Novak Djokovic again proved the toughest of nuts for Roger Federer to crack as he repelled everything the Swiss could throw at him to claim his fifth Wimbledon title in the first All England Club final to be decided by a tiebreaker on Sunday.
The defending champion was outshone at times on Centre Court and saved two match points deep into a gripping decider, but he dredged his tank of mental and physical resilience to claim a thrilling 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(4) 4-6 13-12(3) win.
Nothing could split the players in an intoxicating final set and the match was already the longest Wimbledonsingles final in history when the club’s new rule stipulating a tiebreak at 12-12 in a deciding set was deployed for the first time in singles.
As he had done in the day’s two other tiebreaks, the top-seeded Djokovic showed nerves of steel to crush Federer’s hopes of claiming a ninth title and becoming the oldest man to win a Grand Slam title in the professional era.
Djokovic moved 6-3 ahead and, after the final point had to be replayed following a Hawkeye challenge, he could celebrate victory when a weary Federer framed a forehand.
Victory took the 32-year-old Serbian level with Bjorn Borg in fourth place on the all-time list of men’s winners at Wimbledon and increased his Grand Slam tally to 16 — four behind Federer.