When the draw for Wimbledon came out, fans were excited at the prospect of seeing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal duke it out for the title, exactly 10 years from their epic 2008 encounter, which is considered by many to be the greatest tennis match of all time.
However, it didn’t work out that way as Federer shockingly went out in the quarterfinals, losing to Kevin Anderson, and Nadal, was ousted in the semifinals by Novak Djokovic. That means that for just the third time in the last 16 iterations of Wimbledon, the final (9am ET, Sunday) will be contested without one of these two in it. That also means that Nadal and Federer’s streak of winning the last six majors, will come to an end.
Without going into too much more detail, it’s clear that Federer and Nadal are a class above the rest. A few years ago there had been talk of a big four, which included Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, but consistently, it has been the big two that have dominated the game for the better part of 15 years. That being said, we’re not here to talk about Federer and Nadal as they are not the ones contesting for the crown. That honor belongs to Novak Djokovic, who is making his way back from injuries and a stretch of subpar play, and Kevin Anderson, who is making his second career finals appearance which is a second in the last four majors as well.
Kevin Anderson’s Road to the Finals
The 32-year-old South African, who turned pro in 2007, began his Wimbledon as most No. 8 seeds do, with an easy three-set victory over an unranked qualifier. In the second round, Anderson dropped his first set of the tournament (in a tiebreak) but overcame Andreas Seppi in four. Then came his first real challenge, the 25th seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber, who Anderson took out in straight sets.
From there, tiebreaks started to become plentiful as Anderson found himself needing to win three to get past the always tricky Gael Monfils in the fourth round. That led to a quarterfinals matchup with Federer, who likely no one expected would be taken out so quickly and in the fashion it happened. The pre-tournament favorite with the American betting sites to win his ninth Wimbledon title, Federer won the first set easily, 2-6, before besting Anderson in a tiebreak in the second. At that point, it felt almost automatic. Federer was going to move on to the semifinals. However, Anderson had other ideas and he came out swinging to take the third set, needing to break Federer just once. The same happened in the fourth as it seemed that Anderson had elevated his play just enough given Federer’s was uncharacteristically slipping. That led to a fifth set where Anderson got his break and despite fighting off several match points from Federer earlier in the contest, was able to emerge as the winner, both of the set (13-11) and the match. It showed that Anderson’s run to the finals of the US Open in 2017 was no mere fluke.
In the semifinals, the 6’8 Anderson matched up against the 6’10 John Isner in what was the tallest grand slam semifinal in history. These two had known each other from their college playing days, Anderson at Illinois, Isner at Georgia and had met on the tour several times as well. And their match was nothing short of expectation. Both hard servers with not much in the way of a ground game, Anderson and Isner split the first two sets without a single break of serve. Anderson finally broke Isner’s serve in the third, becoming the first man to do so during Wimbledon, but Isner broke right back necessitating a third tiebreak, which Isner won. Down two sets again, Anderson won the fourth with a break and then onto the fifth. With there being no fifth set tiebreak in Wimbledon, Isner and Anderson played on, holding serve until 24-24, when Anderson broke through. He then proceeded to hold his own serve to win what is the second longest match in Wimbledon history, by a final of 26-24.
Novak Djokovic’s Road to the Finals
So far, Wimbledon has been a bit of a redemption story for the 31-year-old Novak Djokovic. A pro now for 15 years, Djokovic seemed to fall off over the past two years. It was a combination of injury and the tolls that getting back from that injury took on his game that left the former world No. 1 and 11-time major winner, entering Wimbledon as just the 12th seed and just the 21st ranked player in the world.
That didn’t serve as a deterrent as seeming to be at his best form since his last finals appearance at the 2016 US Open, Djokovic didn’t drop a set against his first two opponents. He took on Kyle Edmund in the third round, where he dropped the first set, but came back to win in four. Another straight sets victory came over Karen Khachanov before Djokovic took on and defeated Kei Nishikori in the quarterfinals in four sets.
That set up the semifinal that in past years would have been the one fans expected to see. The Djokovic/Nadal rivalry, while not as legendary as that of Federer/Nadal, has actually included more matches. The two have met 53 times, which is a head-to-head record among male players in the Open Era. And it’s not one-sided in the slightest as Djokovic holds just the smallest of leads, 28-25. It is Djokovic, not Federer, who was the first player to defeat Nadal 10 times and the only person to defeat him seven times consecutively. At Wimbledon, the two went the distance and beyond as their match needed to be played over two days due to the 11pm curfew. Djokovic won sets one and three, Nadal sets two and four. And again, without a fifth set tiebreak, the two played on until Djokovic broke Nadal as he was serving to stay in the set, getting the 10-8 set win.
Our Preview’s Mens Wimbledon Final Predictions & Betting Pick
Djokovic and Anderson have met just six times in their careers, with Djokovic winning all but once, which was their first meeting in 2008. Both men are right-handed and use a two-handed backhand. Anderson is making his second grand slam final whereas Djokovic is looking for his 12th grand slam title and fourth at Wimbledon.
Both men are playing well but Djokovic’s level of play and fitness is just a little bit above where Anderson is at. While it does help Anderson that Djokovic had to play today, it is hard to believe he will have enough left in his own legs after the eight-plus hour match with Isner in the semis.
These are the Wimbledon Final predictions for this Novak Djokovic vs Kevin Anderson preview: