It was a classic matchup of young versus the old, and today, the old won out.
Before a packed crowd on Centre Court, Roger Federer, the aging star that some have called the greatest tennis player of all time, stepped onto the All-England Club grass to face World No. 1, Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has won three of the last four majors; Federer, though still dangerous, hasn’t won a major in some two and a half years.
But all that may soon change.
Federer broke early to take the first set from Djokovic 6-3. Djokovic, however, quickly won his service game and then broke Federer right back, coasting to a 6-3 win of his own to take the second set.
It looked like it might be a classic seesaw battle. Federer gained plenty of chances to break Djokovic early and take the lead in the third set, but despite many chances, the star just couldn’t seem to capitalize—until.
Up 5-4 and receiving at the tail end of Set 3, Federer found himself up 15-40, with two chances to break Djokovic, win the set and take a commanding lead. But Federer was fooled by Djokovic’s first serve, which had been a weapon all day long, and he netted his return. Djokovic, on the ropes, was counterattacking, and Federer found himself with just one chance left to break and stake a flag in the grass.
The tension was thick at Centre Court. A pair of destinies seemed to lay itself before the struggling titans of tennis, and everything seemed to rest on this single point. On the one hand, if Federer could just win it, he’d be up two sets to one and have momentum at his back, virtually assuring a win and a trip to his eighth Wimbledon final. But if he missed it, Djokovic would have staved off yet another Federer surge, and the assuredly lengthening game would begin to favor Djokovic, who is five years younger than Federer.
Federer had to win this point. If he did, he’d be nicely on pace to win his seventh Wimbledon crown. If not, he’d be heading down the road to yet another early exit from what was once his best tournament, and despite his unquestionable skill, Federer's career as a top contender, it seemed, might be drawing to a close.
But with the resurgence of his career on the line, the great Swissman did not disappoint. Running Djokovic all over the court, Federer closed out the point with an overhead smash to take the set. He then proceeded to break Djokovic early in Set 4 and rode his lead all the way to the finish for a hard-ground 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 final.
Thanks to the fall of Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the other side of the draw, Federer will face British hopeful Andy Murray in the final on Sunday. This is Murray’s first major tournament final, and he is the first Briton to reach the ultimate stage at Wimbledon since 1936. Murray, undoubtedly, has plenty to play for — but then again, so does Federer. If he can defeat Murray two days from now, Federer will not only get to add to his trophy collection — he will retake the World No. 1 ranking and reclaim his throne as the king of men’s tennis in the Open Era.