By Alan Baldwin
Top seed and reigning champion Novak Djokovic pulled off the great escape at Wimbledon in beating South African Kevin Anderson 6-7(6) 6-7(6) 6-1 6-4 7-5 on Tuesday to reach his 25th successive grand slam quarter-final.
In a match spanning two days, with the world number one losing the first two sets to the 14th-seeded giant before clawing back to level in fading light on Monday, Djokovic walked away a mightily relieved man.
“I was two sets down, to come back and win in five gives me great satisfaction and confidence for the next challenge,” he said after the normal order was restored.
“I think he served exceptionally well. This was one of the most difficult matches I have played at Wimbledon and maybe in my career.”
The players had walked out to cheers from the crowd but the entry proved premature, with umbrellas going up and the rain covers hurriedly pulled across Court One as the pair returned to the locker room.
When the match eventually re-started, 16 hours and 33 minutes after the last point had been played, Djokovic was immediately back in the line of fire.
Anderson blasted down two aces, followed by a backhand volley and then another bullet that fizzed past Djokovic, to hold serve without giving the Serb any hope of replying.
Djokovic had to save two break points in the fourth game, holding serve for 2-2, with Anderson keeping up the pressure by rattling through the next game without dropping a point.
The next games went with serve to 5-4, with Djokovic needing all his focus as he served to stay in the match. Job done, he then broke Anderson courtesy of two double faults to go 6-5 up and served for the match at 40-30 with the South African’s final return hit long.