The wildest Wimbledon in recent memory ended with Novak Djokovic playing against type. Over the years Djokovic, 31, has become as much defined by his 13 Grand Slam titles as by the exuberant manner in which he’s given to celebrate them. But when Kevin Anderson dumped one last forehand into the net on match point to cinch a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (3) victory for Djokovic, there was no roaring at the heavens or wallowing on Centre Court for the Serb. There was only relief as Djokovic exhaled sharply and crouched down with his racket under the crushing weight of the moment. The livelier reaction came from his 3-year-old son, Stefan; propped in his mother’s arms in Djokovic’s players box, Stefan applauded vigorously and shouted “Daddy! Daddy!” as his pooped papa was presented with his fourth Wimbledon trophy. It marked an emotional coda to an incredible journey for a man who had gone from being one of the most dominant players in history to a barely recognizable husk of himself in a dizzying span of 25 months.
As comebacks go, this was one for the ages, and it owes as much to Djokovic’s fighting spirit as to a chaotic fortnight that saw four of the top seven seeds on the men’s side bow out early in the first weeks. The damage to the women’s draw was even worse. In an Open-era first, all top-10 seeds lost before the quarterfinals. The notable outlier was Serena Williams, whose No. 25 seed was more of a consequence of her taking maternity leave than an actual indicator of her true ability. She’d drop only one set in her six games leading up to the final. Her quest for a record-tying 24th Grand Slam title seemed fated to end as a victory for working mothers the world over. And then she ran into Angelique Kerber.