For the 48th time in their careers, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic faced each other in an official tennis match. For only the fifth time, though, they met in a Grand Slam final. Djokovic led the overall head-to-head 25-22 entering the match. The Serbian had won four straight, and really dominated the rivalry since 2011. He also led 3-1 in Grand Slam finals, including the last three between these two. Two of those–in 2014 and 2015–came at Wimbledon. It’s been almost four years since their last meeting in a Grand Slam final, though–at the 2015 US Open, also won by Djokovic.
2019 Wimbledon Final: Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer
Each player served well to start the opening set. Federer served first, and neither faced real trouble. Federer had a bit of an opening late in the set, but wasn’t able to take it. The set went to a tough tiebreak, in which Federer controlled most of the points. However, he missed a few big forehands early. Even though he had a 5-3 lead, Federer hit a few errors to lose the final four points and the tiebreak 7-5.
If the Swiss was disappointed by the end of that first set, he didn’t show it. He came out firing in the second set, breaking Djokovic straight away, then breaking again for a 3-0 lead. Djokovic never found any footing or energy in the set. And, oddly reminiscent of Federer’s second set in his semifinal against Rafael Nadal, Djokovic lost the set 6-1. For the second consecutive match, Djokovic dropped the second set after winning the opener.
The third set went very similar to the first. Federer was unstoppable on serve. He put a bit of pressure on some Djokovic service games, but both players held. Then, while returning up 5-4, Federer set up a set point with an insane volley winner. Djokovic saved it, and held two points later. Two games later, and the third set was headed to a tiebreak, just like the first. And, just like the first, Federer couldn’t bring his best level for it. He fell behind 5-1 and could never quite dig out of the hole. Djokovic took the tiebreak 7-4, and was now one set away from a fifth Wimbledon title.
Of course, Federer still had something to say about this. His serve was still untouchable. Then, with Djokovic serving at 2-2, the Serbian played a very poor game. Federer broke, and he broke again in Djokovic’s next service game. Federer faced his first break point of the match in the 5-2 game with a backhand winner to end an incredible 35-shot rally. He could not save the next break point, though, and was broken for the first time in the match. The Swiss Maestro had no problems holding on his next attempt, though, and took the set 6-4. After almost three hours of play, we were going five.
Each player held without much trouble to start the set. At 1-1, Federer forced the game to deuce, but Djokovic took the next two points to hold. In his toughest service game of the match, Federer immediately had to save three break points. Good serving got him out of it, though, and the Swiss held for 2-2. Federer again fell down 15-40 in his next service game, and this time he got broken. Djokovic hit a wicked passing shot to earn the 4-2 lead and the chance to take the title with two holds.
The following service game was very tight from both players. Federer won the first and third points of the game, but sent it to 30-30 with unforced errors. Djokovic then gave Federer a break-back point with his eighth double fault of the match, which Federer lost with another unforced error. Federer opened up another chance, and this time there was no error. One game after Djokovic took his 4-2 lead, Federer broke right back for 4-3.
The pair traded holds, and Federer had to serve to stay in the match. Djokovic got to 30-30, but big serving from Federer in the game brought us to 5-5. Djokovic gave Federer a small opening with a double fault in the next game, but he hit a huge diving winner to get to 30-30 then held for 6-5. The next game again went to 30-30, then to deuce twice, but Federer held for 6-6 with two big serves. Djokovic held again with good serving, Federer had no trouble in his next game, and it went to 7-7.
Then Federer struck. Djokovic went up 30-0 in his next game, but Federer fought back to 30-30. A Djokovic error gave Federer break point, and Federer hit a strong passing shot to earn the break. With the crowd clearly and firmly behind him, Federer would serve for his ninth Wimbledon title.
Federer opened the game with an error. Three strong points got Federer to double match point, but the Serbian fought back. Four points later, including a tremendous passing shot, and we were back on serve at 8-8. If Federer was disappointed in that, it didn’t show in his next service game, as he held for 9-9 to keep the match going. After the pair traded two holds of serve, Djokovic gutted his way throw a marathon game to hold for 12-11. Federer responded with an easy hold, and we were on to our first-ever fifth-set tiebreak in a singles match at Wimbledon.
Like in the first two tiebreaks of this match, Djokovic grabbed an early minibreak on a Federer error. Djokovic took a tumble while up 4-1, and Federer won that point and the next one to keep it close at 4-3. Djokovic took care of his serve, and had three championship points. After a review, Federer lost the next point, and Novak Djokovic was Wimbledon champion once again.
This has to be disheartening for Federer. He outplayed Djokovic for essentially the entire match, but two poor tiebreaks really cost him. At 37 years old, he has to wonder how many more chances he’ll have in Grand Slam finals. Of course, he just reached the semifinal and final of consecutive Majors, and lost to the champion in each. So maybe that’s not really a concern for him right now.
Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, is only four Grand Slams behind Federer’s total of 20. He has won four of the last five Major tournaments. Nadal only trails Federer by two Majors, and Djokovic only trails the Spaniard by two. At his current pace–and with his current consistent success against Federer and Nadal, it seems like the question isn’t if Djokovic will catch their Grand Slam totals. The question is when.