LONDON -- Despite being the top seed at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic spent the fortnight as nobody's darling. Instead, the tournament seemed to be all about his final opponent, Roger Federer.
Federer was the sentimental favorite, and the way he played, he established himself as the real-world favorite in the minds of many as well. Meanwhile, Djokovic struggled -- he never looked quite as dominant as his record of the first six months of this season suggested. He was almost eliminated in the fourth round by Kevin Anderson. More important, Djokovic trailed Federer in almost every statistical category entering Sunday's final.
But as the afternoon waned and the Centre Court crowd approached nervous exhaustion, Djokovic mastered Federer in the final for the second year in a row and won his third Wimbledon title 7-6 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3.
Here are the key takeaways from the match:
Djokovic rules: Rafael Nadal is in a major slump. Andy Murray, who's been in resurgence and has risen back to No. 3, was sliced to bits and looked one-dimensional against Federer in the semifinals. Djokovic was coming off a heartbreaking loss in the French Open final and clearly not at his best at various stages in this tournament. Yet here he is, 2-1 in Grand Slam finals with just one more to play this year.
Djokovic won the battle of the serve: Coming into the final, Federer was serving better than he had in years. He had been broken exactly once in the tournament. But Djokovic broke Federer four times. He also matched Federer in the percentage of points won when he put his first serve into play (74 percent) and hit 13 aces, just one fewer than Federer.
Wasted opportunities: Federer was hurt by missed chances in a match in which he needed to make the most of anything he was given. He punched through with a break for 4-2 in the first set. With the crowd in his hip pocket, he might have put the hammer down and made life very difficult for Djokovic -- had he been able to consolidate the break. Instead, he played a few poor points and was broken right back. In the tiebreaker that decided the set, he played a loose first point and it went downhill from there. Federer won just one of seven break points in the match.
The bludgeon beats the rapier: Never has the matchup between these two men been more vividly a clash between a bludgeon and a rapier. The problem for the rapier in this equation is that it has to be precisely and consistently applied, and that just wasn't the case Sunday. Federer made 35 unforced errors to just 16 by Djokovic. And Djokovic won 30 of 50 points when he was obliged to hit second serves (60 percent), while keeping Federer's conversion rate below 50 percent (49). The reason? Heavy artillery off the ground.
Age matters: For the entire two weeks of this tournament, Federer played like a 25-year-old. But the nerves and emotional tension of a big final against as physical a player as Djokovic takes a toll at many levels. Although Federer did a wonderful job fending off six set points to take that long second-set tiebreaker. It was pretty clear in the ensuing games that he was gassed and unable to find a second -- or third -- wind.