Wimbledon: Djokovic survives titanic struggle with Kevin Anderson to set up clash Marin Cilic
Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic survived a Court One shoot-out with Kevin Anderson to keep the defence of his title alive.
Big-serving South African Anderson had taken the first two sets of the Court One clash on Monday evening before Djokovic battled back to level and force a deciding set, that fading light meant was held over until Tuesday.
Djokovic experienced some nervy moments on the resumption, fending off break points, before sealing a 6-7 (6/8) 6-7 (6/8) 6-1 6-4 7-5 fourth-round success, breaking decisively in the 11th game as Anderson's served faltered to complete his comeback.
The world number one will face US Open champion Marin Cilic on Wednesday in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic was on top when the players came off on Monday evening. It was widely felt that Anderson would benefit most from the decision to call off the match for the night, rather than switch the final set to the floodlit Centre Court.
And the 14th seed came out strongly when, at the second attempt after a brief shower, play began on Tuesday.
Anderson blasted three aces in the opening game, after firing down 32 on Monday, before Djokovic held with ease in the next.
Anderson's big serve got him out of trouble from deuce in game three.
Then came a moment he will reflect on as a missed opportunity.
A double fault from Djokovic and a loose forehand gave Anderson 0-30 in the next game, a glimpse of an opening against the world number one's serve, and another sloppy forehand presented two break points at 15-40.
But Djokovic held on, Anderson failing to strike, and it was a big opportunity spurned.
Anderson won a thrilling rally in a sixth game that he took to deuce, but again Djokovic stubbornly held serve.
Then Anderson's serve, his money-maker, broke down at the most critical point. Two double faults in a row brought up a pair of break points in game 11, and a sublime Djokovic return at the toes of Anderson gave the Serbian his breakthrough for a 6-5 lead.
Given Anderson had broken serve just once in the match, Djokovic was always likely to hold from there.
And despite dropping the first two points of the game, Djokovic soon swept away his opponent's hopes, with a backhand from Anderson on match point floating beyond the baseline to settle the issue.
Djokovic said on the BBC: "I think Kevin served exceptionally well.
"I found this was one of the most difficult matches I've played at Wimbledon maybe in my career.
"At times I was really helpless with my return. It was very difficult to read his serve.
"He was very aggressive.
"To come back and win in five definitely gives me great satisfaction and confidence for the next challenge.
"It was frustrating at times, especially today, but I managed to go through and that's all that matters.
"I congratulate Kevin for a great effort. It wouldn't have been undeserved if he'd won this match."
Belfast Telegraph Digital