LONDON • Novak Djokovic paid tribute to his three-year-old son Stefan yesterday, after he roared back to his brutal best in a 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) defeat of Kevin Anderson to clinch the Wimbledon singles title for the fourth time.
"It feels amazing because for the first time in my life I have someone screaming 'daddy, daddy' and it's a little boy right there," the 31-year-old Serb said.
"He's under five years old, so he couldn't watch the matches live, but we hoped if I lifted the trophy, he could be there. I'm very emotional and happy for my wife and my whole team. He was by far the best sparring partner I had in the last couple of weeks."
Fatigue finally caught up with Anderson after the South African eighth seed was kept on court for almost 11 hours during his last two wins over defending champion Roger Federer and John Isner.
Djokovic had needed more than five hours to subdue Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals but he relied on his supreme levels of fitness to outlast Anderson.
"I would just like to congratulate Kevin. He has had quite a few hours in the quarter-finals and semi-finals. In his first Wimbledon final, he didn't play well in the first two sets, but he was a better player in the third set and I was happy to come through," Djokovic added.
"The last couple of years haven't been easy. I had surgery and was absent from the tour for six months. This was my first Grand Slam final after a couple of years. There was no better place to make my comeback."
Djokovic captured a 13th Grand Slam title to end a 25-month barren run at the Slams. He won the last of his 12 previous majors at the 2016 French Open when he completed the career Grand Slam.
And, after a shattering quarter-final exit at this year's Roland Garros, which saw his world ranking slump to 21st, his lowest in 12 years, he even considered sitting out Wimbledon, where he was champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015.
It was also at Wimbledon last year where his troubles started. An elbow injury forced a retirement in his quarter-final and he sat out the rest of last year.
Djokovic also became the lowest-ranked champion since Goran Ivanisevic, the world No. 125 when he won in 2001.
But the Serb was not the only player on the comeback trail following a difficult year.
Women's singles champion Angelique Kerber also believes her Wimbledon triumph on Saturday would not have been possible without experiencing last year's lows.
The 30-year-old produced a superb display to beat Serena Williams 6-3, 6-3 and she became the first German since Steffi Graf in 1996 to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Centre Court.
Kerber also beat Williams in the 2016 Australian Open final and is the only player, besides Williams' sister Venus, to beat her twice in a Grand Slam final.
She also won the US Open in 2016 and lost to Williams in the Wimbledon final, rising to world No. 1.
But the left-hander struggled to deal with the added spotlight last year, when she failed to win a title and slid to, coincidentally, No. 21 in the rankings.
That experience made her stronger, and she reached the 2018 Australian Open semis and the quarter-finals at Roland Garros.
"I think without 2017 I couldn't win this tournament," said Kerber, who will rise to world No. 4.
"I learnt a lot from last year, with all the expectation, all the things I go through. I also needed to find the motivation after 2016."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN