Top seed Novak Djokovic outlasted No. 2 seed Roger Federer 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) in a historic final for his fifth Wimbledon title and second straight on Sunday at the All-England Club.
In the first use of a fifth-set tiebreak at Wimbledon, a format introduced ahead of this year’s tournament, Djokovic jumped ahead 4-1 and held on to win the tiebreaker 7-3.
“I think this was if not the most exciting and thrilling final that I was ever a part of, then it was definitely the top two or three in my career,” Djokovic said. “I was up against one of the greatest players of all time, Roger, who I respect a lot. Unfortunately, in this kind of matches, one of the players has to lose.”
Djokovic failed to record a break until well into the fourth set, while Federer — an eight-time Wimbledon champ — had four at that point.
The Serbian No. 1 was soundly beaten in nearly every statistical category, but was nearly perfect during the first- and third-set tiebreaks. Federer finished with 26 aces (to 10 for Djokovic) and had seven breaks compared to just three for the Serb.
Federer recovered after dropping the first set to immediately break Djokovic to open the second set on his way to a 4-0 lead. Djokovic finally managed a hold but double-faulted to a third break just two games later.
The rivals returned to form in the third set, trading holds until the eventual tiebreak. Djokovic seized the momentum in the tiebreak by jumping out to a 5-1 lead, which was too much for Federer to overcome.
But Federer rallied in the fourth set, a pair of breaks midway through helping him force the decider.
In the fifth set, the pair again exchanged holds until the sixth game — when Djokovic finally picked up just his second break of the match to go up 4-2 and bring the championship within reach.
Federer quickly broke back to eliminate Djokovic’s momentum and the pair again exchanged holds as they reached 6-6 and hurtled toward a potential third tiebreak.
But at 7-7, Federer converted his seventh break in 11 opportunities to earn a chance to serve out for the title.
After a pair of aces, Federer served for the match up 40-15 but Djokovic fended off two championship points to get to deuce and then quickly earned just his third break of the final.
Djokovic and Federer exchanged holds until it reached 12-12, forcing the action into the final tiebreak.
“It’s quite unreal, to be honest, to be two match points down and to come back. It’s a bit strange to play a tie-break at 12-all as well. I was actually hoping I can get to the tie-break,” the champion said.
Federer said in his post-match comments that he was disappointed but will regroup and move on from the loss, looking at his wife and their four children who joined her at the conclusion.
“I will try to forget. It was a great match,” Federer said. “It was long, it had everything. I had my chances, so did he. I thought we played great tennis. In a way I’m happy, very happy with my performance. But Novak was great. ...
“I hope I give some other people a chance to believe at 37 it’s not over yet. I feel great. It’s going to take some time to recover physically, too. I couldn’t give more. I gave it all I had and I can still stand so I feel good and I wish the same for the other 37-year-olds.”
Djokovic improved to 72-10 at Wimbledon, days after becoming just the fourth man in the Open Era to reach the 70-win mark, joining Federer, Jimmy Connors and Boris Becker.
The victory gives Djokovic his 16th Grand Slam title. Federer remains on 20, the most in the Open Era by a male player.
Djokovic is now 26-22 in his career vs. Federer, including victories in the finals at Wimbledon in 2014 and 2015.