Roger Federer no stranger to drama
LONDON -- In addition to all the other inherent stress Novak Djokovic faced in playing for the Wimbledon singles title Sunday was something he could not combat, even as he ultimately prevailed over Roger Federer in five stirring sets.
There was almost nothing Djokovic could do to Federer that the seven-time champion had not seen before in the final.
There was little drama Federer had not experienced, both in victory and defeat.
This was one of the best Wimbledon finals in a long, proud history and six years to the day of another considered one of the best -- and another loss for Federer.
When Federer aced Djokovic on championship point trailing 5-4 in the fourth set, he needed to go back only to 2008 and remember his Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal, when he saved two match points in the fourth-set tiebreak of his eventual defeat.
Or Federer could harken back to his 2009 victory over American Andy Roddick, when, serving at 8-8 in the final set and down 15-40, he came up with two big serves to get back to deuce and then held.
When Federer won five games in a row to force a fifth set against Djokovic on Sunday, he had in his arsenal the experience of fighting off Roddick in that second-set tiebreaker. Every jumping overhead by Federer brought back memories of his winner against Nadal in the 2007 final.
But Sunday, it would not be enough.
"I can't believe I made it to five [sets]," Federer said after Sunday's final. "It wasn't looking good there for a while. I was hoping, who knows, it would maybe be enough."
When Sunday's final match became the longest in his series with Djokovic at 3 hours, 56 minutes, Federer could shrug it off, appreciating the brevity compared to playing the longest Wimbledon men's final in history in 2008, a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-7 (8), 9-7 Nadal win that lasted 4 hours, 48 minutes.
Going into the match, Federer had previously played the longest set in a Wimbledon final (16-14 vs. Roddick in '09) and the most games (77 against Roddick that year).
Federer avoided comparing this to other Wimbledon finals, particularly victories against Roddick and Andy Murray, but called it "a great match."
"I thought it had everything for fans to like -- the swing of momentum in the first set, him coming back in the second, staying even in the third, all the back and fourth of the fourth set, then the drama of the fifth," he said. "From that standpoint, I thought it was an interesting match. The level I thought was good.
"I don't feel I necessarily played my absolute very best because I couldn't break for over three sets. For me that was disappointing. ... But I thought it was a great match and enjoyed being a part of it."
Federer could also appreciate the drama, but perhaps for a different reason than fans would think.
"It's just nice being in Wimbledon finals, No. 1," he said. "Winning or losing, it's always something special and something you'll remember, even more so when the match was as dramatic as it was today.
"It's even more memorable when I see my kids there with my wife and everything. That's what touched me the most, to be quite honest. The disappointment of the match itself went pretty quickly. I was sad for a few minutes, but so happy to see family and a lot of nice ovations from the crowd. That lifted me up and made me feel better, no doubt."
Against Djokovic, Federer was playing in his first Grand Slam final since his 2012 title, when he beat Djokovic in the semis and Murray in the final.
The whispers were starting then that it might be Federer's last. When he was ousted in the second round last year, they grew louder, the thought of him playing for another Wimbledon title, much less winning one, seemingly remote.
"I feel the love out here," Federer told the Centre Court crowd after falling short of becoming the oldest man to win a Wimbledon title in the Open era. "I'll see you next year."
Djokovic, who will overtake the top ranking with the win as Federer did two years ago, called Federer "a magnificent champion" and "a great role model."
"I respect you and everything you've done," the new two-time champion said. "Thank you for letting me win today."
Federer's ranking will rise to No. 3. His last Wimbledon final?
"You could have asked me exactly that question in 2003," Federer said. "You don't know. ... That's the disappointment of an Olympic result, of a World Cup result, Wimbledon result, whatever it is. You've just got to wait and see.
"There is no guarantee that you're going to be ever there again or not. Or maybe there's much more to come. It's really impossible to answer that question. I'm very happy to see that with feeling normal I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks. That clearly makes me believe that this was just a stepping stone to many more great things in the future."