Before playing the British No1, Novak was playing from memory, but in the four third-round sets against Kyle he rediscovered his mojo, which had been missing for a long time.
He got himself fired up and he needed to bring his A-game to beat Kyle. In that match, he effectively said, ‘Okay, I’m back’ and then came that semi-final against Rafa Nadal, in which his level of tennis was off the charts. He didn’t need to replicate that in the final but, from that match against Kyle onwards, he was playing in the here and now.
With Novak, it only seemed like it needed one moment to light him back up again. There were glimpses of the Novak of old at the French Open but you could still sense he wasn’t feeling it.
Here, the intensity in his eyes and body language were back. Confidence is a very fragile thing, but the doubts were erased and he fully believes in himself again.
Novak is a truly great champion. He gets a hard time sometimes from the crowd because he’s not like the two Mr Perfects in Roger Federer and Rafa but what he does on court, it’s nothing really. He was brought up to be brutally honest, as I was, and it turns out a lot of people don’t necessarily like that but, to me, that’s a breath of fresh air.
If you could define Novak in one shot, a shot that highlights when he’s on form, it’s that outside foot on the backhand where he slides across.
For everyone else in the men’s game, that results in a slice, but Novak gets himself in position to be able to get back a two-handed backhand with purpose. It’s the single shot in his repertoire that makes him stand out above everyone else and, when he plays it, his balance is such that he can immediately shift his weight and get back to the middle of the court for the next ball.
When you’re playing him — and I’m sure Kevin Anderson will agree — he’s just a wall. Everything you hit at him, it comes back at you even harder. You saw it in the final: Kevin just didn’t have an opportunity, the ball just kept on coming back.
This might be the moment for another great Novak run. You can’t say he has a bad surface so, with his health, game and confidence back, what’s to stop him anywhere now? Okay, on clay he’s probably second favourite behind Rafa, but not many would bet against him at the US Open.
There’s a big part of me bothered by the ‘what if’ with the final: what if Anderson had been properly fit and rested after that marathon match against John Isner? You could see he was hurting from the outset. The odd thing about a match like that is that the next day you often feel okay; it’s the following day that you stiffen up. In the final, you saw his legs didn’t loosen until the third set and, had he converted one of the set points, things might have been different. He turned things around against Roger Federer, didn’t he?
I’ve been saying for a long time there should be a fifth-set tiebreak. The US Open introduced it and I remember being on the receiving end of some tiebreak defeats, but it’s the way to go.
A lot of people say a marathon fifth set creates so much drama, but I don’t agree: the players become more conservative with their energy so, actually, the games become more predictable.
The International Tennis Federation has to address it. With that change, we might have had a different final. But it’s great to have Novak back at the top of the game. The sport’s missed him.
Look out world... Serena will return even stronger
My advice for the WTA Tour players with regards to Serena Williams is: watch out world.
Okay, there wasn’t a fairytale ending in Saturday’s final but, if anything, that defeat will make her even more determined in the weeks and months ahead. Serena rarely fails and, if she does (I wouldn’t call getting to a Wimbledon final 10 months after her daughter’s birth a failure), it doesn’t last long. She will be fired up for the US Open and I’d say it’s her against the rest of the world right now. Serena arrived at Wimbledon with very few matches under her belt; by Flushing Meadows there will be a lot more. If I were choosing her schedule, I’d get her playing two tournaments before New York and it doesn’t matter how she does. She showed here she doesn’t need a great build-up to do well.
She’s won the US Open six times and, as good as Angelique Kerber’s playing, you’d have to say Serena will be the clear favourite. As I said before, watch out world.