Andy Murray remains the only player to defeat Novak Djokovic in a Wimbledon final.
Djokovic equalled Bjorn Borg’s record of five titles when he overcame Roger Federer 7-6 1-6 7-6 6-4 13-12 in the longest decider on record, three minutes short of five hours. One which was decided by the first championship tie-break at 12-12 in the fifth set.
This has always been the tournament for me that I wanted to win one day. I used to make the trophy out of materials in my room and I hoped I would be able to win it Novak Djokovic
And the Serb, who made the golden trophy out of ‘materials’ as a kid, proudly held the real one aloft and declared his 16th Grand Slam was “a dream come true” with his son Stefan and parents Srdjan and Dijana in his guest box.
The defending champion, who lost to Murray in 2013, said: “I know I said this before but when I was a four or five year old boy I used to dream of being a tennis player one day. This has always been the tournament for me that I wanted to win one day. I used to make the trophy out of materials in my room and I hoped I would be able to win it.
“It’s special to share this with this crowd and my team. My wife and daughter are here in London but they’re at home and I send them a big hug.
“Everybody was suffering, I think. My parents are here, that is a dream come true. Thanks for giving everything for me to be here.”
“I think this was, if not the most exciting and thrilling final I’ve been a part of then definitely in the top two or three of my career – and against one of the greatest of all time in Roger who I respect a lot.
“Unfortunately, in these matches one player has to lose. Both of us had our chances. It was quite unreal to have match points against me and come back and then to have a tie-break at 12-12.
“I was actually hoping I could get to a tie-break. Roger said he hopes he give people the chance to believe at 37 years old and I hope that I am one of them.
“He inspires me that’s for sure.”
Federer, the crowd favourite who had two match points, was his sporting self
He said: “I will try to forget this final, but it was a great match!
“It was long and had everything. I had my chances, but so did he. I have to be happy with my performance. But Novak, congratulations, that was crazy.
“I hope I give some other people a chance to believe around the world. I gave it all I had and I can still stand. I hope the same can be said for all the other 37-year olds.
“My children won’t be excited with the plate, they would be more excited with that golden thing. But it is all good, back to being a dad and a husband.”
Going in there was little between the two rivals who had slugged it out 47 times before, with Djokovic holding a 25-22 advantage. More pertinently, though, the first seeded Serb had defeated the second-seeded Swiss eight times in their last ten encounters.
The pair were one and two in the all-time list of Grand Slam wins (353-276) with Federer at numero uno.
There were umpteen facts to pull out to prove how Federer – a record 20-time major champion – matched up against Djokovic, who had lifted 15.
But all that mattered to the dynamic duo was what they could produce against each other on the day. The day of the All England final.
Federer, the second ever oldest finalist, a month off his 38th birthday, was giving five years to his Serbian opponent.
He also knew how important getting a winning start meant. He had only beaten Djokovic once having lost the first set.
Also whoever had won the opening set in their previous showdowns had gone on to victory over 80 per cent of the time
Federer hoped it would be third time lucky having lost to his rival in the 2014 and 2015 deciders.
He was the better player in the first set – with Djokovic having to rely on his astonishing ability to return with Federer the aggressor – but neither player was broken as it went into a tie-break.
The Swiss was two points from clinching it but Djokovic roared back to claim the next four points and the set.
If Federer was down in the dumps, he had a funny way of showing it. He raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set, breaking Djokovic twice. His Serbian opponent – finally held but double faulted in his next service game – after a series of errors – which drew Federer level.
Federer continued to play at a high level in the third set as Djokovic managed to raise his own back up.
The Serbian, rated the best returner in the game, could not even squeeze out one break point as his opponent served with accuracy to force Djokovic to serve to save himself from going behind in the tenth game.
And he had to save a set point, brought up by a delicate backhand drop shot after a stunning rally, just to help him keep on serve.
Federer’s serve came up trumps again to make it 6-5, having lost only nine points behind his first serve.
But Djokovic held his nerve and his serve to force another tie-break.
Federer had been almost flawless in his play, consistent and on the front foot and a serve Djokovic could not fathom.
But in the second tie-break, just like the first, errors crept into his game. It allowed his opponent to take a 5-1 lead.
He reduced the deficit to 5-4 but Djokovic, on serve, bagged the next two points and the lead.
Again, the pattern of the match continued as Federer broke Djokovic twice in the fourth.
But Djokovic finally got a break point as Federer served for the set. The Swiss saved it after a 35-shot rally. Yet the Serb refused to be denied and earned his first break, reducing the deficit to force Federer to serve again for the set.
This time the 37-year-old levelled the match. The crowd erupted as Federer fired a forehand to clinch it, revealing, just as they did in the semi-final against Rafa Nadal, whose colours they had tied to their masts.
The favouritism showed the Swiss must have got under the skin of Djokovic but former coach Boris Becker insisted it is “something he has learned to deal with.”
The last time the pair were involved in a five-setter at Wimbledon, Djokovic claimed the title five years ago.
Djokovic also held a better win ratio in such matches overall, winning 29, losing ten, while Federer’s record stood at 30-21.
But the question was: Who had the greater bottle and will to win on the afternoon of 14th July 2019.
Sporting distractions abounded in England, with Lewis Hamilton winning the British Grand Prix, the home country lifting the cricket World Cup at Lord’s and the World Netball Championships in Liverpool – and there was cycling’s Tour de France across the water offering alternative attention.
But with Federer-Djokovic going into a fifth set, Wimbledon held the nation in thrall.
Federer was forced to save three points in the fourth game for 2-2 with his suffering wife Mirka mouthing “c’mon”.
But he pegged back Djokovic in the next game. The Serb was cruising at 40-0 but Federer won the next three points.
The Serb dug deep to pull out the game and broke Federer for a 4-2 lead.
But Djokovic appeared to tighten up in his next service game, double-faulting, and on break point, hitting a forehand long.
Prince William and his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, were spotted getting swept up in the pro-Federer mood.
Former British No.1 Tim Henman said with a smile: “I thought the Royal Box was supposed to be impartial. There were standing ovations everywhere!”
Federer made it 4-4, but Djokovic got within two points of the championship in the tenth game before the Swiss levelled the set.
The Serb saved himself going two break points down with a flying forehand volley after double faulting and being 15-30 down on his serve.
Djokovic got within two points of winning once more before Federer held for 6-6.
Each held before Federer broke Djokovic for an 8-7 lead, clinching it with a forehand cross court.
And the Swiss secured two match points with his 23rd ace but gutsy Djokovic hauled it back to break and put the set back on serve.
As the shadow fell across the court, they each held again. Twice. We were inching towards the new rule of a tie-break at 12-12 in the deciding set.
At 11-11, Federer had two break points but Djokovic proved his mettle to force his opponent to serve to save the match.
The Swiss held, sealing it with an ace on 4hr.48min, the same time as the longest ever Wimbledon final, which featured him and Rafa Nadal in 2008.
We now had the championship tie-break.
Djokovic opened up a 4-1 lead in it. Federer reduced the arrears to one before the Serb surged away, sealed three championship with a backhand down the line and took the first as Federer miss-hit a forehand to send the ball into the skies. It was over after a roller-coaster 4hr.57min.