Novak Djokovic’s Australian connection has grown – and it might have just played a big part in his fourth Wimbledon triumph.
The Serbian star defeated Kevin Anderson in straight sets to win the title on Sunday in what was one of the more unexpected deciders in recent tennis history.
For Djokovic it was a return to form as he ended a two-year grand slam drought but Anderson has become the latest man to fail to gatecrash the big four’s 16-year strangehold on the Wimbledon title.
‘SHUT THE F*** UP’: Djokovic in fiery run-in with the crowd
The South African joined Mark Philippoussis, Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic in the club of losing finalists against Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, yet he might not feel all that welcome.
In the hours leading up to the final, Djokovic’s coach Marian Vajda brought along a guest to his charge’s final practice session – none other than Philippoussis, who was used in a bid to counter Anderson’s serve.
Vajda arriving with…Philippoussis 😉 They found a big server. pic.twitter.com/fborBvcaLF
— Carole Bouchard (@carole_bouchard) July 15, 2018
At 196 centimetres, the Australian 41-year-old doesn’t quite match up to Anderson’s 203-centimetre frame but perhaps nobody could have prepared Djokovic for the service barrage better than Philippoussis.
Perhaps unsurprisingly after Anderson spent 21 hours on court just to get to the final, it almost wasn’t necessary for Djokovic to go the extra mile.
The 43-hour gap for Anderson between the end of his marathon semi-final win over John Isner 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,” he said.
“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.”
Djokovic, who has previously used Australian tennis analyst Craig O’Shannessy as part of his coaching staff, conceded after the win that he doubted he would ever compete for another title – let alone join the pantheon of all-time greats to have won Wimbledon at least four times.
“There were several moments where I was frustrated and questioning whether I can get back on the desired level or not. But that makes this whole journey even more special,” the Serbian said.
After two years battling a chronic elbow injury and slumping to 22nd in the world, Djokovic bit the bullet in February to go under the knife, but he never dreamed he’d be back winning his 13th slam so soon.
“It’s easy to talk now and look back at it, but I really am grateful to go through these mixed emotions, turbulences as well mentally, moments of doubt and disappointment and frustration, anger,” he said.
“But I’m human and we all have to face that. We all have to go through that.
“It’s a learning curve, it really is. It helped me, not just as a tennis player, but just as a human being to get to know myself on deeper levels.
“It’s usually in a struggle that you get to know yourself, you get to have an opportunity to rise like a phoenix and evolve and get better.”
Djokovic ranked his victory as the second most satisfying of his grand career, behind only his first Wimbledon success in 2011.