Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer to win his fifth Wimbledon title Sunday, needing all five sets to get past his rival. The set scores were 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3).
Both were flawless on serve in the first set, but Djokovic won the tiebreak to take an early lead. He played his worst tennis of the day in the second set, winning just a single game, but took the upper hand again in another tiebreak.
Federer forced a deciding set with some fantastic return play in the fourth, and extra games and an eventual tiebreak were needed to decide a winner.
Djokovic held the head-to-head advantage coming into the final:
With both men in excellent form, the opening set was expected to be a tight one, and it delivered. Both Federer and Djokovic were nearly untouchable on serve, barely giving their opponent a look.
Tennis writer Christopher Clarey was impressed:
There was just one break point all set long, which Djokovic expertly defended, and a tiebreak always seemed inevitable. In that decider, Federer got the first breakthrough, but Djokovic won four straight points to clinch the advantage.
Federer had an immediate response, however, breaking in the very next game and elevating his play to another level. In contrast, Djokovic had a complete meltdown, reminiscent of his struggles in the second set of his semi-final win over Roberto Bautista Agut.
The Serb hit far too many unforced errors and dropped his second serve game as well:
In all, Federer needed just 25 minutes to tie things up in one of the most lopsided sets this rivalry has ever seen:
But not unlike his semi-final against Bautista Agut, Djokovic recovered well to start the third. He went back to emphasising his first serve and was able to limit his unforced errors, even though Federer had the clear advantage in winners.
Once again, the two traded serve games without giving up any real openings. And once again, a tiebreak decided the set winner.
But in that tiebreak, mistakes started to creep into Federer's game, and Djokovic took full advantage. Per tennis writer Ben Rothenberg, he took aim at the 37-year-old's backhand:
The fourth set started in a familiar pattern, but Federer began to show more aggression in advancing to the net and with his returns. It yielded results in the fifth and seventh game of the set, with two breaks for the veteran.
On serve, he had been phenomenal:
He gave up his first break in the eighth game, but Djokovic couldn't find a second break, as the final went to a deciding set.
In that decider, the two once again matched up closely until Djokovic got the all-important break to go up 4-2. The nerves were starting to get to both players at this point despite their years of experience:
That double-fault helped Federer break right back, and after he held serve, it was tied once again.
The incredible final set needed extra games to be completed, and it wasn't until the 15th when Federer finally found his opening, converting a break chance. But the epic still wasn't over, as Djokovic defended two match points to break right back.
Djokovic and Federer traded blows until 12-12, at which point a tiebreak was played to decide a winner. The Serb got the advantage and kept his calm, converting the first of three match points.