LONDON: Novak Djokovic envies Kevin Anderson the extra night’s sleep he’ll have had before the pair meet in the men’s Wimbledon final on Sunday.
Both finalists played record-breaking, energy-sapping five-set semi-finals to reach the tournament’s finale. But Anderson’s six-hour-36-minute duel with John Isner at least finished on the day it started on Friday.
Djokovic’s thriller against long-time rival Rafael Nadal lasted a mere five hours 15 minutes, but only three sets of that could be completed before the Wimbledon curfew at 11 pm on Friday, and the pair had to come back on Saturday to finish off before the women’s final.
“Kevin also had quite a few hours on the court in the last couple matches. But he had a day off, which is quite, so to say, necessary at this stage.
“I wish I can have a day. But it is what it is. I’ll just have to accept the circumstances and try to recover as best as I can,” Djokovic said.
The 31-year-old Serb, making a comeback this year after a slump in form and an elbow injury, said he did not feel he would be a clear favourite in the final, despite his 12 Grand Slam titles — three at Wimbledon.
“I think we’re quite even. He’s playing I think his second Grand Slam finals. He played the US Open finals last year. He’s definitely playing the tennis of his life,” Djokovic said.
“I don’t think he has much to lose really tomorrow. He’s going to come out with big serves and big tennis.”
Djokovic is seeded 12th after his drop in form and Anderson is eighth.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to weather the storm.”
The two semi-finals were the longest ever played at Wimbledon, and Djokovic said the physical toll was immense.
“If I show you my feet, you would understand,” he said, adding that Nadal was probably the game’s greatest fighter.
“He battles every single point like it’s his last. That’s something that is so impressive with Rafa. That’s what makes him so difficult to beat on any surface.
“You’re coming into the match against him, knowing that you have to earn your points, is already an energy-spending moment. So you have to be ready for it, obviously. That’s why you put in X amount of hours on the practice court, preparation, trying to be as professional as you can, because you need to compete with a guy like Nadal. He does the same.”
Nadal said Djokovic was back to his highest level of tennis and the Serb said the victory had made him “quite emotional”.
“Because it’s been a long 15 months for me, you know, trying to overcome different obstacles. So to be where I am at the moment is quite, quite satisfying.”
He said he worked hard to stay calm like the master of tennis cool Roger Federer, but it was tough because of the high level and intensity of the match and the quality of his opponent.
“Obviously it’s important…to accept whatever is happening and try to possess the calm mind, because the calm mind in the end wins,” he said.
“Sometimes you lose the control. The match is long, so you have time to bounce back, I guess, to regroup,” he said.
“A couple times I lost my cool, then I lost my serve, then a set. Nadal is who he is because he knows how to use those momentums. When he sees the opportunity, he seizes it, he really takes it.
“That’s why this match was extraordinary from every point of view. Incredibly proud to overcome it.”