Well, this isn’t what we were expecting going into the quarter-finals last week at the All England Club. When looking at the draw, it looked like we were setup for another classic rematch between the top two male tennis players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
But the quarters dispensed of the Wimbledon number one seed and eight-time All England Club winner, Federer, in an unlikely five-set defeat at the hands of South African Kevin Anderson.
The number eight seeded Anderson had to get through the ninth seed, John Isner in the semi-finals, a feat that would not be easy to accomplish. The Isner-Anderson semi went the distance, making it the second longest Wimbledon semi-final in tournament history at six hours and 35 minutes, with the fifth set alone taking nearly three hours to complete.
The fifth and final set at Wimbledon must be won by two games, unlike the previous sets which can be settled by tiebreak. This match could have gone either way and we could just as easily be talking about Isner going into the final, but eventually, Anderson took the marathon match 7-6 (8-6), 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (9-11), 6-4, and final set 26-24 to reach the final in the third Grand Slam of the year.
Meeting Anderson in the final is three-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic. The 12-time Grand Slam winner took on 17-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal in the other semi-final that also went the distance. The Serbian and Spaniard’s five-set match went 5 hours and 15 minutes but was spread out over two days before Djokovic took the victory, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 10-8. Unlike the Anderson-Isner matchup, only one set went to the tiebreaker, unlike the three tiebreakers in the South African’s match.
Djokovic is in his first Grand Slam final since the 2016 U.S. Open and hasn’t won a Grand Slam title since the 2016 Australian Open.
The three-time Wimbledon champion is coming off elbow surgery in January after the Australian Open, missing two months of tournament action with the injury. He has yet to win on the ATP Tour this season, but he’s trending in the right direction. After a quarter-finals loss to Marco Cecchinato and a defeat in the final at the Fever-Tree Championship leading into Wimbledon to Marin Cilic, Djokovic could be setting himself up to turn his 2016 around with a Grand Slam victory.
Kevin Anderson’s route to a championship is by no means an easy one. Though the 4-time winner on the tour may not be facing his toughest opponent of the championship, Djokovic is obviously no slouch. Anderson was able to take down Roger Federer and his 98 career titles, but Djokovic still has 68 tournament victories to his name, including three Wimbledon titles, whereas Anderson has only made one previous Grand Slam final, losing to Stan Wawrinka at the 2017 U.S. Open, but could now be his time at the tender age of 32.
Only Anderson knows how much gas is left in the tank after two extended matches, a four-hour 14-minute match in the quarter-finals over Federer and then the six-hour 35-minute semi-final matchup. Djokovic’s five-hour 15-minute semi was played over two days, and his quarterfinal win over Kei Nishikori was only two hours and 35 minutes long.
Djokovic is the proven champion and is more well-rested going into the final. Take Djokovic to win at -600.