Novak's sweet sixteen

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in an epic Wimbledon final. He now owns a 16th grand slam title.

Novak Djokovic posing with his trophy at Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alix Ramsay

As is his custom, he picked a blade of grass and ate it. But somehow, it almost seemed perfunctory. As if his heart was not in it.

Novak Djokovic had just won his fifth Wimbledon title, he had equalled Bjorn Borg’s record at the All England Club, he had been a part of the longest men’s final in SW19 and he had played in the first ever fifth set tiebreak in a men’s final on Centre Court. For a man who like to make history, this was a pretty good haul.

Novak Djokovic tasting the grass at Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Federer won more points

But Djokovic looked utterly spent. His 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4) 4-6. 13-12 (3) win over Roger Federer had taken three minutes shy of five hours and for most of that time, he was hanging on by his fingernails as his 37-year-old foe was defying Father Time and flinging everything he could think of at the world No.1.

Federer won more points – 14 to be exact – he hit more winners (94 to 54) and he was attacking at every opportunity. He just lost on three tiebreaks: Djokovic played them better.

But that is what Djokovic does – he never gives in, he never goes away. He was forced to wait and wait for his chances, he did everything he could to keep his emotions in check, and clung on for dear life. It took the best returner in the game almost three hours before he got his first break point. And then Federer took it away again. But he kept at it and finally got his reward. That is what true champions do.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer walking with their trophies after the presentation at Wimbledon 2019©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

“That kind of electric atmosphere“

“It was probably the most demanding, mentally most demanding, match I was ever part of,” he said. “I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was different level, because of everything.”

The “everything” was the crowd. Of the 15,000 packed into the Centre Court, pretty much every one of them was cheering for Federer. And after five hours, that can become a little wearing, no matter how positive a chap is trying to be.

“When the crowd is chanting 'Roger' I hear 'Novak',” he said. “It sounds silly, but it is like that. I try to convince myself that it's like that.

“That was one thing that I promised myself coming on to the court today, that I need to stay calm and composed, because I knew that the atmosphere will be as it was.

“It's hard to not be aware [of the crowd]. You have that kind of electric atmosphere, that kind of noise, especially in some decisive moments where we're quite even. It's one way or another. The crowd gets into it.

“Of course, if you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy. When you don't, then you have to find it within, I guess.”


Roger Federer thinking about the two match points he missed during the Wimbledon 2019 final.©Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Federer took defeat as best he could

As for the overriding emotion at the end, it was sheer relief. He knew he had squeaked out the win, he knew Federer was playing extremely well and that the Swiss could easily have taken the match. But he didn’t and Djokovic was the champion again.

“Playing against Roger on any surface, but on grass, in a finals, it's a lot of constant pressure because he stays close to the line,” he said.

“Regardless of who he's playing against, whether the serve is coming 150 miles an hour or as mine, 120, he's there. He blocks the shots very well. He anticipates very well. He's so talented. He's got a perfect game for this surface.

“I thought most of the match I was on the back foot actually. I was defending. He was dictating the play. I just tried to fight and find a way when it mattered the most, which is what happened.”

As for Federer, he took defeat as best he could. Of course it hurt but he would be back. Well, he would after a bit of a break to rest and recover. There is one more Grand Slam trophy to play for this year and he intends to be in New York playing for it.

“I'm just going to take enough time off as I can and prepare for Cincinnati and get going from then on again,” he said.