Novak Djokovic didn’t just pick up his second career Wimbledon championship and seventh Grand Slam title when he beat Roger Federer in five sets—he notched the most important victory of his illustrious tennis career.
The 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 marathon victory gave Djokovic the No. 1 spot in the ATP rankings, and his 102 weeks atop those ratings is good enough for eighth all time. However, that is far from the main reason why this match was so imperative to Djokovic’s legacy.
For one, the pure excitement of the showdown contributes to the magnitude of the victory. It was a five-set thriller that will be remembered as an all-time Wimbledon classic, which just so happens to be tennis’ grandest stage. In fact, the match lasted an exhausting three hours and 56 minutes and featured enough momentum swings and comebacks for an entire tournament.
Djokovic even wasted a 5-2 lead and a match point in the fourth set and still emerged victorious in the fifth.
So many of the greatest players in history have an all-time moment at Wimbledon, and now Djokovic has his.
Greg Garber of ESPN.com described the scene:
"There were magnificent strokes, dramatic netcords and even, on break point against him, a serve-and-volley second serve with a gorgeous half-volley pickup from Federer that left the BBC commentators laughing at how absurdly sublime their play was."
Of course, if we are declaring this as Djokovic’s most important victory, the actual opponent cannot be overlooked.
Djokovic not only won Wimbledon, he also prevented history in the process. Had Federer won, it would have marked his eighth championship at the All England Club, which would have given him sole possession of first place on the all-time list.
Federer has played in a number of classic Wimbledon matches, including the 2008 thriller against Rafael Nadal and the 2009 marathon match against Andy Roddick that ended at 16-14 in Federer’s favor in the fifth set. Add the 2014 showdown to the list.
The torch has likely already been passed from Federer to Djokovic (and Nadal), but tennis fans couldn’t have asked for a more symbolic match than the one between the two champions.
Djokovic also had to overcome some adversity of his own in the process of winning. He lost three straight Major finals before the victory and five of his previous six, so there may very well have been some mental roadblocks in play.
Sure, he is arguably the current best player in the world, but that argument lost a bit of steam when he struggled to come through in the biggest moments. Djokovic put that speculation firmly to rest with the classic win.
Djokovic faced adversity in the match itself as well when he blew a golden opportunity to win in the fourth set, but he still persevered. He discussed as much after the match, according to The Associated Press, via ESPN.com: “Of course, after dropping a fourth set, it wasn't easy to regroup and compose myself and find that necessary energy to win the fifth. I don't know how I managed to do it.”
Djokovic even had to overcome the crowd a bit, which wasn’t necessarily cheering against him as much as it was willing Federer on in his pursuit of history.
The victory sets Djokovic up for even more success going forward.
Federer is still a legitimate force on tour, but he is past his prime. At 27 years old, Djokovic is still fairly young with some of his best tennis ahead of him. What’s more, he likely earned some self-confidence back by snapping the losing streak at Grand Slam finals.
A confident Djokovic with momentum and age on his side is a scary proposition for the tennis world. Don’t be surprised when he adds to those seven Grand Slam titles in the coming years.
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