Djokovic outlasts Federer in record-breaking Wimbledon final
Novak Djokovic fought back from two championship points down to beat Roger Federer in a historic final-set tiebreak to claim his fifth Wimbledon crown and his 16th grand slam overall. Alex Grant reports.
In a final for the ages the world number one eventually saw off the challenge of Federer to win 7-6 1-6 7-6 4-6 13-12 after four hours and 57 minutes of action, making it the longest men’s singles final in Wimbledon history – ousting the 2008 final classic between Federer and old-foe Rafael Nadal – a final widely regarded as the greatest match in the sports history.
Both players started the match well, in this their 48th meeting against each other, and the first set went with serve with both players creating very little opportunities on the return. A tiebreak seemed inevitable and, after both players recovered from 0-30 on serve in consecutive games, we had one with 49 minutes on the clock.
As the tiebreak got underway it was Federer who forced his nose in front and looked on course to claim the all-important opening set at 5-3 only for Djokovic to rattle off four straight points to steal the opening set from under Federer’s nose.
Federer, seeded second at this year’s championship despite currently being ranked third in the world rankings, was not about to let his first set disappointment get to him, however, as he quickly pounced on a momentary drop in concentration from Djokovic and raced to a double break second set lead and the Swiss soon levelled the match after a second set lasting just 25 minutes.
Djokovic, back from a momentary toilet break at the end of the second set, bounced back in the third as both players produced a high level of tennis forcing the best from one another as they have throughout most their careers. It was Federer though who once again forced his nose in front with some excellent play bringing up a set point on the Djokovic serve at 5-4. But the Serbian once more stepped it up in a moment of advisory quickly saving the set point and going onto hold.
Once more a tiebreak would be needed to separate the two with Djokovic racing into a 5-1 lead and the Serbian soon had the set secured as another Federer forehand flew into the net with the Swiss undone once more by costly unforced errors.
Federer, who has never won a grand slam final from two sets to one down, once more came back fighting and was soon a double break up once again and despite being broken for the first time in the match to surrender one of said breaks he made no such mistake second time round forcing this match into a final set decider.
As the fifth set got underway half chances came and went for both before Djokovic finally forced his nose in front at 4-2 but as quickly as the break came it was gone again as a clearly tense world number one threw in a double fault and same wayward ground strokes to gift Federer a route back into the contest.
Half chances continued to come and go and with the scores tied at seven games all it was Federer who finally converted one of his as a cross-court forehand winner handed the Swiss the break and with it an opportunity to serve for a ninth Wimbledon crown and a 21st grand slam overall.
Leading 40-15 Federer seemingly had one hand on Wimbledon’s famous gold trophy as he had two straight service points to secure a legendary win but they were soon gone as a wayward forehand from the Swiss on the first and a cross-court passing shot winner from the Serb, on the second, levelled the game at deuce. And Djokovic was not about to let this opportunity pass him up as he broke back to level the match at nine games all.
More opportunities came and went for Federer most notably with Djokovic serving at 11 games all as Federer missed out on two more opportunities to break and serve for the match again as a historic 12 games all final set tiebreak, a first at Wimbledon, would be needed to separate these two legends of the game.
And, as before, it was the world number one who stepped it up a notch in the pressure moments to win his third tiebreak of the final and secure a memorable win.
Victory for the Serbian means he has now come out the victor in four of the last five grand slam events and now sits just two off Rafael Nadal’s current total of 18 grand slam crowns and Federer’s record haul of 20 with the US Open in New York still to come next month.
Speaking afterwards Djokovic described the match as the mentally most demanding of his career commenting:
“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of. I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level because of everything,” Djokovic said.
“I’m just obviously thrilled and overjoyed with emotions to be sitting here in front of you as a winner. It was one shot away from losing the match, as well. This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way.”
Whilst for Federer he will have to find a way to get over all his missed opportunities and speaking after the match the Swiss just couldn’t believe he had let victory slip from his fingers commenting:
“I don’t know if losing 2-2-2 feels better than this one. At the end, it actually doesn’t matter to some extent. You might feel more disappointed, sad over angry,” Federer said. “I don’t know what I feel right now. I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed, I can’t believe it. It is what it is.”
For Djokovic victory also saw him become the second man, after French Open champion Rafael Nadal, to book his spot at the year-end world tour finals at London’s O2 Arena. Speaking of his qualification Djokovic expressed his excitement at heading back to the O2 in November, an event he has won five times before:
“It is always one of the main goals to qualify and to do it so early in the season is great,” said Djokovic. “I look forward to returning to London in November to compete against the best players in the world at The O2.”
Wimbledon glory also allowed the Serbian to edge back in front of the great Spaniard in the race to be year-end world number one. Djokovic will now enter the US hard-court swing boasting a 500-point lead over world number two Nadal in the year-end rankings.