Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson will complete the singles action at Wimbledon on Sunday – in a rather unlikely final at the All England Club.
Both men had have had to work hard to reach the final, taking responsibility to dump the winners of the past six Grand Slams – Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – out between them.
Of course it remains to be seen at what cost their monumental efforts will come at.
Anderson set the record for the longest semi-final ever seen in the tournaments history. His match with John Isner lasted more than six-and-half hours, finishing 26-24 in the deciding set.
Considering Anderson beat Federer 13-11 in the quarter-finals, its a wonder hes even standing, however, his exploits on Friday had a huge impact on Djokovics own progress.
Grand Slam winners since 2017
2017 Australian Open: Federer
2017 French Open: Nadal
2017 Wimbledon: Federer
2017 US Open: Nadal
2018 Australian Open: Federer
2018 French Open: Nadal
2018 Wimbledon: Djokovic/Anderson
Routes to Wimbledon final
R1: 6-3 6-4 6-4 Gombos
R2: 6-3 6-7 6-3 6-4 Seppi
R3: 6-3 7-5 7-5 Kohlschreiber
R4: 7-6 7-6 5-7 7-6 Monfils
QF: 2-6 6-7 7-5 6-3 13-11 Federer
SF: 7-6 6-7 6-7 6-4 26-24 Isner
R1: 6-3 6-1 6-2 Sandgren
R2: 6-1 6-2 6-3 Zeballos
R3: 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 Edmund
R4: 6-4 6-2 6-2 Khachanov
QF: 6-3 3-6 6-2 6-2 Nishikori
SF: 6-4 3-6 7-6 3-6 10-8 Nadal
Only getting on court after 8pm on Friday night, Djokovic and Nadal recorded the second-longest semi-final in Wimbledons history – second only to the match that preceded it.
Obviously its not going to be easy [to recover], the South African said. It wouldnt be ideal. Obviously Id like to have been done a little bit earlier in terms of my recovery, playing against two of the greatest players of all times.
Its tough on them as well. When youre planning, youre scheduling, youre second on after 1pm, you dont think youre getting on at 8pm. Its tough on them, too.
I mean, all I can do is control what I can control, do my best at getting as recovered as possible. Starting this week off, I came in here with a goal of firstly beating my best result, but at the same time putting myself in this position.
At the US Open I was in the finals. Maybe I felt sort of my crowning achievement was actually getting to the finals. Definitely hungry to go one step further. Im going to obviously have to pay a lot of attention to my recovery to try and give myself the best shot possible.
Unlike Isner-Anderson, Djokovic-Nadal was not completed in one go – both men were required to return under the roof of Centre Court on Saturday.
The good news for Anderson is that Djokovic is now short of a full days rest. The bad news: the Serb is back playing his best tennis.
After their epic encounter, Nadal said of the three-time Wimbledon champion: He playing great.
No, no, my opinion, hes playing at his top level again. I said before the match, and thats it. Hes in the final of Wimbledon.
The problem is we achieved that match the last couple of years, seems like you are in the final of Wimbledon, and this is not that match.
You cant be in the final of Wimbledon, even if your name is not Novak Djokovic, without playing a great level of tennis.
Anderson, physically, will surely be the more depleted of the two. While Djokovic essentially had two best-of-three set matches split across two days, Anderson has endured two slugfests totalling more than 11 hours in his past two matches – its likely to have taken its toll.
The bigger concern for Djokovic will be handling the emotional high hell have felt on Saturday evening after finally returning to the big time following an injury-hit 18 months.
Im really, really pleased, Djokovic said. I was very emotional after the match, as well, because its been a long 15 months for me, you know, trying to overcome different obstacles. So to be where I am at the moment is quite, quite satisfying.
Beating Nadal will have felt like a de facto final, but he cant head into this one feeling the job is already done.
Anderson is the most improved player on the ATP Tour over the past 12 months.
He will be less overwhelmed than his Grand Slam final debut at the US Open and he is playing with pure belief. He is convinced he belongs on this stage.
The win over Federer in the quarter-finals, where he had trailed by two sets, is the perfect example of how his mentality has transformed over the past year or so.
I mean, considering hes playing only his second Grand Slam final, obviously he has a lot more to gain, Djokovic added.
Djokovic 5-1 Anderson
Djokovic 2-0 Anderson
Grand Slam titles
Djokovic 12-0 Anderson
Djokovic – 1/5
Anderson – 4/1
If I take my last couple years, I dont have much to lose myself. Im, again, in a Grand Slam finals after a long time, after actually almost two years.
Of course, we want this trophy. We want this match, both of us. Who is going to take it? I dont know. It really depends.
Djokovic has lost just once to Anderson – 10 years ago in the Miami Open. However, the Serb was forced to fight back from two sets down against the South African in 2015 on his way to the title.
Im not expecting the former world No. 1 to be forced to recover from too far behind on this occasion. He looks pumped up and is playing some joyous tennis.
It may be his first Slam final in just under two years, but its his fifth final in these parts – his experience and high quality ball striking should see him through.
Expect the Serb to lift a fourth title at the All England Club.
Prediction: Djokovic in 3