A grand return

Ah, there you are again, Novak. It’s been too long.

At the Wimbledon men’s final of 2018, tennis celebrated the return of a wonderful old friend. These last couple of years have featured an unfamiliar doppelganger bearing Djokovic’s name, with none of his old invincibility; but as of the semi-finals here, the awkward stranger is banished.

It’s been a long, uncomfortable road, but the superstar is back, rocking the Centre Court, nibbling its grass in victory, and racking up the Grand Slams once again.

If this Championships decider fell short of an all-time classic, then the story it framed will go down in the history books nonetheless. Here was 32-year-old Kevin Anderson, the giant who no one saw coming, bidding to become the oldest first-time Wimbledon champion since the game turned professional 50 years ago, and the first South African to lift the famous gilt trophy. Opposite him was the 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic, who has endured two very long years of turmoil, injury and decline.

Each had fought breathtaking battles through earlier rounds to reach this shootout, but only one man could complete his personal odyssey with the ultimate prize – and it was Djokovic, delivering at times a near error-free display to capture his fourth Wimbledon crown 6-2, 6-2, 7-6(3).