Novak Djokovic claimed his fifth Wimbledon singles title after winning the longest men’s final in the tournament’s history.
The darling of Centre Court, Roger Federer featured in the previous longest final against Rafael Nadal 11 years ago, and just like then he walked away empty handed after taking the contest to a fifth set and being part of one of the competition’s most memorable contests.
Just like the Cricket World Cup Final up the roads at Lord’s, the match needed extra time to resolve a ferocious battle of wills, with the Serbian taking a decisive final set tie break – the first of its kind to be used in the final itself.
Twice Federer recovered from a set down to regain control and worked himself into a winning position with two match points on the Djokovic serve at 8-7.
But the reigning champion refused to yield, fighting back to earn a 16th Grand Slam title, which takes him to within four of the 20 accumulated by Switzerland’s finest. It was his fourth triumph in six years at SW19.
All the statistics pointed to ill fortune for Federer, who won more points than the champion over the course of the four hours and 57 minutes of action. He hit more winners (94-54), morer aces (25-10), fewer doubled faults (6-9), won more first serve points, more break points and more points at the net. And yet it was Djokovic who finally prevailed: 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12.
If it was a hard one to take for the vanquished Federer, it was equally so for the majority in the stands, who were willing the Swiss to go on and claim a ninth Wimbledon title. A sumptuous semi-final performance against Nadal had raised their hopes that this was to be his year once more.
“I think this was if not the most exciting and thrilling finals I was ever a part of, then it is in the top two or three of my career against one of the greatest players of all time,” said Djokovic, who at 32 still has time to surpass the Grand Slam title count of a runner-up who will be nearly 39 by the time Wimbledon comes around again in 2020.
“Unfortunately in this kind of match, one of the players has to lose. It’s quite unreal to be two match points down and to come back. It’s a bit strange to play a tie break at 12-all as well.”
“I hope I give some other people a chance to believe that at 37 it is not over yet,” Federer said. “Obviously this is going to take some time to recover [from] physically. I couldn’t have given more. I gave it all I had. I will try to forget. It was a great match. It was long, it had everything. I had my chances, so did he. I thought we played some great tennis.”