London: The men’s Wimbledon final between two greats of the game lived upto its billing here at the All England Club on Sunday. After three hours of scintillating tennis, the title clash between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer was locked at two sets apiece.
Djokovic, the world number one and defending champion, drew the first blood by clinching the first set 7-6. The Serbian down 3-5 in the tie break, managed to sneak in ahead thanks to a couple of backhand errors from the Swiss ace.
Federer regrouped quickly and ran away with the second set 6-1. Djokovic appeared completely scratchy in the second set but 15-time Grand Slam champion went ahead in the contest by pocketing the third set, once again in the tie-break. Pushed to the wall, Federer, the eight-time Wimbledon champion, stayed alive by bagging the fourth 6-4 and pushing the game to the decider.
The 37-year-old Swiss can clinch a record-extending 21st major if he manages to break free of the world number one’s stranglehold.
Four-time Wimbledon winner and defending champion Djokovic enjoys a 25-22 edge in career meetings, stretching back 13 years.
The Serb has won 14 of their last 20 meetings and eight of the last 10.
Federer has lost all four of their most recent meetings at the Slams and it’s now seven years since he triumphed over the 32-year-old at the majors.
That was 2012 in four sets in a Wimbledon semi-final.
However, Federer, who will be 38 next month, insists such statistics are meaningless as he attempts to succeed Ken Rosewall, at the 1972 Australian Open, as the oldest Slam champion of the Open era.
He is also bidding to become the first man in the Open era to win five Grand Slam singles titles after turning 30.
Federer, who last won the Wimbledon title in 2017 — beating Croatia’s Marin Cilic — reached his 12th final here by defeating his arch-rival Rafael Nadal in the last four clash. Wimbledon had last witnessed the clash of the titans in 2008.
While Nadal had managed to prevail in an epic encounter 11 years ago, the Spanish genius was denied an entry to the final for the second straight time.
That win was crucial coming as it did just a month after his old rival had condemned him to his worst Slam loss in 11 years in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
Djokovic, in the other last-four clash, bested Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in four sets.
Agut surprised the packed Centre Court crowd by clinching the second set but in the next two sets it was business as usual for the Serbian great.
Federer doesn’t enjoy a great record at Wimbledon finals against Djokovic.
The duo met in the title clash of the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon editions and it was Djokovic who came up trumps both the times. On the eve of the final, Federer, who clinched a 10th Halle title, was confident of his chances.
“It’s been a rock solid year for me. I won in Halle (on grass on the eve of Wimbledon). The stars are aligned right now,” said Federer.
“From that standpoint I can go into the match very confident.” Federer passed the 100-win mark at Wimbledon in his quarterfinal victory over Kei Nishikori. “This is like at school — on the day of the test you’re not going to read, I don’t know, how many books that day.
“It’s quite clear the work was done way before.” Djokovic said he wasn’t unperturbed by the strong love for Federer at the All England Club.
“Look, I focus on what I need to do,” said Djokovic.
“At times they wanted him to come back into the match, maybe take a lead because he was an underdog.
“I understand that. But I had enough support here over the years, so I don’t complain.”