Novak Djokovic again dashed Roger Federer’s hopes of winning a record eighth Wimbledon crown as the Serbian ripped up the script to defend his title at the All England Club.
Federer’s form suggested he was capable of clinching his first grand slam success since 2012 but Djokovic ousted the Swiss for the second year running to win 7-6 (7/1) 6-7 (10/12) 6-4 6-3.
A stunning second-set tie-break went Federer’s way on Centre Court but Djokovic was irresistible thereafter, sealing his ninth major triumph, which now includes three at Wimbledon.
“I was aware Roger was going to play like he always plays, at his best when it matters the most,” Djokovic said afterwards on court.
“He pushes you to your limits, and asks you to work hard on every point. He won’t hand you the match.
“That added a bit more pressure but these parts of matches you work all your life for. You envision yourself being on Centre Court in this tournament and holding this trophy. It’s a thrilling feeling.”
It means Djokovic joins John McEnroe and his coach Boris Becker in the group of treble champions at Wimbledon and on this evidence few would argue there may be many more to come.
Federer had produced one of his finest displays against Andy Murray in the semi-finals but this is Djokovic’s era of dominance, and he cemented his status as the stand-out player in the world with a clinical, dynamic and brutally efficient display.
Djokovic deserves huge acclaim for equalling Becker’s three Wimbledon triumphs, especially 30 years after the ever-popular German’s south west London breakthrough.
This of course, ought to be the focus: the symmetry of mentee matching mentor.
Instead the Serb’s ninth major victory merely raised the very real fear that Federer may now never claim his record eighth Wimbledon crown.
The ghosts of champions past always encircle Wimbledon’s famous arena, but none more so than with two former fierce foes as competitors now locking horns under coaching remit.
Becker got the better of old adversary Stefan Edberg, now Federer’s super coach, this time last year, as Djokovic claimed the 2014 title.
Cool Swede Edberg pipped Becker to the 1988 Wimbledon title, before the German, with the famous shock of ginger hair gained revenge – and his third triumph in SW19 – a year on.
Becker got one up on Edberg in 2014, and this time there was to be no levelling out in that rivalry.
Djokovic revealed this week that Becker battles sleepless nights to inspire his charge to grand slam success.
Insomnia paid the greatest dividend as Djokovic was able to pat the grass and pick out a couple of blades to chew, in his now-customary celebration.
Pete Sampras will be forgiven a wry smile.
The notoriously competitive American has hailed Federer as the game’s all-time greatest more than once, with the two still level on seven Wimbledon titles apiece.
Publicly he has backed Federer’s legacy hunting, but surely some part of him will relish continuing to share that Wimbledon record.
Sampras built a trophy walkway from his Los Angeles home to his private tennis court, so in retirement he could invite the top players out for a hit – and lead them past all that silverware and into battle.
Sampras was said to be moved to tears by one description of him attaining Zen state in his imperial pomp.
Federer has always boasted a chess grand master edge to his approach, always composing victorious points and thinking five moves ahead of his opponent.
All that ingenuity brimmed to the surface as Federer dispatched Scotland’s Andy Murray in an ageless semi-final triumph.
Federer’s legs weighed ever so slightly heavy against Djokovic though, who prevailed through his niggling ability to grind his way into position time after time.
Djokovic let out a primal roar on victory, venting all the frustrations of losing his third French Open final in June.
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