Djokovic Relentless in Winning Wimbledon
By Mike McIntyre
Novak Djokovic looked every bit like the undisputed number one tennis player in the world on Sunday as he defeated his closest rival Roger Federer in the finals of Wimbledon by a score of 7-6(1), 6-7(10), 6-4, 6-3. Unlike at the French Open last month, Djokovic never waivered in the final match and played at a superior level to Federer throughout the bulk of the encounter. He now owns three Wimbledon titles and has a total of 9 Grand Slam victories to his name.
In the first set things started well for Federer as he found himself with a 4-2 lead after breaking Djokovic in the fifth game. Fed fans surely got their hopes up that this would be a return to Grand Slam glory for their hero who had not won a major since this very event in 2012. Instead, Djokovic immediately broke back to signal his intent to repeat as champion. Federer would find himself with two set points later with Djokovic serving at 5-6, but both times Djokovic redeemed himself with strong serving. The set would eventually be determined in a lopsided tiebreak where Djokovic imposed his will on Federer and claimed the breaker by a score of 7 to 1. Federer double-faulted on set point and it did not leave viewers feeling too optimistic about what was to come.
By 2-2 in the second set the stats showed 16 unforced errors for Fededer compared to a mere 3 for Djokovic. It was clear that Federer would have to reduce those numbers in order to have success. Federer missed two break points at 2-2 and despite holding a first serve percentage over 90% compared with Djokovic who was at 58% midway through the second set, the Swiss ace could not convert on his opponent's second serve. The end of the second set became tense as both players faced break points but could not take advantage. The stress felt by Federer's supporters at this point was mirrored by the strained faces of his coaches Stefan Edberg and Severin Luthi as well as his wife Mirka as they all knew that going down by two sets to none would be an unreversable fate for Federer. In yet another tiebreak Djokovic raced out to a large lead and would have three set points while up 6-3. Federer saved two on his serve including a 27 shot rally at 4-6 that both players put every ounce of their strength into. Federer then miraculously returned a difficult Djokovic serve out wide before leveling the breaker at six apiece. Despite having to face six set points, Federer would ultimately prevail in the tiebreak and take it by a score of 12-10 thanks to a foray into the net that ended with a definitive volley winner. Note to Federer: do this more often!
Djokovic was fuming during the second set changeover as he knew how close he was to taking total control of the match and yet let it slip away. His resolve in the third set seemed even more determined now and there was little Federer could do to reverse the course of what was to unfold. Federer brutally shanked a smash while serving at 1-1 and 40-A to give Djokovic the only break he would need in the third. A 20 minute rain delay a short while later did not allow Federer and his team to come up with anything tangible that he could put into action on the court when the players returned. Both players won every point on serve after the rain delay and thus there was no way for Roger to even come close to breaking back before Novak took the set 6-4.
In the fourth and what turned out to be final set of the match Djokovic would break to go up 3-2 and was nailing shot after shot right on the lines. Federer now seemed to be missing more first serves and I actually believe he started to look a bit tired physically (and perhaps mentally as well) as he realized he was not going to be getting back into the match. Djokovic would break Federer one more time to take the set and the championships 6-3.
The ageless Federer that we watched defeated Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-finals was not able to show his full capabilities in the final partly due to Djokovic's near flawless tactics. As mentioned, Federer's first serve also did not hold up throughout the four sets, his legendary forehand hit the net more times than he could afford and his dangerous backhand only confounded his opponent on a few occasions.
One area that Roger could have exploited more often during the first two sets in particular was to come into the net which made Djokovic seemingly unsure. The Serb must have attempted a half dozen lobs throughout the match and never was able to even come close to getting it out of Federer's reach. In fact if I were Boris Becker, Novak's coach, the first thing I would be practicing when I returned to the court was the art of the lob. Federer could also have brought Djokovic in towards the middle of the court with some short balls or drop shots. Unfortunately for Roger, he seemed more content to try to keep the rallies going from the baseline which almost always seemed to favor Djokovic. It felt like any rally that went over six or seven shots was going to end up with Djokovic prevailing.
The win evened-up their head-to-head at 20 wins apiece. With Federer soon to be turning 34 and Djokovic still in the prime of his career at age 28 one wonder's how many more times we will be seeing Federer emerge victorious when they meet. Still, the final was entertaining and for the first two sets one that you could not take your eyes off. Djokovic proved that he is without a doubt the Number One player in the world and the toughest grass-court player to face as well at the moment. Roger can take solace perhaps in the fact that he is the biggest contender to Novak at this stage of the season and yet he still seems to be unable to truly push him to the brink. Three years without a Grand Slam for Federer must seem like an eternity but his desire and his ability to contend is still undeniably stronger than most on the ATP Tour. Federer and his fans must now wait until the U.S. Open to try again to recapture former glory, while Djokovic and his team can enjoy the firm grip they hold on the top spot in men's tennis.