Sunday, July 14, 2019

Djokovic tops Federer in epic Wimbledon final

Novak Djokovic poses with the trophy and Serbian flag after winning
the 2015 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer made Wimbledon and Grand Slam history today in an epic final.
   In the end, Djokovic was too tough mentally.
   Saving two championship points and winning all three tiebreakers, Djokovic prevailed 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) in 4 hours, 57 minutes for his second consecutive Wimbledon crown.
   It was the longest Wimbledon final ever, breaking the mark of 4:48 in Rafael Nadal's 2008 triumph over Federer, and the first in tennis history with a fifth-set tiebreaker.
   Wimbledon instituted a tiebreaker at 12-12 in the fifth set in October to prevent marathons such as 6-foot-8 (2.03-meter) Kevin Anderson's 2018 semifinal victory over 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) John Isner – which lasted 6 hours, 36 minutes and went to 26-24 in the fifth – and Isner's 2010 second-round win over Nicolas Mahut – which spanned 11 hours, 5 minutes over three days and went to 70-68 in the fifth.
   The other Grand Slam tournaments have had various fifth-set tiebreakers for years but have never needed them in a men's final. The Davis Cup uses tiebreakers in every set except the fifth.
   "I'm just obviously thrilled and overjoyed with emotions to be sitting here in front of you as a winner," Djokovic, the first man since 1948 to save championship points and go on to win, told reporters. "It was one shot away from losing the match, as well. This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way. He was serving extremely well, I thought, the entire match."
   The fifth set lasted 1 hour, 22 minutes. The second-seeded Federer broke serve to lead 8-7 on a cross-court passing shot after the top-seeded Djokovic, who has perhaps the best return of serve in history, made a backhand stab return of a strong first serve.
Roger Federer, volleying in Indian Wells in 2017,
held two championship points today. Photo by
Mal Taam
   Federer earned two championships points serving at 40-15 in the next game, but Djokovic won the next four points to break serve for 8-8. On the first championship point, Djokovic hit a deep return of a second serve, and Federer sailed a forehand wide. On the second one, Djokovic returned a first serve and won the point with a forehand cross-court passing shot.
   Djokovic escaped two break points to hold serve for 12-11, and Federer held at love.
   Djokovic led 4-1 in the decisive tiebreaker, then both players held serve to give Djokovic his first championship point at 6-3. Federer uncharacteristically mis-hit a forehand, finally ending the dramatic match.
   The crowd strongly favored Federer.
   "I like to (transmute) it in a way," Djokovic said. "When the crowd is chanting 'Roger,' I hear 'Novak.' It sounds silly, but it is like that. I try to convince myself that it's like that."
   This was the first five-set Wimbledon final since Djokovic beat Federer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 in 2014 in 3 hours, 56 minutes.
   After going eight tournaments without a Grand Slam singles title, the 32-year-old Djokovic has won four of the last five. He has 16 overall, four short of Federer's record and two shy of Nadal's total.
   Federer, who will turn 38 on Aug. 8, said he's not concerned about Nadal and Djokovic possibly passing him.
   "I take motivation from different places. Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that's great for them. You can't protect everything anyway," said Federer, who made his Northern California debut in a San Jose exhibition last year.
   "I didn't become a tennis player for that. It's about trying to win Wimbledon, trying to have good runs here, playing in front of such an amazing crowd in this Centre Court against players like Novak and so forth. That's what I play for."
   Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have won the past 11 Grand Slam titles. The last player other than them to triumph was Federer's Swiss compatriot Stan Wawrinka in the 2016 U.S. Open.
   Djokovic improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 against Federer in Wimbledon finals. The loss came against Andy Murray in 2013, ending a 77-year drought by British men at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. Federer has won a record eight Wimbledon crowns.
   Djokovic is now 26-22 against Federer with four consecutive victories and nine wins in their past 11 meetings.
   Federer was bidding to become the oldest Grand Slam men's champion in the Open era, which began in 1968. Ken Rosewall was 37 years, 2 months old when he won the 1972 Australian Open.
   This might have been Federer's last realistic chance to add to his Grand Slam total. He wilted in the extreme heat and humidity in the fourth round of last year's U.S. Open, the heat during the Australian Open can be brutal, his only French Open crown came 10 years ago, and he'll be almost 39 at Wimbledon next year.
   Djokovic, meanwhile, figures to win many more Slams.

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