Novak Djokovic is once again the Wimbledon champion after an epic encounter on Sunday, beating Roger Federer in five sets 7-6 1-6 7-6 1-6 13-12. His fifth Wimbledon title pushes him to 16 slams overall, four behind Federer for now.
Federer came into the match as the underdog but looked the stronger player for large parts of the match, having his opponent on the back foot often. Neither player would have a break chance so it was down to a tiebreak to settle the first, where Federer would be ruing missed chances for the first time in the match. Up 5-3, a loose forehand error set off a run of four straight points for Djokovic to take the set.
Federer had never won from a set down against Novak at a grand slam but that didn’t seem to bother him as he cruised through the second set to even it up. Djokovic hit a double fault to end the set, looking as if he was trying to get the set over as quick as possible. While Djokovic is perceived to be the best returner in the world, he was having no luck for large parts of this match. He once again had no break points in set three, while Federer had one that was also a set point. He failed to convert and another tiebreak would occur. Federer hit three straight errors to begin the tiebreak and eventually found himself 5-1 down, too much of a deficit to overturn as he went down 2-1.
Once again, Federer showed great resolve to bounce back in the fourth set and push this one all the way with two more breaks of the Djokovic serve. The insurance break would be needed though with Djokovic finally securing his first break of the match to put Federer under pressure at 5-4 up. The eight time champion rose to the task, dropping a quick love hold.
Federer’s serving numbers were way down on his usual best but he hit 25 aces in this one, including 12 in the final set. One of those came in his hold for 2-2, wiping out the third of three break point chances against an increasingly menacing Djokovic on return. The Serbian finally got his break to take a 4-2 lead but nerves would take over, as he gave it straight back. A double fault brought up the first break point which went untaken but the second one would go in Federer’s favour to put the match back on serve. Federer delivered a number of strong holds under pressure before finally getting his opportunity, breaking for an 8-7 lead. Up two match points on serve against Djokovic at a slam once more, the Swiss would have been having the gut wrenching 2011 US Open at the back of his mind when he failed to convert either and was finally broken thanks to two straight forehand errors.
Federer would have been forgiven for falling apart after the manner of that service game but he was the one who had the best chances before the new tiebreak at 12-12. He had two break points at 11-11 but both went unconverted, the second with a Djokovic smash. Djokovic once again reigned supreme in the third tiebreak of the day as Federer sprayed errors once again. He hit three straight to give the World No.1 a 4-1 lead and that advantage would be all he needed. The pair both won their two service points to move it to 6-3 and Djokovic needed just one match point to confirm his victory. A great Djokovic return could only be shanked wildly as the defending champion pulled off one of the best wins of his career.
It shows the cruel nature of tennis that Federer won 14 more points in this match but still lost, purely because of his poor performance on the biggest points. His hopes of winning another grand slam must be fading – even if he was so close here. “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.”
Djokovic will be the favourite to win the next two slams at least and must be getting more and more confident of matching Federer’s 20, especially with each time he denies the Swiss another chance to add to his tally. “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 final of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level because of everything,” Djokovic said.