Federer is denied yet again by brilliant Djokovic
Federer’s form suggested he was capable of clinching his first grand slam success since 2012, but Djokovic ousted the Swiss for the second year running to win 7-6 (7/1) 6-7 (10/12) 6-4 6-3.
A stunning second-set tie-break went Federer’s way on Centre Court, but Djokovic was irresistible thereafter, sealing his ninth major triumph, which now includes three at Wimbledon.
“I was aware Roger was going to play like he always plays, at his best when it matters the most,” Djokovic said.
“He pushes you to your limits, and asks you to work hard on every point. He won’t hand you the match. That added a bit more pressure, but these parts of matches you work all your life for. You envision yourself being on Centre Court in this tournament and holding this trophy.”
It means Djokovic joins John McEnroe and his coach Boris Becker in the group of treble champions at Wimbledon and on this evidence few would argue there may be many more to come.
Federer had produced one of his finest displays against British No 1 Andy Murray in the semi-finals, but this is Djokovic’s era of dominance, and he cemented his status as the outstanding player in the world with a clinical, dynamic and brutally efficient display.
It was perhaps not Federer’s fairytale return to glory that the Centre Court crowd had hoped for, but Djokovic has sparked his own revival after a shock defeat to Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final last month. It is admiration, however, rather than adoration that marks fans’ attitude towards the Serb and the Wimbledon crowd, which included five-time champion Bjorn Borg, made their allegiances clear from the moment the players walked out on court.
Federer settled fastest as a sizzling forehand helped him strike a break for 4-2 but the lead was short-lived as Djokovic broke back with a brilliant backhand pass.
Just as against Murray, Federer was on the front foot serving first and the Swiss opened up two set points at 6-5, the second with a clever chip and charge, but Djokovic saved both with two heavy first serves.
The top seed moved up another notch in the tie-break, however, crashing down a number of blistering forehands which proved too strong for Federer, who double faulted to concede the set.
There were two break points for Federer at the start of the second, but Djokovic snuffed them out with two stunning forehands and the drama was again reserved for the business end of the set. Djokovic first failed to take a set point at 5-4 after Federer had double faulted, before the Swiss squandered a break point of his own during a lengthy game at 5-5.
But if that was nail-biting, the tie-break was stomach-churning as both players traded blows for 22 points of exhilarating tennis.
Djokovic seemed to have a two-set lead all-but wrapped up when he raced 6-3 clear but Federer came storming back, saving all three set points, the last of which saw him unleash a scintillating backhand after Djokovic had the court at his mercy.
With the crowd in raptures, willing Federer forward, Djokovic spurned his sixth and seventh set points before Federer clinched his second, as a cool backhand volley made it 12-10 and sparked pandemonium in the stands.
Djokovic appeared perturbed by his wastefulness, lashing a ball into the ground but outer-frustration often masks his inner steel and he soon turned the tide to claim a break.
Spits of rain suspended play for 20 minutes, but Djokovic resumed his charge to serve out and clinch the third set 6-4.
Federer seemed mentally and physically drained as his errors began to increase and Djokovic showed no mercy, taking another break with a booming return to lead 3-2 in the fourth. The No 1 seed was now firmly in the ascendancy and Federer could only cling on, saving another two break points, to keep his opponent in touch.
There was a glimpse of a comeback when Federer had 30-0 up on Djokovic’s serve, but the world No 1 kept his composure to preserve his advantage.
Federer was unable to respond as Djokovic opened up a match point in the very next game and after a booming forehand sealed victory, he crouched down for his traditional eating of the Wimbledon grass.