Relying on his superior return game and gutting out a late calf injury, Novak Djokovic held off Roger Federer’s big serve to capture the second Wimbledon title of his career Sunday at Centre Court of the All England and Croquet Club.
After dropping the first set and watching a championship point in the fourth quickly dissipate, Djokovic outlasted the surprisingly fresher Federer for a 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 5-7 6-4 victory in four hours.
Showing fatigue in the fourth and fifth sets likely due to the right calf strain, Djokovic saved his last bit of energy for the deciding game in the fifth set when Federer committed four unforced errors.
Claiming the seventh slam of his career, Djokovic evened the all-time slam record between the two rivals at 6-6, avenging his failed 2012 Wimbledon defense against Federer in the semifinals. Federer still holds the all-time mark at 18-17, but the Serb has won five of their last seven meetings.
Down 5-3 in the fourth set, Federer’s 29 aces kept him within striking distance of a record eighth Wimbledon title, and 18th slam overall, and he lit Djokovic up with two straight in the ninth game of the fourth set to stave off a championship point and eventually took the last four games to force a fifth and decisive set.
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As the match hit the three-and-half hour mark, Djokovic became frustrated by his all-for-naught attempts to put Federer way, and the 32-year-old Swiss capitalized by staying calm and allowing Djokovic’s nerves to get the better of him.
Until Federer’s fourth set rally, the third set tiebreaker appeared to be the difference in the match, with Djokovic overcoming a very close challenge call that awarded Federer a point to make it 4-3, but capitalized off Federer’s wide return and a drop shot that stretched too long for a 7-4 win and a set advantage heading into the fourth.
Federer took the first set by charging back from a game down to force the tiebreaker, and Djokovic’s shot into the net gave the Swiss the first act.
His health questionable due to a wrist injury earlier this year, Djokovic rolled his left ankle during a long volley in the third game of the second set and crumpled to the ground, and later took a medical timeout to treat a strained right calf in the fifth.
Federer would work the net early and often, converting 17 of 26 approaches halfway through the second set and finishing with 44 points off 67 approaches. Djokovic would sit back along the baseline and take long strokes that forced Federer to tire later in the match, and was more efficient at the net with 26 points on 35 attempts.
Successful on 71 percent of his first serves, Federer fired off 13 aces in the third set and took the set’s ninth game in under a minute for a 5-4 advantage. Time and again, Federer would turn to his serve to stay in the match. After spoiling a break point, he forced a third deuce in the 11th game of the third set, and powered two straight aces to take the 6-5 advantage.
Still, Federer struggled to create any separation from Djokovic, winning three of his seven break points and was forced to play longer sets as the match wore on.