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Djokovic outlasts Nadal in epic 5 sets

Serbia's Novak Djokovic (ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP)

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (ANDREW COULDRIDGE / POOL / AFP)

LONDON (AFP) – Novak Djokovic is the overwhelming favorite to secure a fourth Wimbledon title on Sunday but he admits he feared his best days were behind him when his career nose-dived over the last year.

The 31-year-old former world number one won the last of his 12 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 its lowest in 12 years, the Serb even considered sitting out Wimbledon where he has been champion in 2011, 2014 and 2015.

However, on Saturday, Djokovic was the big-hitting, chest-pumping star of old as he defeated old rival Rafael Nadal 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11/9), 3-6, 10-8 in an epic semi-final to book a Sunday title showdown with Kevin Anderson.

‘‘Yes, there were moments of doubt, of frustration, disappointment, where you’re questioning whether you want to keep it going,’’ said Djokovic back in a Slam final for the first time since finishing runner-up at the 2016 US Open.

It was 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 2017.

He was then knocked out of the Australian Open in the last 16 in January by Hyeon Chung, then ranked at 58.

Taro Daniel, the 109-ranked Japanese player, stunned in him in Indian Wells before Benoit Paire, at 47 in the rankings, knocked him out in Miami.

In what was becoming a familiar tale, Martin Klizan, at 140, ousted him in Barcelona before there were signs of life with a run to the final at Queen’s Club on the eve of Wimbledon.

‘‘I managed to overcome challenges and obstacles, get myself to the final of a Slam,’’ added Djokovic.

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