Novak Djokovic overcame a year of self-doubt by beating men’s Grand Slam record holder Roger Federer in the Wimbledon finals to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
A backhand into the net after almost four hours handed Djokovic a 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4 win yesterday on Centre Court and ended a run of three straight defeats in major finals. Djokovic, 27, lost to Andy Murray of Britain at Wimbledon last year, while Rafael Nadal of Spain got the better of him at the U.S. Open and again at last month’s French Open.
Winning his seventh Grand Slam title “has a special importance to me mentally,” Djokovic told reporters. “Because I managed to not just win against my opponent but win against myself as well and find that inner strength that got me the trophy.”
Djokovic also won Wimbledon in 2011, the same year as the 2014 women’s champion, Petra Kvitova. The Czech defeated Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-0 two days ago.
“I didn’t allow my emotions to fade away, as it was probably the case in Roland Garros final,” said Djokovic, who struck 68 winners while Federer had 75.
In the first-set tie-break, Djokovic missed a set point at 6-5 with a forehand error, and then another one at 7-6 as Federer produced a 122 mile-per-hour ace. Back at 7-7, Federer set up a set point of his own with another blistering serve and won the set on a backhand error.
“This is the best quality tennis in a Grand Slam final that I have been a part of,” Djokovic said today in an interview.
In the fourth set, it looked like the match would be over soon with the Serb leading 5-2. Serving for the championship at 5-3, Djokovic handed Federer a break point as he slipped on the baseline and then got broken on a forehand winner. Serving to stay in the championship at 5-4 down, Federer saved a match point with an ace on a HawkEye challenge and took the match into a decider with a powerful forehand that drew the error.
“I kept believing and kept trying to play offensive tennis,” said Federer, who rushed to the net 67 times, winning 66 percent of the points.
Losing the fourth set was “disappointing,” Djokovic said. “But the only way I could have won the match is by believing that I can make it all the way until the end and staying mentally strong. That’s what I’ve done.”
After the trainer came out to treat his leg, Djokovic didn’t waver when he set up two more match points with Federer once again serving to stay in the match at 5-4 in the final set. After winning the title, Djokovic fell on the court and ate some of the grass before embracing his family and coach Boris Becker in his box.
“It was a tough finish, but it was extremely close,” Federer said, adding he was comforted immediately after the match by Britain’s Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge. He told the crowd on Centre Court he’d see them next year.
After Murray lost to Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinals and Nadal was ousted by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round, there was talk of a changing of the guard in men’s tennis at Wimbledon. It ended with a final between two players who have now won a combined 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
Grand Slam Winners
The four Grand Slam events have been won by Murray, Nadal, Federer or Djokovic since the 2004 French Open with three exceptions: Russia’s Marat Safin at the 2005 Australian Open; Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro at the 2009 U.S. Open; and Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at this year’s Australian Open.
“I don’t feel a huge threat from them,” Federer, 32, said when asked about the next generation. “If I’m playing well I feel like I can control the field to a degree. Clearly there’s never a guarantee. But I do believe the top guys are the ones we know and who are still going to be deciding outcomes of the bigger tournaments.”
Djokovic said he’s ready for the future.
He said he’ll use his win “in the best possible way and for my confidence to grow for the rest of my season and the rest of my career.”