In the biggest match of the year thus far, the two top seeds in the Men’s game went head-to-head with a chance to cement their respective Wimbledon legacies. Novak Djokovic was victorious in four sets, beating the 33-year-old 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 to secure his third Wimbledon title.
In what was the most heavily-anticipated encounter of this year’s Wimbledon tournament, the two top seeds were up against each other, with a chance to assert themselves as two of the best tennis players of all-time. Admittedly, the pressure was on Novak Djokovic, who was eager to retain his Wimbledon crown after being beaten in a fierce head-to-head with Stan Wawrinka at Roland Garros last month.
As for Roger Federer, he’s won everything there is and done it in style and with gracefulness – barely breaking sweat. Already a legendary figure, he had the opportunity to clinch his eighth title at SW19, at the age of 33. Proving that age is simply just a number, especially a day after Serena Williams became the oldest winner of the tournament, at the same age.
With the two players going on the famous walk down the tunnel, it was clear that the sheer magnitude of the contest was starting to set in. The warm round of applause, and standing ovation from 15,000 in attendance at Centre Court, as well as millions watching the event at home, just proved how two of the greatest athletes in their sport, were set to go up against each other once more.
Intriguing watch in the early stages
Federer won the coin toss, and was set to serve as the match started. He did so with purpose and power, so much so that Novak could barely answer him. The first game, went to the experienced Swiss within a few minutes as the crowd roared with delight.
Then, Novak enjoyed a few decent points of his own. He forced Roger back behind the baseline upon occasion, and pushed two unforced errors out of him too. The fast-paced nature of the match ensured that within a few more minutes, Federer found himself two-one up.
He continued to dictate the tempo of most points, using his big serve to his advantage – flashing past Djokovic before he could reply effectively enough. The early stats showed he had, SIX winners already, just four-and-a-half games into the match. Novak meanwhile, only had one.
The rallies were short and sharp, but neither man was willing to give up in the battle of supremacy. It was soon three-two, then four-three, then Federer pumped his fist with a roar as the umpire bellowed set point. Six-five ahead, Djokovic serving with Federer hungry to finish off the first set, it wasn’t going to be easy to get back into proceedings for the Serb, or was it?
Two powerful serves, at 122mp/h each, saved two break points before a fascinating rally was finished with another unforced error by the fan favourite. It was suddenly turned on its head, and a tiebreak was appearing on the cards.
Novak ups the ante
As the tiebreak began, Djokovic was eager to get ahead in the match. Having saved two set points already, he had the momentum swinging in his favour, and used it to full advantage as he raced into a three-point lead in the tiebreak. An extraordinary shot was played by Novak, who did extremely well to even reach the ball – he somehow managed to also fire it Federer started to make a few mistakes, which Novak pounced on effectively, and had the set point in his favour with the crowd fairly muted after an energetic start to the final itself.
A warm round of applause for the world number one, who had clearly upped his game in the few minutes until he secured set point, taking a lead against his competitor, who everyone knew was not going out without a fight.
Federer needed a response
Having dropped the first set, after starting so strongly, Roger needed to improve – otherwise the Wimbledon trophy would be slipping away from his grasp. It was back-and-forth, and exciting to watch, as well as being an unpredictable spectacle. The unforced errors continued to spill from Roger’s end, and Djokovic was doing well to hang in the point when battling fierce rallies to contend with.
Federer had the crowd on his side, and his aggressive nature was being punished upon occasion as a few of his forehand returns were meeting the net with uncomfortable consistency. The fifth game of the second set was particularly interesting, as Djokovic dropped two points in quick succession but did well to bring the game to deuce. Then, Federer pushed the Serbian behind the baseline, forcing him to slip in the process as he hit a shot – firing wide and out.
But, it was not over yet. A sweetly struck return wrongfooted Federer and it was back to deuce once more, for the third time in the game. Then, another unforced error from Roger meant Djokovic had advantage point, and a superb forehand winner pushed the number one back in the lead once more. A ridiculously-executed shot in fairness, something not many would attempt to strike, yet he hit it with precision and accuracy as Federer was helpless to try and return it.
The match continued in the same vein, end-to-end, and it was soon four-three to Novak. Federer had a swift change of shirts and served to level proceedings at four-all. He did just that, but not before an exquisite return from a powerful serve saw the ball flash past the Swiss’ eyes.
Five-four up, Djokovic had set point. But just like he himself did in the opening set, Federer broke back and did well to level the scoring at five-each again. Another extremely loud roar from the Wimbledon crowd, who were hoping their hero wouldn’t tumble out of the competition and at least get a set to his name, for their sake as well as his own.
One of his trademark backhands, why not? Federer made things interesting again, and suddenly the audience were on their feet. Groans of frustration echoed across Centre Court soon afterwards though, as roles had reversed. Djokovic was staring at an opportunity to make it six-five, as Roger made yet another unforced error.
