On the other side of London, two men took a match into tennis’ own “super over”. For the first time, a five-set singles Wimbledon match would be decided by a tie-breaker, and after four hours and 57 minutes, Novak Djokovic prevailed over the crowd favourite, Roger Federer, in what was the tournament’s longest ever final. This was Djokovic’s fifth Wimbledon title and a whopping 16th overall.
When the two men, nay, champions, finally left Centre Court on Sunday, they shared a total of 36 Grand Slam titles between them. Throw in what Rafael Nadal has won, 18, and you have 54 majors shared between three players. It just goes to show the greatness of the three in this era of swelling records.
Way back in 1967, a veteran Australian, Roy Emerson, had set an all-time record of most Grand Slam titles, 12. Pete Sampras broke that mark 33 years later at Wimbledon 2000, and then Federer surpassed the American’s tally by winning his 15th at Wimbledon nine years later. The Swiss has now set the bar at 20, but at just a few weeks short of turning 38, the unspoken fear for any Federer fan is how many more can he manage.
In the greater scheme of things, there are two front-runners who might cross Federer’s mark, but Djokovic, 32, is the one in the best position to eventually hold the record.
A defensive genius, the Serbian has an all-court game and has been winning titles consistently on hard and grass courts. His closest competitor, Nadal, meanwhile is untouchable on clay, but that constitutes just one major in a year — Nadal is also a year older, and crucially, injury-prone.
Yet Djokovic remains the third wheel in the Federer-Nadal fandom split. Boris Becker, the Serb’s former coach, asserted during commentary that Djokovic used to feel “unloved”. On Sunday, he ground out a victory over Wimbledon’s darling. And won over a few fans of his own.