Novak Djokovic has retained his Wimbledon crown and ended Roger Federer’s bold bid to become tennis’s oldest grand slam champion with a scintillating four-set victory in Sunday’s blockbuster final.
In a captivating climax to the championships, Djokovic denied the sentimental favourite for the second straight year with a 7-6 (7-1) 6-7 (10-12) 6-4 6-3 win to secure his third title at the All England Club.
Djokovic’s supreme counter-punching and iron will also earned the 28-year-old a ninth career major, elevating him above Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Ken Rosewall and Fred Perry into outright eighth place on the all-time grand slam leaderboard.
Only Federer (17), Rafael Nadal (14), Pete Sampras (14), Roy Emerson (12), Bjorn Borg (11), Rod Laver (11), Bill Tilden (10) have won more.
Many of the legends, including Borg and Laver, watched his latest triumph from the Royal Box as Djokovic levelled his career series with Federer at 20 wins apiece in an another enthralling title showdown between the sport’s two premier players.
“I’m extremely proud. It’s a huge relief,” Djokovic said.
“That’s the first feeling that I will feel after the tournament. Whether I’m winning it or losing it, in finals, or whenever I finish, it’s just a huge relief.”
In glorious victory, Djokovic showed why he is world No.1 as he bounced back from his shock loss to Stan Wawrinka in last month’s French Open final, a shattering slip-up that denied the Serb from completing a cherished career grand slam sweep.
And in gallant defeat, Federer showed why he is regarded as the greatest player to have ever graced the courts with another breathtaking display – a month shy of his 34th birthday.
Alas, the fan favourite and father of four was unable to add the strawberries and cream to an unparalleled career with a record eighth Wimbledon men’s singles crown.
Federer’s killer forehand and clutch serve, which had been the bedrock of his title challenge, failed him when it mattered most.
He could only land 64 per cent of his first deliveries, down from a crazy strike rate in the high 70s in his opening six rounds, while the second seed’s silky groundstrokes deserted him too often on pressure points.
While Federer struck 58 winners to Djokovic’s 45, the 17-times major champion’s 35 unforced errors to the Serb’s 16 proved telling.
As ever, Federer was gracious in defeat.
“Novak played not only good today but the whole two weeks, the whole year, last year and the year before that,” said Federer.
“I had my chances in the first set. I got lucky to win the second, had chances in the third.
“But he was better on the bigger points. He was rock solid, I didn’t play badly myself. That’s how it goes.”
Federer made a flying start to his record 26th grand slam final – and 10th at London’s SW19 – breaking Djokovic to love in the sixth game.
But he dropped serve for just the second time in the tournament the very next game and was unable to convert either of two set points in the 10th game before Djokovic dominated the tiebreaker and Federer coughed up a double-fault on set point.
With break point chances few and far between, the second set was again decided in a tiebreaker – but rarely have tennis fans been treated to a more pulsating one.
The smooth Swiss rallied from 6-3 down, fought off seven set points in total before sending the pro-Federer crowd into raptures when he stormed the net to level the match up on his second set point.
If the roof had been shut, the thunderous applause may well have raised it.
Djokovic was furious, taking his frustrations out on his racquet, a ball and just about anything in sight.
But he hit back with a break from 40-15 down in the fourth game of the pivotal third set.
Federer’s loosest serving game of the match proved costly as Djokovic returned from a 20-minute stoppage during rain to seize a two-sets-to-one lead.
Federer gave up a third service break with a backhand error as Djokovic surged to a 4-2 lead in the fourth set.
It was all over when Djokovic broke Federer for a fourth time to clinch his sixth title of the year – and 54th of his career – after two hours and 55 minutes.