A challenge by Novak was incorrect, marginally so as the crowd held their breath once more. An inch, or two, the ball was called out – and again the match was back at level pegging once more. But soon afterwards naturally, it was six-five. Then, six-six. Tiebreak number two, incoming.
Tiebreak to settle the second set
In the first set, Federer’s first serve was lacklustre – in the tiebreak coincidentally, where he needed the weapon most. He took an early lead, as Djokovic was hesitant to strike the ball for caution that it was flying out, but in-fact, hit the line. But a fast-paced rally as well as two unforced errors gave the Serbian a three-one lead.
Obviously, Roger was never down and out. A cute drop shot was followed by another, and Federer’s eyes lit up as he swatted the ball with venom towards the back of the court, where Djokovic could not respond. It was soon four-two, then five-two, and you could tell both of them were giving all they had to stay in the respective rallies.
It was somehow six-six, meaning the first to two clear points would win the second set. Federer wasn’t giving up easily by no stretch of the imagination but at the same time, Djokovic’s resilience was on-show for everyone to marvel at. His never-say-die attitude meant he was fighting for every point, even when things didn’t go his way.
But saying that though, Federer found extra strength from the energetic crowd, using it to his advantage and fighting back once more. The crowd were gripped by the final, which was billed to be a classic, and all signs were leading to one. Roger settled the set with a forehand winner, after another fast-paced rally saw the court open up for him to strike.
Roger takes the set but not with ease
Djokovic was visibly frustrated, but in fairness, who could blame him? Seven, yes, seven set points – all brought back by Roger, as well as two break points saved by the Swiss, he was down by a game in the third set and the crowd were certainly not on his side either. He was hating how the match was unfolding, and knew he had to rectify things, and quickly, otherwise the momentum would be against him.
Two unforced errors ensured that it was 30-all in the second game, and although he didn’t win the next point, he certainly made Federer work hard to win it. Djokovic was off-balance, flustered and upset, but did well to keep his composure and save a break point in the process – taking the game to deuce with himself serving to level proceedings once more. Another unforced error from Federer, as well as a well-struck forehand winner from the Serbian, levelled things.
But, it was not to stay that way for long though. Federer’s aggressive tennis had its positives and negatives – not least the amount of unforced errors he was making when he was pushed back to the baseline. However, he was forcing mistakes from Novak too, who was evidently feeling the pressure.
Rain, rain, go away
A collective groan was heard across the court as Federer squandered a clear opportunity to assert his dominance in the game, and Djokovic took full advantage – as you’d expect from the world’s best, of course. Cameras around the ground showed the rain was coming, and after five minutes or so, play was suspended as the rainfall was ever-growing after two hours and eleven minutes on the clock. The ballboys and girls were extremely swift in the way they handled things, rushing onto the court and pulling the covers over the grass almost immediately afterwards – which was met by applause around the ground as the players’ walked back into the tunnel.
Although it was reported that they did not go back into their respective locker rooms, the rainfall was not relentless enough to contemplate putting the roof on,so after a fifteen minute interval, they were shortly back in play with a three-minute warm-up and restart.
The swift restart
Djokovic made it four-two in the third set with a sweetly-struck winner which flew past Federer, with cameras showing his coach, Boris Becker, pumping his fights in delight. It was far from over though, with Federer doing his best to frustrate Novak once more. His succession of unforced errors though, was Roger’s downfall, as the Serb used his quality to stand out from adversity and slam his way back in-front again.
Two sets to one up, and it was just getting more interesting. A succession of well-executed shots from both players meant no-one was leaving their seats early, as they had got full value for what they’d paid for. Federer saw himself two games to one up in the fourth set, but he was his worst enemy once more as his rash strikes of the ball were punished to good effect. Level again, the momentum continued to shift as the clock proceeded to tick long into the British summer afternoon.
Federer’s longest match in this year’s Championships, was just over two hours. After the rain delay, the match duration clocked just above two-and-a-half hours, and Roger was tiring, quickly. Djokovic showed quite some mental toughness to overcome the annoyance of dropping plenty of set points in the second, and was firmly in the lead as he lapped up the un-forced errors from his Swiss opponent.
Superlatives could not fully describe just how good Novak was playing, and Federer was struggling to keep up towards the end of the fourth set. It was clear to everyone, frustrating to watch from a neutral perspective, Roger’s unforced error count was rising, and continued to do so throughout the match.
Would you expect Roger to give up though? Of course not. Federer was desperate for some brief respite as Novak steamed ahead, hitting forehand winners and asserting his overall dominance – silencing the Centre Court crowd who were heavily in Roger’s favour.
Novak victorious, in some style too
In the final few points, it began to sink in that the Serb was about to achieve even more success. Novak was sublime, and incredibly deserving of the title. Although Federer will feel disappointed he couldn’t secure another Wimbledon title, there was not much he could do in fairness. He’s already cemented himself as a legend of the game, but the better man won. As for Novak – nine Grand Slam titles to his name, he should have more, but the way he’s playing? The sky is the limit for him in his ever-ongoing quest for more success.