In what was the ultimate clash of titans, Roger Federer had everything in his hands against Novak Djokovic in Wimbledon final last July, still walking from the court empty-handed! The Swiss won 14 points more than the Serb, scored four breaks more than Novak, had 40 winners more and two match points and two break points at 11-11 in the decider up for grabs, squandering all that and allowing Djokovic to steal the crown in the longest Wimbledon final ever.
The defending champion gave his best to stay in touch with Federer who was the better player in the bigger part of the encounter, repelling those two match points on the return at 7-8 in the fifth set and producing the nerves of steel in all three tie breaks to write history and stay in the hunt with Roger and Rafa in the GOAT race.
The overall numbers were on Federer's side but Djokovic did what he had to in the pivotal moments, carried by the incredible inner strength that helped him to overpower both Roger and the crowd en route to the fifth Wimbledon crown.
Two hours and 15 minutes since the beginning of the match, Novak was yet to experience a break chance and was two sets to one in front despite that, gaining a massive boost from those two tie breaks he won and looking like a strong favorite in the deciding one at 12-12 in the fifth set, the first of that kind in the history of this event that started in 1877!
In the first set tie break, Federer led 5-3 before dropping four straight points to hand it to Djokovic who didn't have to do much in those 12 points, hitting no winners or errors and allowing Roger to make mistakes and ruin everything he was building in the last 55 minutes.
Federer had three service winners and two winners from the court, firing four direct points in succession to open that 5-3 gap before ruining everything with errors, spraying six unforced and one forced mistake to find himself a set down.
The Swiss quickly left this setback behind him, storming over Djokovic to grab the second set 6-1 in no time at all, standing as the better player in the third as well but wasting a break chance that installed the second tie break.
There, Novak clinched it 7-4 after six errors from Roger, four in an unforced area from the backhand wing that cost him a slow start and the better finish. Djokovic had one service winner and one forced error, with Federer hitting the last ball in 21 out of 23 points in those opening two tie breaks!
After all kinds of drama in the deciding set and survived games 16 and 23, Novak was the favorite in the crucial tie break that he claimed 7-3 to wrap up the title and one of his most extraordinary victories ever. The Serb moved 4-1 in front after four errors from Federer who landed two winners to at least reduce the deficit and stay in contention.
Out of sudden, Novak delivered two winners from the court (his only in all three tie breaks) in the best possible moment, opening a 6-3 gap and sealing the deal after a loose forehand from Roger in the tenth point. Overall, Federer hit the last ball in 29 out of 33 points in all three tie breaks combined, leaving Novak on three winners and one forced error!
On the other hand, the eight-time champion counted to six service winners and five from the court, throwing all that into the water after massive 13 unforced mistakes and five that Novak forced. Just like in the rest of the encounter, tie breaks were on Roger's racquet and failed to deliver his best tennis when it mattered the most, spraying 17 errors more than the steady Serb and finding himself on the losing side.
Roger's former coach Paul Annacone said that Roger did nothing wrong in the final, just failing to make that one last step against the greatest defender in history. The American knows how upset Roger was after the match but he also recalled that the Swiss once said to him there were matches he should have lost, which didn't happen.
"I don't think Roger did anything wrong other than having to try to close it out against what I think is the greatest defender in the history of the game. You can blame nerves and a lot of different things but sometimes you lose and it makes your jaw hits the table when you see how close you were.
I know he was extremely upset but I've also had conversations with him in the past about the matches against Novak at the US Open. Those losses were also tough to accept but Roger was there to remind me he also had some victories that he should not have scored."