Novak Djokovic staged a remarkable escape to beat Roger Federer in arguably the most dramatic Wimbledon men’s singles final in history.
The defending champion saved two match points to triumph 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(4) 4-6 13-12(3), a match featuring the first ever fifth-set tiebreak in a singles match at the All England Club.
Federer broke serve in the 15th game of the fifth set, and, behind a barrage of aces, moved ahead 8-7, 40-15.
But even with two match points, he couldn’t close it out.
Djokovic escaped and won his fifth Wimbledon trophy in a memorable battle spanning four hours and 57 minutes, a victory delivering him a 16th Grand Slam singles title.
A match for the ages…
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2019
“Unfortunately in these kind of matches, one of the players has to lose,” Djokovic said on court. “As Roger said, we both had our chances.
“It’s quite unreal, to be honest, to be two match points down, and to come back.”
Federer, who had come within a point of beating Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the same major tournament for the first time, did his best to keep the mood light on court.
“I will try to forget,” he said with a smile about the result. “It was long, it had everything. I had my chances, so did he. And I thought we played some great tennis. So in a way I have to be very happy with my performance as well.
“Novak, it’s great – congratulations man. That was crazy. Well done.”
But the Swiss could not hide his disappointment when he fronted the media a short while later.
“I don’t know what I feel right now,” he said. “I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed. I can’t believe it.”
A great speech from a great champion.
— BBC Tennis (@bbctennis) July 14, 2019
The first set was defined by the variation in Federer’s game.
The Swiss deployed a wide array of shots, spins and angles to try and throw off the metronomic Djokovic. His tactics were more obviously different; he opted for the slice backhand far more frequently against the Serb than he did in his semifinal against Nadal, where he frequently hit over the stroke.
And then there were the fluctuations in his level; down 1-3 in the tiebreak, Federer elevated his play and struck a stinging forehand pass followed by an unreturnable serve to lead 5-3. Then his groundstrokes deserted him, and he lost the final four points to hand Djokovic the opening set.
Historically, Federer is a better front-runner than Djokovic in Grand Slam finals while losing more often than the Serb if he drops the first set.
— Joshua Kay (@js_kay) July 14, 2019
One may have expected Federer’s level to fall away in the second set as Djokovic tightened his grip on the match, yet the opposite happened – Federer broke the world No.1 twice on route to a 4-0 lead.
The momentum shift was so startling and the deficit so great that Djokovic appeared to throw away the set; serving at 1-5, he was broken to love, losing the last two points with a forehand well long of the baseline, and a double fault.
That capitulation meant Federer served first in the third set. Generally considered an advantageous position, the Swiss looked set to take advantage of it when he held serve for 5-4 and then earned a set point in the following game with a superb backhand half-volley winner.
Still flabbergasted that Djokovic won 6/20 serve points in that 25-minute second set. #Wimbledon
Djokovic 2 winners v 10 unforced in the set (vs 14 winners / 6 unforced in the opener)
— Chris Oddo (@TheFanChild) July 14, 2019
Suddenly, Djokovic locked in, committing just one unforced error for the rest of the set.
Up the other end of the court, Federer’s game disintegrated. Three backhand unforced errors in the tiebreak pushed Djokovic ahead 4-1, and although Federer struck an ace to close the gap to 4-5, a fourth backhand error – a slice, poked wide – handed Djokovic his first set point, which he converted.
In the fourth set, Federer survived a tight fourth game on serve. And then it was Djokovic’s turn to collapse.
Serving in the next game, the top seed double faulted and then sent a forehand just long of the baseline – it was ruled in, before Federer successfully challenged the call – to fall behind 15-40. When Djokovic next pushed a backhand wide, Federer had the break and a 3-2 lead, and Centre Court erupted.
As Djokovic’s game continued to leak errors, Federer moved ahead 5-2 thanks to another break of serve.
With two opportunities to serve for the set, he missed the first – that eighth game marked the first time in the entire match that Djokovic earned a break point – but did so on the second attempt, serving it out at love with a forehand swinging volley winner.
The match was now in a fifth set, where historically, Djokovic has thrived.
Career 5 set records…
H2H 3-0 Djokovic#Wimbledon
— John Horn (@SportsHorn) July 14, 2019
The Serb was 8-1 in five-set matches at Wimbledon, his last loss coming to Mario Ancic in 2006. He has also beaten Federer in all three of their matches that had extended five sets.
And he always looked the more likely.
Djokovic earned three break points in the third game, all of which Federer saved with clutch play. But in the fifth game, Djokovic again arrived at 15-40, and this time broke with a stinging crosscourt backhand passing shot winner.
Up 4-2, Djokovic looked a near-certain winner – until Federer roused the crowd once more with a break back in the seventh game.
From here, few service games felt like a foregone conclusion; both men faced 15-30 deficits at different stages before recovering to hold.
When Federer broke serve with a forehand cross-court passing shot to lead 8-7, an incredible ninth Wimbledon singles title was within reach.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 14, 2019
But Djokovic won four straight points from match points down, and seemed to get firmly back on top of a dispirited Federer.
There was to be a final twist; in the 23rd game, Djokovic was up 40-0 and looked set to complete a comfortable hold for a 12-11 lead, only for Federer to reel him back in, level at deuce, and eventually hold two break points. Had he converted, another opportunity to serve for the title would have been his.
But Djokovic was relentless, went on to hold.
Once the set progressed to the final tiebreak, he never trailed.
“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of,” Djokovic said.
“I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia (in 2012) that went almost six hours. But mentally this was different level, because of everything.
“It was one shot away from losing the match, as well. This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way.
“But 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.
“In the most important moments, all three tiebreaks I guess, if I can say so, I found my best game.”
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