Novak Djokovic had been here before, struggling in a grand slam final against a Swiss opponent. After a loss to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open, there were questions about the Serb’s ability to rebound at Wimbledon.
Djokovic blew seven set points to allow Roger Federer, with the crowd behind him, to level their match at one set all before the world No. 1 recovered to clinch his third Wimbledon title Sunday.
“It was frustrating obviously not to be able to close it out,” Djokovic said in a news conference after beating the seven-time champion for the second straight year. “I knew that I cannot let this happen against Roger in the finals of Wimbledon because this might be my last chance in the match. But managed to regroup.”
The top seed got an early break to prevail in a third set interrupted by a rain delay, then took the fourth to win 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (10-12), 6-4, 6-3, tying his coach Boris Becker with three Wimbledon titles.
Djokovic had also proved his mental strength in his fourth round against Kevin Anderson, winning from two sets down against the tall South African, who struck 40 aces. Afterward, Djokovic said that match had been “one of the most difficult” of his whole career.
Djokovic was trying to win his first French Open last month when he stumbled in the final against Wawrinka. He’s now lost three finals at Roland Garros -- including in 2012 and 2014 to Rafael Nadal.
The defeat on the Parisian clay left him “disappointed and heartbroken,” the Serb said. It made winning his ninth grand slam title at Wimbledon even sweeter.
“Being able to bounce back mentally after Roland Garros, a tough loss there, and to win this trophy which makes it even bigger,” he said.
The second-set tiebreak was the highpoint of the match, with Federer rushing to the net at every opportunity while Djokovic defended.
Federer saved a second set point in one of the best rallies, a long forehand cross-court exchange that ended on an error. After the 33-year-old Federer saved a third set point with a backhand blasted down the line, the crowd rose and cheered his name when he won the set with a blocked backhand volley off a big serve.
After saving a breakpoint in the opening game of the third set, Djokovic broke in the next game.
“That was the crucial part of the match, each had break points,” Becker told the Wimbledon website. “That’s where he took the match away from Roger.” The German joined Djokovic’s coaching team at the start of 2014.
“Happy that I won the second set, but still know that I’m long way away,” Federer said in a news conference after losing to Djokovic for the second year in a row at Wimbledon. “A pity I couldn’t make more of the momentum.”
Although Federer had chances to win the first set -- he led 4-2 and then had two set points at 6-5, Djokovic was the more consistent player throughout. Federer, who had only been broken once all tournament before the final, dropped his serve four times against Djokovic, who got broken once in the title match. Federer produced 58 winners, 12 more than his opponent, who made only 16 unforced errors. The Swiss had 35.
“It was tough,” Stefan Edberg, Federer’s coach and two-time Wimbledon winner himself, told the British Broadcasting Corp. “Roger would have needed to serve a little better to get a few more free points.”
Federer, the holder of a men’s record 17 grand slam singles titles, wasn’t too disappointed.
“I had a great tournament,” he said. “You can have good tournaments without winning. I still won six matches, lost one. The ratio still remains very good.”