Saturday 17 August 2019

Novak Djokovic admits he was fighting Centre Court crowd in epic Wimbledon final win over Roger Federer

Novak Djokovic consoles Roger Federer at the net. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/AFP/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic consoles Roger Federer at the net. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/AFP/Getty Images
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Novak Djokovic admitted he tried to use the negativity flowing towards him from the Centre Court crowd at Wimbledon as motivation for his victory against Roger Federer in an epic final.

The defending champion saved two match points in the fifth set before winning the first deciding tie-break played in singles at the All England Club for a 7-6 (5) 1-6 7-6 (4) 4-6 13-12 (3) victory after four hours and 57 minutes.

It was the longest men's singles final in Wimbledon history and brought Djokovic a fifth title, equalling Bjorn Borg and now just three behind Federer.

The Serbian is closing in on Federer's all-time grand-slam record, too, with his 16th title leaving him four off the Swiss and only two adrift of Rafael Nada, yet Djokovic admitted the partisan support for Federer is becoming tiresome, as his latest triumph was greeted with disappointment by many on Centre Court.

"When the crowd is chanting 'Roger' I hear 'Novak'," he said. "It sounds silly, but it is like that. I try to convince myself.

"It's hard to not be aware of the support he gets. You have that kind of electric atmosphere, that kind of noise, especially in some decisive moments where we're quite even. It's one way or another. The crowd gets into it.

Holding court: Novak Djokovic is at full stretch as he reaches for a return during yesterday’s Wimbledon final. Photo: Will Oliver/AFP/Getty Images

"Of course, if you have the majority of the crowd on your side, it helps, it gives you motivation, it gives you strength, it gives you energy. When you don't, then you have to find it within, I guess. Maybe one day I can come back and this emotion from the crowd will be different.

"These kind of matches, you work for, you live for, they give sense and they give value to every minute you spend on the court training and working to get yourself in this position and play the match with one of your greatest rivals of all time.

"It was probably the mentally most demanding match I was ever part of. I had the most physically demanding match against Nadal in the finals of Australia that went almost six hours. But mentally this was a different level, because of everything.

"I'm just obviously thrilled and overjoyed with emotions to be sitting here in front of you as a winner. It was one shot away from losing the match. This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way.

"In these kind of moments, I just try to never lose self-belief, just stay calm, just focus on trying to get the ball back, return, which wasn't serving me very well today. But, in the most important moments, all three tie-breaks I guess, I found my best game."

A crestfallen Federer didn't try to hold back his disappointment as he admitted he had blown his chance to win a ninth Wimbledon title by spurning two match points in the fifth set.

Federer slumps on his seat after the exhausting five-set final getty. Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

"I just feel like it's such an incredible opportunity missed. I can't believe it," said the former world No.1. "For now it hurts, and it should, like every loss does here at Wimbledon.

"I'm very strong at being able to move on because I don't want to be depressed about actually an amazing tennis match. You try to see the positives, you try to take it as a good thing, I guess, that you're not down a break or that the match is not over yet.

If I could have picked it before the match to be at 9-all in the fifth, that wouldn't be a terrible thing. You just always try to push yourself to see things on the better side, but, yeah, it was definitely tough to have those chances."

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