LONDON (Reuters) - Holder and top seed Novak Djokovic suffered an almighty scare against South African giant Kevin Anderson before bad light halted play with the score tied at two sets all in their fourth round match at Wimbledon on Monday.
The world number one lost the first two sets 7-6(8) 7-6(8) on tiebreaks before roaring back to win the next two 6-1 6-4 and remain on course for a 25th successive grand slam quarter-final.
No respecter of reputations, 14th seed Anderson out-ran and out-reached the shaken Serb over the first two hours to send shudders of anticipation around Court One as a shock upset loomed.
They were the first sets the twice champion had dropped in this year’s tournament and Djokovic looked uncomfortable against his opponent’s booming 130mph deliveries and barely slower second serves.
With his back to the wall and staring at the earliest exit by a top seed in 14 years, the Serb then found a sudden burst of energy to raise his game and take the third set in a rattling 24 minutes.
He carried the momentum over into the fourth, racing against the fading of the light, and broke Anderson in the third game before serving out 6-4 as the clock passed the three hours mark.
Boos and shouts from the crowd of “play some more” greeted the umpire’s decision to suspend the match until Tuesday on the same court -- when rain threatens -- as the players packed their bags and walked off.
If anyone was smiling, it was Djokovic -- calm restored and everything to play for.
Anderson had started aggressively, keeping Djokovic on the defensive through an opening set that went with serve to the tiebreak that the South African won with an ace after the champion had rescued one set point and then double-faulted.
The South African made the first break of the match in the second set, going 3-1 up before Djokovic broke back.
The Serb saved two set points against his serve to level at 6-6 and set up a tiebreak that could have gone either way before Anderson served an ace and then broke Djokovic’s serve for the set.
“Anderson came out and meant business,” commented former champion John McEnroe on the BBC.
“What changed (after the second set) was Anderson realized he could win this match and that mindset puts the stress on you and you start to think ‘Can I actually win this?’ Djokovic just kept on working.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, Editing by Ken Ferris and Clare Lovell