Clash of the ti­tans

Djokovic solves Fed­erer’s serve, beats him in Wim­ble­don fi­nal

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY HOWARD FEN­DRICH LON­DON

For the sec­ond year in a row, Novak Djokovic solved Roger Fed­erer’s su­perb serve in the Wim­ble­don fi­nal.

And for the sec­ond year in a row, Djokovic claimed the cham­pi­onship at the grass-court Grand Slam tour­na­ment, pre­vent­ing Fed­erer from earn­ing a record eighth.

The match was as even as pos­si­ble through two sets, be­fore the No. 1-seeded Djokovic grabbed ahold of it and wouldn’t let go, gen­er­at­ing four ser­vice breaks that car­ried him past Fed­erer 76 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3 on Sun­day for his third ti­tle at Wim­ble­don and ninth Grand Slam tro­phy over­all.

That puts him more than half­way to the record 17 col­lected by Fed­erer, who has reached two ma­jor fi­nals over the past three sea­sons — both at Wim­ble­don, both against Djokovic, both losses. They have met 40 times, each win­ning 20 matches. As al­ways, it pre­sented a fas­ci­nat­ing duel: Fed­erer’s serve and at­tack­ing style vs. Djokovic’s re­turn and scram­bling, bodytwist­ing de­fence.

“He makes you push your lim­its, he makes you work hard and earn ev­ery sin­gle point,’’ said Djokovic, who equaled his coach Boris Becker’s three Wim­ble­don ti­tles. “He’s not go­ing to hand you the match.’’

Fed­erer was grim-faced as he walked across the Cen­tre Court lawn to re­ceive his run­ner-up tray.

“You sort of walk away emp­ty­handed. For me, a fi­nal­ist tro­phy is not the same,’’ Fed­erer said. “Ev­ery­body knows that.’’

At Wim­ble­don in 2014, Fed­erer held serve in 88 of 89 games through the semi­fi­nals, then got bro­ken four times by Djokovic dur­ing the five-set fi­nal.

This fort­night, Fed­erer held serve in 89 of 90 games en­ter­ing the fi­nal, then again met his match in Djokovic.

Djokovic’s serve was stout, as well: He saved 6 of 7 break points. It helped, too, that Fed­erer was not the same height-of-his-pow­ers player who de­feated Andy Mur­ray in the semi­fi­nals. Pres­sured by Djokovic’s abil­ity to ex­tend points, Fed­erer com­mit­ted 35 un­forced er­rors; Djokovic made only 16.

“Novak played not only great to­day,’’ said Fed­erer, who turns 34 on Aug. 8 and was the old­est Wim­ble­don fi­nal­ist since 1974, “but the whole two weeks, plus the whole year, plus last year, plus the year be­fore that.’’ Fed­erer is right. He might very well be the great­est of all time, as some say, but right now, the best in the men’s game is Djokovic.

The 28-year-old Serb won the Aus­tralian Open in Jan­uary, then was the run­ner-up at the French Open last month. Go fur­ther back, and Djokovic reached 15 of the past 20 Grand Slam fi­nals, win­ning eight.

Still, it was clear which player most spec­ta­tors were pulling for: Fed­erer. So breath­lessly quiet be­tween points that ball bounces at the base­line could be heard be­fore serves, fans voiced an “awwwww’’ of lament af­ter a fault by Fed­erer or a mid-point “ooooh’’ of ex­cite­ment when he would hit an ex­quis­ite shot.

So Fed­erer, and his sup­port­ers, rued let­ting the open­ing set get away, when he twice held set point. The open­ing tiebreaker was all Djokovic, end­ing flatly when Fed­erer dou­ble-faulted.

That was part of a run in which Djokovic reeled off 14 of 15 points, par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy against this foe, on this sur­face, at this tour­na­ment. Fed­erer owns seven Wim­ble­don ti­tles, in­clud­ing five straight from 200307.

That was the last time a man lifted the tro­phy in con­sec­u­tive years at the All Eng­land Club un­til Djokovic crouched down Sun­day to pluck a few blades of grass and shove them in his mouth.

“It tasted very, very good this year,’’ Djokovic joked. “I don’t know what the groundspeople have done, but they’ve done a great job.’’

He had a chance to run away with it in the sec­ond set, seven times stand­ing a point from a two-set lead. But seven times, Fed­erer wouldn’t let him con­vert.

So 110 min­utes in, they were all tied up. Not just at a set apiece, mind you, but here’s how close it was: In the first set, each man won 37 points; in the sec­ond set, each man won 51 points.

In­deed, 15 min­utes later, Djokovic re­gained the up­per hand, break­ing to lead 2-1 in the third. Af­ter a 20-minute rain de­lay at 3-2, Djokovic fin­ished off the set. Fed­erer failed to put up much re­sis­tance in the fourth, get­ting bro­ken twice more.

When Djokovic redi­rected a 123 mph serve by smack­ing a down-the-line back­hand re­turn win­ner, he reached cham­pi­onship point and bel­lowed. A fore­hand win­ner fol­lowed, and it was over.

AP PHOTO

Novak Djokovic of Ser­bia kisses the tro­phy af­ter win­ning the men’s sin­gles fi­nal against Roger Fed­erer of Switzer­land at the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis Cham­pi­onships in Wim­ble­don, Lon­don, Sun­day. Djokovic won the match 7-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3.

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