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.
|No timetable for Sale return from shoulder injury|
|This is a partnership - Rodgers on contract negotiations with Packers|
|Eagles QB Wentz unsure he´ll be cleared to play opener|
|Balotelli staying at Nice|
|It wasn´t a penalty, says Hodgson as Palace boss fumes at refereeing decisions|
|Salah can play much better - Klopp demands more from Liverpool star|
|Gasly to Red Bull: Vettel, Verstappen and the drivers who took their Toro Rosso chance|
|Klopp in the dark on Karius future amid links to Besiktas|
|Simeone pleased with draw after rigours of Super Cup|
|Captain Reus saves Dortmund in DFB-Pokal|
|I couldn´t care less - Klopp rejects title challenge talk|
|Ailing Bairstow keen to aid England´s unlikely victory bid at Trent Bridge|
|Redskins secure Peterson signing|
|Manchester City goalkeeper Bravo suffers ruptured Achilles|
|Crystal Palace 0 Liverpool 2: Milner and Mane secure victory at Selhurst Park|
|Whyte takes aim at ´coward´ Fury ahead of Wilder showdown|
|Jets delighted with Darnold, open to trading Bridgewater|
|Gasly to replace Ricciardo at Red Bull|
|Valencia 1 Atletico Madrid 1: Rodrigo strikes to deny Simeone´s side|
|Injured Halep withdraws from Connecticut Open|
|Cipriani fined £2,000 by Gloucester|
|Mourinho will be sacked before Christmas, says Sharpe|
|England face record chase after Kohli smashes India to huge lead|
|Ozil captaining Arsenal a miracle - Hoeness|
|Japan players apologise for ´thoughtless, careless´ actions at Asian Games|
|Henry wants Bordeaux job, Wenger confirms|
|Pogba too inconsistent and not a leader, claims Scholes|
|PCB chairman Sethi resigns in letter to Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan|
|US Open comes too soon for Tsonga|
|Unpredictable results making 2018 F1 season a classic - Wolff|
|Mendy restricts phone use on Guardiola advice|
|Modric brands Inter approach claim ´the greatest nonsense in history´|
|Runners and Ryders: Olesen leapfrogs Poulter into last Team Europe berth|
|Kenedy escapes further action over Camarasa kick|
|England´s Bairstow suffers ´small fracture´ to finger|
|Gonalons joins Sevilla on loan from Roma|
|Modric, Ronaldo and Salah final UEFA Player of the Year nominees|
|Tottenham to play opening Champions League home match at Wembley|
|Karius´ Champions League blunders did not lead to Alisson signing - Klopp|
|Leeds considered €20m Conte offer before turning to Bielsa|
|Modric, Rakitic lead new era for World Cup finalists Croatia|
|Storm´s Chambers banned for three weeks, Smith injury not serious|
|Porte to race Vuelta after recovering from Tour crash|
|The Career Golden Masters: A run-down of Djokovic´s magnificent record|
|Japan send home four basketball players from Asian Games amid prostitution scandal|
|Rugby tackle bags helping Liverpool´s Alisson with Premier League life|
|Federer raring to go at US Open after Djokovic defeat|
|Chelsea boss Sarri plans to give up smoking|
|Alonso´s Toyota team stripped of Silverstone victory|
|Ceballos: No issue with former Real Madrid boss Zidane|
|MLS Review: Martinez equals single-season goalscoring record|
|Astros avoid sweep with win over Athletics|
|Seppi advances, Paire exits Winston-Salem|
|Bale feeling good as Madrid eye sweep of trophies|
|You can´t leave a house three-quarters built – Neville urges United to back Mourinho|
|Dodgers slugger Machado leaves game after being struck by pitch|
|Harden says Carmelo will ´be a good fit´ for Rockets|
|Morata: I never considered Chelsea exit|
|Gavrilova kicks off title defence in New Haven|
|Lopetegui pleased with Bale and Real Madrid after LaLiga opener|
|It´s a very special moment – Djokovic revels in Golden Masters achievement|
|Sorrentino thanks Ronaldo for support after injury|
|Twins place Santana on DL with finger injury|
|Yankees´ Gregorius suffers ´pretty significant´ heel bruise|
|Snedeker ends PGA Tour drought with Wyndham Championship win|
|Spalletti unconcerned despite Inter´s underwhelming start|
|Djokovic makes history with Masters clean sweep in Cincinnati|
|Real Madrid 2 Getafe 0: Bale gives Lopetegui first LaLiga win|
|IndyCar driver Wickens taken to hospital after crash|
|Sherman calls for NFL to scrap ´idiotic´ helmet rule|