Men's final - final furioso - sports
In the longest final of tournament history, Novak Djokovic defends his title. The 37-year-old Roger Federer struggles after the 6: 7, 6: 1, 6: 7, 6: 4, 12:13 with his missed chances.
Twelve times Roger Federer stood on the pitch of the Center Courts on the last day of the tournament. Eight times, more often than anyone else since 1877, he won the big Gold Cup. Wimbledon was a green garden of remembrance for him. But on Sunday night after 4:57 hours playing time with the small silver bowl in his right hand, his left leaning in the side, he should rate his tennis match, which had thrilled the audience in its intensity and drama, as he said with a small, wistful smile: "I want to try to forget it."
He could have won this final against Novak Djokovic, his permanent rival from Serbia, against whom he played for the 48th time in his career on Sunday. Federer had won two match points in the fifth set, when the audience had already jumped up from their seats and his wife, with excitement in the box, clapped his hands over his face and only dared to blink through his fingers. And yet Federer had to experience how the victory still slipped from the bat. 7: 6 (5), 1: 6, 7: 6 (4), 4: 6 and 13:12 (3) Djokovic won a match that was extraordinary for just two reasons: Because the two opponents, Number One and Number three in the world rankings, dueled longer in the final than any other player in history before. And because they drove each other with relentless energy, merciless precision and brute art beats into the tiebreaker of the fifth movement, which had been introduced only this year to prevent unpredictable and agonizing marathon matches.
Defending champion Djokovic finally scored his fifth Wimbledon title, which now puts him on par with Sweden's Björn Borg; Overall, it was his 16th Grand Slam success. But he too was exhausted in the end for great triumphal gestures. A short, cool hug on the net, then he pounded on his chest and dropped to his knees to pluck a few stalks of grass. And then admitted that this was "the most spectacular end game" he ever played: "Unfortunately, one of us had to lose."
But to push Djokovic to the limit, it needed a giant like Federer, who not only competed against a human opponent on that day, namely the world number one. But against a second, more powerful and far more merciless enemy, an abstract: time. Federer turns 38 in four weeks; if he had won, he would have been called the oldest winner since men dueled with balls in Grand Slam tournaments.
And so Federer, even if he succumbed to the Serbs, proved to the world that he could keep his age at bay a little.
Already in the first set it was apparent that he could offer the five years younger Djokovic paroli: The passage lasted almost an hour, was balanced to 6: 6 - with optical advantages for Federer, to the delight of the audience, the nicer, daring balls between the lines circled. In the tiebreak he then pulled a slight backhand and gave a possible lead from the hand.
But that was just the overture: In the second round Federer proved at 6: 1, why he has conquered 20 Grand Slam title in his career. Djokovic stopped again in the third set, which he secured again in a tiebreak without taking Federer the serve.
It followed passage four, in which the Swiss enforced the decision sentence. And then came the final furioso, a 122-minute strike, point by point, ball by ball, including every square centimeter of the square, for 5: 5, 6: 6. At 8: 7 Federer had fought two match points. He beat the second one in the net. It was followed by the tiebreaker, which he lost with a leaping ball from the frame. "I know how close my turn was," he later said, when he did not know whether to be sad or angry, "having forgiven such an opportunity".
In order to keep up with the younger rivals, he had once again visibly improved his game, worked on the backhand, especially adapted his tournament schedule to the changing physical requirements. Unlike in the years before, he decided to unpack the rackets in the clay court season: In Paris, the sandcastle of Rafael Nadal, he lost only in the semi-finals in a wind blown match against the series winner from Spain. When the grass season began, he felt in his element anyway: Federer won the preparation tournament in Halle and was also in the first six Wimbledon matches no nakedness. He interpreted this as a sign of the heavens and dared, unusual for him, even a brisk forecast: "I've played a rock-solid season, the Providence's stars are good."
But he knew that ultimately decide details in a duel against Djokovic. Their careers have been largely parallel since their first meeting in April 2006 in Monte Carlo: most of the matches have won the Serbian, including the past four matches since the 2015 ATP finals. Federer recalled that tennis is a sport that has become a sport no draw knows. "That can be incredibly brutal," he said. There was nobody on Sunday who contradicted that.