By Robert Martin Photo Credit: Natasha Peterson / Corleve
In what many considered a clash of the titans between World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the last man to beat him in a grand slam, Roger Federer went above and beyond all expectations. After nearly four hours, Djokovic’s constant pounding of the Federer backhand would lead to a 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 7-5 victory.
After the match was delayed close to an hour due to rain, the two titans gave the crowd a show from the first ball. Based on almost every stat imaginable, Federer lost the first set, hitting fewer winners and more errors than his opponent, but managed to take it in a close tiebreak. The players traded service holds throughout with each player unable to earn a break chance.
The second set was much of the same from both players, with Federer stepping up his level of offense, hitting 13 winners and earning two breaks of serve. Djokovic played a steady second set, but had trouble on his second serve, losing eight of 12 points, but did convert his only break point of the set to keep some momentum heading into the pivotal third set.
One of the best closers in history, Roger Federer lost for the first time in a Grand Slam after holding a sets-to-none lead at Wimbledon when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga accomplished the monumental feat. Federer had no mind to allow the same thing to happen in consecutive majors, but Djokovic climbed his way to No. 1 with his relentless game.
Those same ruthless groundstrokes from the Serb began to repeatedly pound the backhand side of Federer, who saw a greater number of errors creep into his game as Djokovic buckled his own game down. The 16-time champion was broken early in the set and was unable to make a dent in the serve of Djokovic, winning only four points on return.
The fourth set saw the disparity between the two players grow to even greater proportions as the Serb immediately broke serve in the first game and never looked back. He would add a second break to go up 4-1 before finishing off the set as a tired looking Federer contributed 12 unforced errors to Djokovic, who committed only two of his own.
As the fourth set wore on, the energy of Federer appeared to wane, leaving many questioning whether he would have enough left in the tank to challenge in the fifth set. He was having trouble keeping the ball in the court, hitting numerous routine forehands off the frame, handing point after point to the man who has been nearly unbeatable all year.
The fifth set could only be described as a microcosm of the entire match. The set started out with easy holds for both players before Federer jumped on his break chance to jump ahead of Djokovic. The Swiss Maestro saw his first match point at 5-3, 40-15, but Djokovic went for broke and connected with a screaming forehand return winner.
After the match, Federer could only say, "Yeah, I had it. There's no more I could do. Snaps one shot, and then the whole thing changes." After being asked about the shot again and again, Federer was reduced to simply saying, "Just being down 5‑2 in the third, and they all just start slapping shots. It all goes in for some reason, because that's the kind of way they grew up playing when they were down."
After saving another match point with his solid ground game, Djokovic earned the break back when Federer hit a second serve millimeters long, handing the break back. After a relatively easy hold, the pressure was back on Federer to force Djokovic to serve to force a deciding tiebreak.
It was in those final moments, the footwork of Federer began to slow just a bit, and Djokovic relentlessly pounded groundstrokes into the backhand side, forcing repeated errors and earning his second break and the opportunity to serve for the match. With the crowd cheering at every point, Djokovic pushed through to close out the match.
For the second straight slam, and only the second time in his career, Federer was unable to close after leading by two sets. The result means that Federer will fail to capture at least one grand slam title for the first year since 2002. Djokovic will attempt to win his third grand slam of the year on Monday when he takes on the winner of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.