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What’s Novak Djokovic’s Secret Weapon? Kevin Anderson’s Answer Might Surprise… | ATP Tour

Three years ago, Kevin Anderson played Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Now, the South African will face the World No. 1 in the second round at the All England Club.

It is a tough draw for the former World No. 5, who is battling back to top form after dealing with injuries. He knows that playing the 19-time Grand Slam champion will be a difficult challenge.

“Of course in the big moments and on the centre courts, he’s been there so many times. He has a lot of confidence and comfort in those situations as well,” Anderson said. “And of course he’s a fighter. I’ve played some matches with him where it’s been really close and he is always not giving anything [away]. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge.”

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Anderson has played the Serbian star 11 times, winning twice. This will be their fourth clash at Wimbledon, including the 2018 championship match. On that occasion, Anderson felt he was gaining inroads at the end of the match, but was unable to force a fourth set.

One thing that the grass helps Djokovic with is his serve. On Monday, the 34-year-old struck 25 aces against Jack Draper, the second-most he has hit in his career following the 26 he crushed at this year’s Australian Open against Frances Tiafoe. Anderson will not be surprised if Djokovic delivers another good serving performance against him.

“He really hits his spots well,” Anderson said. “I don’t think too many people necessarily think of that, but I feel like he’s always been a tough server to return against.”

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At his best, Anderson was one of the best servers on the ATP Tour. His rocket-like delivery and booming groundstrokes made the South African a tough opponent for everyone on the Tour. But the 35-year-old has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years, most notably undergoing right knee surgeries in September 2019 and February 2020.

“Obviously it’s been a very difficult couple of years. But right now, I played four sets today and the body felt really good. There are always little bits and pieces… for the most part, nothing major, which is great,” Anderson said after beating Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera on Monday. “I was really pleased with today’s performance. It’s been a tough past few weeks for me on the grass, a few losses in a row. [It was nice] to turn that around, and I thought there were a ton of positives today, so I’m really happy about that.”

Photo Credit: Rogers Cup
The World No. 102 is resilient. When he had his biggest stretch of success from 2017-19, it came after recovering from injuries. Despite going through a tough period, Anderson’s resolve remains the same.

“Honestly, there have been a few times where I feel like it’s been challenging and frustrating, but any time when I had any uncertainty about continuing or not, I think it was more about just the frustration coming through,” Anderson said. “I never felt in my heart that I was done playing and certainly when the time comes to stop, it’s going to be on my own terms.

“The desire has always been there, which is great. I still love playing and as long as I still feel this way, I’m going to keep going.”

For now, Anderson will be fully focused on Djokovic. Although the Serbian has been impressive in 2021, the big right-hander will walk on court with confidence.

“I think one of the biggest things is that self-belief. I think a lot of those [top] guys often win matches before they’ve even stepped out onto the court,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience, I’ve played these guys before. I know what it takes, so I’m certainly going to have belief in myself. That’s what you need.

“I also think at the end of the day, [it’s about] just approaching it like another tennis match. Just really focusing on what you can do, what you can control. That’s ultimately going to be what I’m most focused on, regardless of who is on the other side of the net. I know that’s when I play my best tennis and when I play my best tennis that’s when I’m going to give myself the best chance [to win].”

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