Novak is back! Djokovic returns to glorious peak

A truly stunning semifinal victory over Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon confirms Novak Djokovic is again operating at the peak of his powers.

Novak Djokovic during his epic Wimbledon semi-final with Rafael Nadal   -  Getty Images

Novak Djokovic still has one more step to take in his search for a fourth Wimbledon men's singles crown, but one thing is certain. One of the game's all-time greats is back to his brilliant, spellbinding best.

In a thrilling semifinal played over two days under the roof of Centre Court, Djokovic eventually emerged the victor in a titanic battle with Rafael Nadal, triumphing 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 10-8.

Djokovic, who will be a strong favourite in Sunday's final against Kevin Anderson, cut an emotional figure in a post-match interview with the BBC as he reflected on "everything I have been through to get here".

It is easy to see why.

READ: Nadal: Wimbledon finalist Djokovic playing at his top level again

In sport and in life, it is easy for past achievements to quickly fade from memory, with greater precedence naturally given to more recent events.

Only 25 months have passed since Djokovic became the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four grand slam singles titles at once. He was, quite simply, unstoppable.

Yet having reached the highest of heights by finally ending his hunt for a French Open crown in June 2016, the Serbian then endured a swift and surprising decline, one that initially saw him lose the world number one ranking to Andy Murray at the end of the same year.

Since then, the astonishing renaissance of Roger Federer, together with Nadal's return to the peak of his powers, has coincided with Djokovic often looking a shadow of his former self.

A persistent elbow problem, which led to Djokovic missing the second half of the 2017 season, was the chief reason for his slide down the rankings, but he also had to contend with unwelcome speculation over his personal life.

And as recently as last month, when the 12-time grand slam champion suffered a shock quarter-final defeat to Marco Cecchinato at Roland Garros, serious doubts remained over whether Djokovic would ever return to top form.

ALSO READ: Nadal and Djokovic's Wimbledon semi among their greatest clashes

Such doubts have now been emphatically quashed.

Federer and Nadal have each enjoyed joyous resurgences after people questioned whether their best years were behind them.

Djokovic, whose tally of major singles titles is bettered only by Federer (20), Nadal (17) and Pete Sampras (14) among male players, is now pulling off the same feat - and in some style.

If impressive displays against the likes of Kyle Edmund and Kei Nishikori earlier in the tournament had not already shown Djokovic to be back in the old routine, his absorbing contest with Nadal provided the most glorious confirmation.

Not only did he display the shot-making ability and remarkable defence that was a hallmark of his golden era, Djokovic passed a hugely significant psychological test as he prevailed in a battle that tested both players mentally as much as physically.

In a gripping final set, the eventual victor twice served himself out of trouble at 15-40 before saving a fifth break point, at 7-7, with a magnificent cross-court forehand.

Djokovic celebrated that point with vigour, pumping his arms to further rouse an enthralled crowd, and victory came his way soon after as the first break of the final set arrived in its 18th game with Nadal again serving to stay in the contest.

Anderson is now the only man standing between Djokovic and a 13th grand slam. With Novak having regained top form, do not be surprised if many more titles follow.

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