It was a battle of the top two seeds in the men’s singles draw at Wimbledon. It was a match between two of the game’s best players.
But the championship match between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on July 14 exceeded all expectations, as Djokovic outlasted one of his chief rivals, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 6-4, 13-12 (3), for his 16th major title.
It was the first final at Wimbledon settled by a final-set tiebreaker, after the rule had been changed just this year. It was a fitting end to the match, which lasted four hours and 55 minutes.
The final set lasted almost two hours itself, as Djokovic saved two championship points before finally earning his sixth Wimbledon final.
It was expected that the top-seeded Djokovic and second-seeded Federer would put on a good show in their fifth meeting in a Grand Slam final.
But even they didn’t know how good it would be. In the middle of the fifth set during a break, Djokovic could be heard asking the umpire if there would be a tiebreaker if the final set was tied at 10-all. The new rule for a tiebreaker at 12-all was so new, even the players were unsure where they stood.
But to get there, Djokovic had to come back from the brink. Federer had an 8-7 lead in the fifth set and was serving for the match, up 40-15. For Federer, at age 37, it would have been his ninth Wimbledon crown and 21st Grand Slam title if he could win one more point and the game.
But he couldn’t. Djokovic fought off two championship points and broke Federer, tying the fifth set yet again. Federer would never get as close to the title the rest of the match.
“I will try to forget this final, but it was a great match,” Federer said immediately after the match. “It was long and had everything. I had my chances, but so did he. I have to be happy with my performance. But Novak, congratulations, that was crazy.”
Federer dominated a number of stats in the match, beating Djokovic in points won (218-203), aces (25-10), winners (94-54), break points won (7-3) and net points won (51-24).
But in the end, it was Djokovic hoisting the championship trophy.
Half The Slam
This was Djokovic’s second Grand Slam title of the season, coming after he won his seventh Australian Open title earlier this year. Djokovic fell in the semifinals of the French Open before sweeping through Wimbledon.
“It was one shot away from losing the match,” Djokovic said after his victory. “This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way. He was serving extremely well the entire match. I had a lot of difficulties to read his serve. It was kind of a flash back to the US Open when I saved the two match points against him, as well (in the 2010 and 2011 US Open semifinals).
“In these kind of moments, I just try to never lose self-belief, just stay calm, just focus on trying to get the ball back, return, which wasn’t serving me very well today.”
It served him well enough to win the match, which will go down in the long history at the All-England Club as one of the best championship matches of all-time.