If we thought that the ‘Big Three’ of the tennis world (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic for the uninitiated) had given us all that there was to marvel in the world of tennis, little did we know what we were in for on Sunday afternoon, when Federer and Djokovic took to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic played an almost five hour long men’s final that will be remembered as perhaps one of the best finals and matches of all time at the All England Club.
The intensity, the level of tennis, and the ups and downs had fans and tennis enthusiasts glued to their seats and TV screens for close to five hours and it was not until the last point was played, was it clear who the 2019 Wimbledon men’s champion would be.
Djokovic came into the match as a strong favorite, seeking his fifth Wimbledon and 16th major title. He was up against the Swiss maestro Roger Federer, who was seeking his 21st Grand Slam title.
The importance of the first set was evident as both players ensured they held their serves and minimized chances on their own service games. With both in solid serving form, the first set resulted in a tiebreak. The tiebreak was even with Federer up a mini-break at 5-3, but lost four consecutive points with errors, to lose the breaker 5-7.
A dip in Djokovic’s level in the second set and the Swiss seized the opportunity, breaking the Djokovic serve three times to win the set 6-1. A more even third set with minimal break opportunities on either’s service games (barring a Federer set-point on the Djokovic serve at 4-5) resulted in another tie-break, with Djokovic increasing the level to win 7-3.
Down two sets to one, Federer displayed some of the best grass court tennis seen in a while and won the fourth set 6-4, breaking Djokovic twice. Despite the Serb breaking back once, Federer played a solid service game to serve out the set.
Djokovic was off to a quick start in the decider, breaking the Swiss to go up 4-2, but a strong return game by Federer saw the set even at 4-4, and the tennis world was in for a long afternoon at Center Court. With the fifth set even at 7-7, whispers of a first ever Wimbledon final set tie-break at 12-12 grew louder. With the 15th game of the set at 30-30, Federer sensed an opening and two great points resulted in an 8-7 lead for the Swiss within arms distance of serving out for a ninth Wimbledon title.
After losing the first point of the game, he evened it at 15-15 and two aces later, was at 40-15 with two championship points for what inevitably looked like major title number 21.
What followed will go down in history as something that might not be forgotten very easily…
A forehand error by Federer, followed by a cross-court by Djokovic brought the game to deuce saving two match points, and two points later we were back on serve at 8-8 in the fifth.
Federer had just lost the opportunity of a lifetime, with two championship points, from a major title number 21, a ninth Wimbledon title, having defeated his arch rival Nadal in the semi-final and about to defeat his other arch rival Djokovic in the final.
The players held serve amidst some tense moments till the final set tiebreak (the first of its kind) at 12-12. Not too different to earlier in the match, Djokovic proved to be the better player in the tiebreak, winning it 7-3 and winning a fifth Wimbledon title after almost five hours of playing what will go down as one of the best Wimbledon finals and matches of all time.
The match and the Djokovic victory added another page to the ‘Big Three’ story. A third consecutive Wimbledon finals victory for Djokovic over Federer, grand slam title number 16, Wimbledon title number five, and narrowing the gap further with Nadal and Federer.
The Grand Slam count for Federer, Nadal, Djokovic stands at 20-18-16 and with Djokovic 32 years old with a few years to play, with none of the ‘Next Gen’ looking threatening enough just yet. The Serb will believe that he can give it everything and more to be the leader of the pack and in turn the greatest of all time.
Despite the huge disappointment for the almost 38 year old Federer, it was evident that he still belongs at the very top, and capable of winning more majors, whoever the opposition is.
Most importantly, the match reminds one of the quality of tennis the ‘Big Three’ big to the court, and after almost 15 years of dominance on the biggest stage, they are not yet ready to let go and as long as one continues, so will the other two and in turn make all of them and the sport that much better.