Novak Djokovic outlasted Roger Federer in an epic five-set match Sunday, winning the first fifth-set tiebreaker in a Wimbledon’s men’s final to repeat as the men’s champion for the second time and win his fifth title at the All England Club.
The fifth-set tiebreaker was also the first in any men’s final at the four Grand Slams.
The top-seeded Djokovic defeated Federer 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) to remain unbeaten against the second-seeded Swiss in three Wimbledon final matchups. Djokovic also won in 2014 and ‘15, when he repeated as champion for the first time.
He won his first Wimbledon title in 2011.
At four hours and 55 minutes, it was the longest final in Wimbledon history, featuring 68 games, 422 points and 35 aces.
Djokovic, 32, saved two match points to reach the fifth-set tiebreaker, becoming the first man since 1948 to save championship points in the final and go on to win.
“Unfortunately in these kinds of matches,’’ Djokovic said, “one of the players has to lose.’’
Federer, at 37 years and 340 days old, was seeking to become the oldest men’s Grand Slam winner in the Open era (since 1968).
It is Djokovic’s 16th Grand Slam title overall, moving to within four of Federer’s record 20.
Wimbledon traditionally didn’t play tiebreakers in the final set of matches but introduced one for this year if the score reaches 12-12.
The top seed was 3-1 up, then Federer inched to 5-3 before Djokovic swept the next four points.
At 58 minutes, it was two minutes longer than the women’s final on Saturday.
Djokovic, however, then went completely off the boil, losing his footing as he was broken in the first game of the second set.
Federer broke twice again and after just 25 more minutes the final was all-square with Djokovic managing just two winners in the set.
Federer was comfortably on top in the third set, flashing winners from all parts of the court but was unable to convert a set point in the 10th game.
Djokovic made him pay. Despite not managing a single break point in the match, he pounced again in the tiebreak to reclaim the lead.
Federer wasn’t finished. Back came the veteran with a double break for 5-2.
Djokovic then carved out his first break points of the match in the eighth game.
The first was saved after a breathtaking 35-shot rally before the Serb finally broke for the first time.
It was too little, too late, however, as Federer deservedly levelled the final.
Into a tense finale, Federer saved three break points in the fourth game but a drilled, backhand passing shot gave Djokovic the break in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead.
The world number one couldn’t back it up and Federer had Centre Court on their feet when he restored parity in the next game.
Despite twice being just two points from defeat, Federer broke for 8-7 but was unable to serve out for the match.
As the clock ticked past the previous longest final of 4 hours and 48 minutes it took Nadal to beat Federer in the 2008 final, the match was decided by the first 12-12 tiebreak in a singles match at the tournament.
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