Djokovic Turns Away Federer to Defend Wimbledon Title
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Steen Kirby, Tennis Atlantic
Roger Federer failed to put together consecutive top class performances, and it was Novak Djokovic who once again walked away with the Wimbledon title. The 2015 trophy is his third at the All-England club, and he’s the first repeat winner at Wimbledon on the men’s side since Federer in the mid 2000’s. Djokovic has now won two slams this year, and continues to be secure in the world #1 ranking spot, as he’s the best player in the men’s game right now by some margin.
Djokovic beat Federer in three hours, and four sets 7-6(1) 6-7(10) 6-4 6-3, as Federer fought hard to try and get the first two sets, but his quality declined over the final two frames. In set 1 Federer went up a break 4-2, but lost his serve the next game, he would later have two set point chances on Djokovic’s serve at 5-6, but Novak saved them both in a long service game, and then rolled through the tiebreak as Federer’s chances disappeared.
The Swiss would fight back in the second, even after failing to convert two more break point chances at 2-2. He staved off a set point serving 4-5, and then in the second set tiebreak saved an incredible six set points, including three consecutive down 3-6 in the tiebreak, before finally converting his second set point serving 11-10 in the tiebreak.
At this point Djokovic was angry, but he used that anger to fuel his game to another gear, a gear that Federer lacked. After dealing with an assault of winners from Fed, and some sloppy errors on his part in the first two sets, Djokovic buckled down and broke for 2-1 in the third, after failing to convert two break points in the opening service game of set 3. There would be a rain delay a couple of games later, but Federer didn’t look any better coming out of it, as Djokovic held the rest of the way and took the third 6-4, forcing Federer into a difficult position.
In set 4, Federer appeared to struggle with the wind and his error count went up considerably, he lost his serve at 2-3, and never recovered, failing to generate a break point on the Djokovic serve. At 3-5 he was broken again, gifting Djokovic the match on his first match point. Statistically, both men served at a similar level, but Djokovic was more efficient facing break point, as he saved 6 out of 7, while Fed saved 6 of 10, after previously only being broken once all tournament. Djokovic was also cleaner from the baseline as he slapped 46 winners compared to 16 errors, while Federer had a 58/35 spread. Simply put, Djokovic’s superior returning was enough to win the day against his elder rival as the Serbian sporting legend demonstrated he has shaken off any mental cobwebs from his shocking French Open final defeat to Wawrinka.
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Surely Djokovic will enter the summer Masters tournaments, and the US Open as the favorite as he bids to win 3 out of 4 slams on the season. Federer meanwhile demonstrated he still has more good matches left in him, as his play at times this week was fantastic, even compared to his level of play in his prime. Winning a five set match against a physical opponent will likely continue to be a tough ask in a slam final, but Federer remains as the world #2 for good reason, and his longevity and grace is something to behold, as we truly are in a great era for men’s tennis.
In the second week, it was infact Djokovic that had to fight harder to reach the final, he shockingly went down 2-0 against Kevin Anderson, as the South African won a pair of tough tiebreaks 8-6 and was serving at a peak level, a level Djokovic was dazed by. The world #1 would do what world #1’s do however, as he found the spirit within himself to wake up, and remind Anderson beating the best in the world doesn’t come easy. He won the third set 6-1, and the fourth 6-4 as Anderson collapsed under the pressure of trying to pull off what would have been a massive upset. At this point, darkness suspended the match, and the next day Djokovic came out and won the fifth set 7-5. Anderson fought harder than expected to try to recover and finish the upset, but Djokovic had that extra gear that Kev couldn’t reach, in what was the biggest test for Novak of the 2015 tournament.
He went on to roll past a fatigued Marin Cilic in straights 6-4 6-4 6-4, and then outplayed, and outworked Richard Gasquet, a surprise semifinalist 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4. Gasquet played some of the best tennis of his career, as he upset Stan Wawrinka in the semifinals 11-9 in the 5th set. Wawrinka played well overall, as grass isn’t his best fit as a surface, and his first four wins were great, but Gasquet’s backhand befuddled him and he couldn’t get over the hump. It was an accomplishment for the classy French veteran to reach a grand slam semifinal as a 21 seed regardless, in round 4 Gasquet beat Nick Kyrgios in a close fourth set tiebreak, erasing the awful memory of his defeat last year against the volatile young Aussie.
As for Federer, he had little trouble against Roberto Bautista Agut, who was hampered by a sprained ankle and fell in straights, and then he beat Gilles Simon, another Frenchman who had a successful tournament, but had little to threaten the world #2. Simon beat Gael Monfils and Tomas Berdych on the week, but lost to Federer in 3 sets. In the semis, it was Andy Murray, who was also playing great tennis at Wimbledon. Murray came into the match as a slight favorite after a pair of week two wins over the big serving Ivo Karlovic in four sets, and surprise quarterfinalist Vasek Pospisil in three sets. Pospisil was the player who took advantage of the soft section in the draw, and reached his first ever slam quarterfinal, as he continues to occasionally show he still is a player with promise, especially on fast surfaces that suit his underrated serve.
Murray didn’t play poorly at all against Federer as he kept his first serve % high, and his error count relatively low, but Federer was simply stunning, putting up one of the serving performances of his career. The world #3 and UK number #1 often failed to generate even half chances against the Federer serve, and the Swiss broke when needed with his controlled aggression, world-class forehand and crisp volleys to take the match 7-5 7-5 6-4. His home fan base was certainly disappointed, but Murray really did all he could this tournament, and Federer on the day was just too good for anyone, as Murray again came up short in his quest to win another Wimbledon. All the same he’s had a good, and consistently top-tier year as he appears healthy, and happy with his tennis.
In the men’s doubles a surprise final took place as the #4 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer, and Horia Tecau beat Jamie Murray, the brother of Andy, and his partner John Peers the #13 seeds 7-6(5) 6-4 6-4. Tecau had previously come up short in Wimbledon finals, so finally taking the championship was a major career highlight for him. A qualifying team of Jonathan Erlich and Philipp Petzschner reached the semifinals, beating #2 seeds Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the process, while the Bryan brothers lost in the quarterfinals to Florin Mergea and Rohan Bopanna.
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The (primarily) North American hard court summer will begin in earnest for many of the worlds top players now as the focus shifts towards the US Open Series, on the road to the 2015 US Open, as many great matches have yet to be played in 2015.