novak djokovic

AP Photo

Novak Djokovic outlasts Roger Federer in epic Wimbledon final

5 Comments

WIMBLEDON, England — For nearly five tight, tense and terrific hours, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer traded the lead, playing on and on and on until an unprecedented fifth-set tiebreaker was required to settle their memorable Wimbledon final.

In the end, it was Djokovic who emerged victorious, coming back to edge Federer 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) and become the first man in 71 years to take home the trophy from the All England Club after needing to erase championship points.

“Unfortunately in these kinds of matches, one of the players has to lose,” Djokovic said. “It’s quite unreal.”

After facing two match points at 8-7 in the last set, he wound up claiming his fifth Wimbledon title and second in a row.

This triumph also earned Djokovic his 16th Grand Slam trophy overall, moving him closer to the only men ahead of him in tennis history: Federer owns 20, Rafael Nadal has 18.

“I just feel like it’s such an incredible opportunity missed,” said Federer, who actually accumulated 14 more total points, 218-204. “I can’t believe it.”

He has ruled grass courts since the early 2000s; he has won Wimbledon eight times dating to 2003, and this was his record 12th appearance in the title match. But Djokovic is now 3-0 against Federer in finals at the place and 4-0 against him in five-setters anywhere.

This one was unlike any other, though.

That’s because, while it was reminiscent of Federer’s 16-14 fifth-set victory over Andy Roddick in the 2009 Wimbledon final, that score is no longer possible: The All England Club altered its rule this year to do away with never-ending matches and institute a tiebreaker at 12-all in a deciding set.

At one point during the final set Sunday, Djokovic asked chair umpire Damian Steiner whether the change called for the tiebreaker at 10-10. Later, when Djokovic held for an 11-10 lead, it was Steiner who got confused, beginning to call out the score as 11-9, before catching himself.

“I respect whatever the rule is,” Federer said when asked what he thinks of the altered setup. “So really, it is what it is, you know?”

Federer and Djokovic pushed each other to the limit in what became as much a test of focus and stamina as it was about skill. It is the longest final in the history of a tournament that dates to the 1870s, eclipsing by nine minutes Nadal’s five-set win over Federer in 2008.

Like that one, this is destined to be discussed for years.

“I’ll try to forget,” joked Federer, who is less than a month shy of his 38th birthday and would have been the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the professional era.

“It was a great match. It was long. It had everything. I had my chances. So did he. I thought we played some great tennis. In a way, I’m very happy with my performance, as well,” Federer said during the trophy ceremony. “But Novak, it’s great. Congratulations, man. That was crazy. Well done.”

First, it was Federer who kept falling behind, then coming back. He twice trailed by a set even though he came quite close to winning the match in three: Federer was two points from grabbing the opening set on seven occasions but couldn’t do it; he was one point from seizing the third, but again came up short.

Then, Federer was down a break early in the crucible of the fifth. And then, after seemingly gaining the upper hand, standing a single point from winning while serving for the victory at 8-7, 40-15, he faltered.

He sent a forehand wide on the first championship point, and Djokovic produced a cross-court forehand winner on the next. Soon enough, the 32-year-old Djokovic had broken back and on they would play for another 45 minutes.

“Definitely tough to have those chances,” Federer said.

Djokovic has done this to him before.

In the semifinals of the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Opens, Djokovic erased two match points each time before coming back to win.

Looking at the bigger picture, there’s also this takeaway from Sunday: Nadal’s status as Federer’s principal nemesis has been well-documented and much-examined over the years — which is a small part of why Friday’s semifinal victory for Federer was fraught with meaning. But it’s now high time to discuss Djokovic’s edge over Federer.

Djokovic has won their past five meetings and holds a 26-22 advantage overall head-to-head, including 10-6 at Grand Slam tournaments and 3-1 at Wimbledon.

By the reverberating sound of things around the old arena Sunday, a vast majority of the spectators were pulling for the popular Federer. Made it seem as though he might be British, not Swiss.

While one person cried out, “We love you both!” — a fitting sentiment, given the high quality and unceasing shifts in momentum — the “Come on, Roger!” count far outnumbered the shouts for his Serbian foe.

Yes, they roared for Federer’s ace on the very first point and when he sent the final to a fifth set. They even applauded when he kicked a ball to a ball boy or when he brought his racket around his back to make meaningless contact after Djokovic served a let.

And then there were the “Awwwws.” So many “Awwwws” — pained sighs of despair accompanying a missed backhand here, a double-fault there, by their guy.

It wasn’t until the fourth set that Federer faced so much as one break point, no small accomplishment against Djokovic, considered by many to be the greatest returner of his, or perhaps any, generation. Still, even though Federer did get broken in that set, he won it to send this match to a fifth.

What already was fun to watch became completely riveting.

That’s not to say the tennis was perfect, because both men showed signs of fatigue and perhaps nerves. Federer’s mediocre approach shot provided Djokovic an opening for a backhand pass that earned a break and a 4-2 lead.

Djokovic’s double-fault in the next game helped Federer break back, and the ensuing changeover was filled with a fugue of fans’ voices chanting the first names of both.

As the newfangled tiebreaker carried the last set alone past the two-hour mark, it was Djokovic who was better. When Federer shanked a forehand off his racket frame, it was over, allowing Djokovic to renew his personal tradition of plucking some blades of Centre Court grass and chewing on them.

