Novak Djokovic was the victor in an enthralling men’s singles final with Roger Federer at Wimbledon. Despite Federer’s seven titles in SW19, the majority of pundits viewed the Serb as the favourite. From the outset it appeared as if this would be a match of fine margins. Both players were holding serve comfortably in the early stages, and the match was initially slow to get going. With neither Djokovic nor Federer able to get on top of the other’s serve, a tiebreak followed. Even this was a close-run thing, with the lead changing hands numerous times, but eventually the Swiss maestro got his nose in front and clinched the first set when Djokovic planted a backhand into the net.
The Serb put the disappointment of losing the first set out of his mind very quickly however, and notched the first break of the match. Federer decided to follow his backhand into the net and Djokovic punished him, placing his backhand into the open court. More often than not Federer’s punishing groundstrokes have proved too much for his opponents, but Djokovic’s superb defensive skills made these weapons far less effective. Djokovic levelled the match with an emphatic smash, and seemingly had the momentum going into the third set.
The 2011 champion had recently hired former Wimbledon champion and world no.1 Boris Becker to help reverse his recent trend of losing Grand Slam finals and give him the psychological edge in the decisive moments. This resolve was to be tested over the course of almost four hours, in which both men pushed themselves to the limit. Federer continued to mix up his style of play, sometimes willing to engage Djokovic in long rallies and at other times keen to go for winners early. At times, his tactic of coming to the net paid off. However, Djokovic all too often got past the Federer defences. Federer does however possess the greater finesse and his accuracy with the drop shot kept the Serb constantly on his toes. Djokovic was able however to find his best serves when it mattered and his ability to hit the lines on key points was unerring. The third set again resulted in a tie-break, and Djokovic held his nerve to lead the match and put him in sight of victory.
Federer played his part in a magnificent final. Image: BBC Sport
As the match wore on, it was clear that the 27 year-old was the fitter of the two and more often than not Federer just seemed to run out of gas in the longer points, hitting long when he attempted to go for broke. This is what happened in the fourth game of the fourth set, allowing Djokovic to break and putting him on course for his first Major in eighteen months. However, the 17-time Grand Slam champion refused to accept defeat and a majestic cross-court forehand saw him break back immediately. The match was becoming increasingly unpredictable as breaks of serve suddenly became far more prevalent. Djokovic served for the match at 5-3 and many of the spectators had become resigned to the fact that an entertaining spectacle was coming to a close. However, Federer was also able to summon incredible amounts of resolve to mount a stirring comeback. His use of the sliced backhand softened Djokovic up before a lethal backhand sent the Serb sprawling, and, with his opponent on his back, Federer put away the loose ball to the approval of the Centre Court crowd, who let out a defeaning roar. It would have appeared too much to expect Federer to break serve again, but, after holding serve, that is exactly what happened. The man viewed by many as the greatest player of all time was getting into his groove and his attacking approach paid off as he took the final into a decider after reeling off five games in a row.
The final set took a more normal course as both players held serve more comfortably. Djokovic had a chance to make it 5-3, but Federer snuffed out the break point opportunity with a bold serve-volley tactic on a second serve. Federer then could have made inroads into Djokovic’s serve in the following game, but placed a relatively simple overhead (by his standards) into the net. The first break point opportunities were finally converted in the decisive tenth game, when a weary Federer placed a backhand into the net, handing Djokovic the world number one spot and a victory that he dedicated to childhood coach Jelena Gencic, who died last year. Federer was understandably dejected, but took heart from his performances over the two weeks, saying that it offered hope for the future. However, he will not get many better chances to win a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title
Feature Image: BBC Sport