first time.
“Two and a half years ago we (set up) a chat on WhatsApp called top-five Kev. That was the goal,” he said.
“So seeing that I made top five, I’m incredibly proud.”