“Constant pressure,” Djokovic said. “I had to fight and find my game to stay in the match.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Djokovic gets by Bautista Agut to reach 6th Wimbledon final

Getty
Leave a comment

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) Novak Djokovic watched his Wimbledon semifinal opponent’s shot hit the net tape, pop in the air and slide over for a winner that tied things at a set apiece.

Centre Court spectators stood and cheered, perhaps thinking Roberto Bautista Agut was ready to keep this one tight, after all. Walking to his changeover chair, Djokovic nodded and waved his racket, then his right hand, at the crowd, sarcastically encouraging folks to get louder, as if to say, “Yeah, good for him and good for you. Enjoy it while you can.”

Soon enough, the defending champion was bellowing and shaking his fist after putting away an overhead to go up a break in the third set. Moments later, he was ending a 45-stroke baseline exchange – the longest on record at Wimbledon, where such stats date to 2006 – with a backhand winner to save a break point. Djokovic eventually overcame Bautista Agut 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 Friday to reach his sixth final at the All England Club.

“I had to dig deep,” Djokovic said.

In Sunday’s final, he will seek a fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam trophy overall when he faces either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal.

Those two great rivals were scheduled to face each other later Friday in their first meeting at Wimbledon since the epic 2008 final won by Nadal, 9-7 in the fifth set as darkness descended.

“Of course I will watch it,” Djokovic said of the day’s second semifinal. “My coaches will probably see the whole match. I’ll definitely see parts of it. I’m a fan of that matchup, as well. Federer-Nadal is one of the most epic rivalries of all time. So it’s fantastic to see them play today.”

The opening semifinal was played under a cloudy sky and with a breeze that topped 10 mph, occasionally bothering the No. 1-seeded Djokovic.

It was his 36th career appearance in the final four at a major tournament – and the debut in that round for Bautista Agut, who was seeded 23rd.

Even HE didn’t really expect his visit to the All England Club to last this long: The Spaniard was supposed to meet a half-dozen of his buddies on the island of Ibiza this weekend for his bachelor party. Instead, those pals were sitting in a guest box at Centre Court on Friday.

“He was not really overwhelmed, so to say, with the stadium and with the occasion. He played really well,” Djokovic said. “First set, he was still probably managing his nerves and he made some uncharacteristic unforced errors. But later on, at the beginning of the second, he established himself.”

After a flat forehand return winner off a 107 mph serve on the very first point, Bautista Agut certainly did lose his way for a bit. Djokovic won 14 of the next 18 points while pulling out to a 3-0 lead – and he didn’t need to produce much magic to do so. Just one of those initial 14 points came via his own winner; 10 resulted from Bautista Agut’s unforced errors.

But the second set saw a shift. Djokovic stopped his until-then successful tactic of offering some variety and heading to the net when he could. His forehand also became problematic, while Bautista Agut couldn’t seem to miss a shot.

Bautista Agut already beat Djokovic twice earlier this season. Could he do it again?

No, largely because Djokovic rediscovered his best abilities. He came up bigger in the longest points, eventually holding a 29-17 edge when they lasted at least 10 strokes.

Once his volley winner found the net tape and trickled over to cap the third set – turnabout was fair play, in this instance, after the way the previous set ended – the outcome seemed inevitable. Djokovic broke to lead 2-1 in the fourth, and again for 4-1, then needed a handful of match points to seal the victory.

Whether he faces second-seeded Federer or third-seeded Nadal next, it will be the 22nd Grand Slam final involving two members of the Big Three, and the seventh at Wimbledon.

One of that trio will be the champion at an 11th consecutive major tournament and for the 54th time in the past 65.

Coco Gauff, 15, wins again at Wimbledon

AP
Leave a comment

Coco Gauff, the 15-year-old who beat Venus Williams in her Wimbledon debut, advanced to the third round on Wednesday.

Gauff swept Slovak Magdaléna Rybáriková 6-3, 6-3.

“You can kind of fake it till you make it,” she said. “But I’m not faking it, at least right now.”

Gauff, already the youngest player in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon main draw through qualifying, is now the youngest to make round three since Jennifer Capriati in 1991.

She next gets Slovenian Polona Hercog, who upset 17th seed Madison Keys in the second round. Gauff said she stayed up until 12:30 a.m. after her win over the 39-year-old Williams on Monday.

“I could lie and say I felt normal,” Gauff said, noting that celebrities messaged her on social media, including actresses Navia Robinson and Storm Reid. “It was honestly so hard just with social media and everything trying to focus on my next match because people are still posting about Venus.

Earlier Wednesday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic breezed past American Denis Kudla 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to make the third round for an 11th straight year.

Despite the straightforward score, however, the defending champ was short of perfection as he moves toward a fifth title at the All England Club. His serve was broken twice, once in each of the first two sets.

“There were some moments in the match where maybe I could have done better,” the Serb said. “Dropped a couple of times my serve.”

Djokovic will next face Hubert Hurkacz on Friday, and then could face 18-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime on Monday if they both reach the fourth round.

Reilly Opelka, a 6-foot-11 American, took out three-time major champ Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 8-6.

Opelka, who had 23 aces to reach his first Slam third round, next gets 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic of Canada.

“At first I had a lot of success serving and volleying, so I kept with that,” Opelka said. “And then as he kind of picked up on what I was doing and started reading my serve a little bit, it was more difficult for me to win points at the net. So I had to play, played a lot of tennis on the baseline today.”

Serena WilliamsRoger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the headliners in second-round action Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

WIMBLEDON: Scores | Men’s Draw | Women’s Draw

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!