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.
|Goerges battles past Vekic, Kasatkina wins all-Russian tie|
|Ask 32,000 Gibraltarians if the Nations League is meaningless - Styche|
|They´re going to speak about it for years - Azhar reflects on comical run-out|
|Garcia in the mix as weather hits Andalucia Valderrama Masters|
|From lacking a ´football brain´ to signing a new contract – the Mourinho-Shaw saga|
|Alonso teases Indy 500 return as Hamilton reveals NASCAR temptation|
|Guptill ruled out of Black Caps´ UAE tour|
|UEFA investigating PSG-Red Star fan clashes|
|Just ´another weekend´ for champion-elect Hamilton|
|G League will offer $125K to top prospects in lieu of NCAA one-and-done route|
|Chargers defensive end Bosa ´a few weeks´ away from return, says father|
|Bale back in full Real Madrid training|
|Roma supporter found not guilty of inflicting GBH on Liverpool fan Sean Cox|
|´Fantastic´ Neuer will prove he´s still the best, says Lloris|
|Perez secures Force India stay|
|Australia wait on Khawaja scan|
|Shaw signs Manchester United extension|
|Jones lays down challenge to snubbed England star Cipriani|
|West Ham´s Pellegrini rejects Dzeko speculation|
|Emery fails to assure Ramsey of Arsenal future|
|Pakistan on course for victory after Babar 99 and farcical run out|
|Canelo ready to leave comfort zone to face Fielding|
|Eriksen ready for Tottenham return, Pochettino confirms|
|Titans coach rocked by Hurrell´s Rhinos switch|
|Rubin Kazan suspended from UEFA competition for FFP breach|
|Real Madrid could sack Lopetegui if results don´t improve, says Essien|
|On-court coaching would add to drama - Mouratoglou|
|Babbel lauds ´top class´ Ronaldo after Juventus switch|
|Carmelo Anthony: Rockets bench role challenging mentally|
|Maqsood preferred to Amir in Pakistan T20 squad|
|Make Ramsey Arsenal captain, don´t let him leave – Wilshere|
|Kaneria admits guilt in spot-fixing case|
|No coach can work miracles – Ibrahimovic defends under-fire Mourinho|
|Morgan earns England recall, Cipriani overlooked|
|Reavie leads CJ Cup, solid start from Koepka|
|Juventus kicked me out to sign Ronaldo – Higuain|
|England forward Hughes given six-week ban|
|Injured Halep withdraws from WTA Finals|
|Ronaldo exit makes all the difference for Real Madrid – Luxemburgo|
|Manchester United´s Chelsea Blues and other one-sided rivalries|
|Babbel fears for Kovac´s Bayern future|
|Bradley homers again, Red Sox take 3-1 lead over Astros|
|Ayton, Doncic shine on NBA debuts|
|Leonard focusing on future after Raptors debut|
|MLS Review: Rooney stunner seals DC win, Sounders clinch play-off spot|
|Pochettino ´proud´ of Dier for Ramos tackle|
|Wallabies name three uncapped players for All Blacks clash|
|Lakers coach Walton will monitor LeBron´s minutes, plans to use deep rotation|
|Lloris: United´s Pogba unfairly judged because of transfer fee|
|´Phenomenon´ Mbappe deserves Ballon d´Or, says Buffon|
|Dodgers on cusp of World Series after beating Brewers|
|Mata braced for ´difficult month´ at Man United|
|WATCH: Rooney scores wonderful free-kick for DC United|
|Kaino handed five-week ban for striking Roberts|
|Bears star Khalil Mack ´day-to-day´ with ankle injury|
|Anthony has ´a clearer understanding´ of his role with Rockets|
|Brewers remove Miley after one batter against Dodgers|
|Rams rule out Kupp for 49ers game|
|Giants owner Mara to talk with Beckham Jr|
|Bamberg battle back to claim Champions League win|
|MLB investigated alleged Astros sign stealing, found no wrongdoing|
|Timberwolves star Wiggins to donate $22 for every point this NBA season|
|Red Sox´s Sale won´t start game five of ALCS|
|Tsitsipas and Shapovalov advance at Stockholm Open|
|Witsel to Dortmund is signing of the season - Martinez|
|Pique confident Nadal will play in 2019 Davis Cup|
|Seeds suffer in Moscow and Luxembourg|
|Johnstone grabs hat-trick as England ease past France|
|Pogba and Mourinho disagreement over Instagram video, confirms Pereira|
|Nuggets coach Malone signs contract extension|