Novak Djokovic outlasted Roger Federer in an epic five-set match Sunday, winning the first fifth-set tiebreaker in a Wimbledon men’s final to repeat as the men’s champion for the second time and win his fifth title at the All England Club.
The fifth-set tiebreaker was also the first in any men’s final at the four Grand Slams.
The top-seeded Djokovic defeated Federer 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) to remain unbeaten against the second-seeded Swiss in three Wimbledon final matchups. Djokovic also won in 2014 and ’15, when he repeated as champion for the first time.
He won his first Wimbledon title in 2011.
At four hours and 57 minutes, it was the longest final in Wimbledon history, featuring 68 games, 422 points (218 for Federer and 204 for Djokovic) and 35 aces.
“Unfortunately in these kinds of matches,” Djokovic said, “one of the players has to lose.”
Djokovic, 32, saved two match points to reach the fifth-set tiebreaker, becoming the first man since 1948 to save championship points in the final and go on to win.
“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, as well,” he said. “This match had everything. It could have gone easily his way. He was serving extremely well, I thought, the entire match.”
First it was Federer who kept falling behind, then coming back. He twice trailed by a set even though he came quite close to winning the match in three: Federer was two points from grabbing the opening set on seven occasions but couldn’t do it; he was one point from seizing the third, but again came up short.
Then Federer was down a break early in the fifth. And after seemingly gaining the upper hand, standing a single point from winning while serving for the victory at 8-7, 40-15, he faltered.
He sent a forehand wide on the first championship point, and Djokovic produced a crosscourt forehand winner on the next. Soon enough, Djokovic had broken back and on they would play for another 45 minutes.
“Definitely tough to have those chances,” Federer said.
The crowd was decidedly pro-Federer and Djokovic said it was “hard not to be aware.”
“I like to transmutate it in a way: When the crowd is chanting ‘Roger,’ I hear ‘Novak,’ he said, smiling. “It sounds silly, but it is like that. I try to convince myself that it’s like that.”
Federer, at 37 years and 340 days old, was seeking to become the oldest men’s Grand Slam winner in the Open era (since 1968).
It is Djokovic’s 16th Grand Slam title overall, moving him to within four of Federer’s record 20. Rafael Nadal is second on the list with 18 Grand Slam victories.
Federer said he isn’t thinking about Nadal and Djokovic threatening his record.
“I take motivation from different places, you know. Not so much from trying to stay ahead because I broke the record, and if somebody else does, well, that’s great for them. You can’t protect everything anyway,” he said.
“I didn’t become a tennis player for that. I really didn’t. It’s about trying to win Wimbledon, trying to have good runs here, playing in front of such an amazing crowd in this Centre Court against players like Novak and so forth. That’s what I play for.”
Wimbledon traditionally didn’t play tiebreakers in the final set of matches but introduced one for this year if the score reaches 12-12.
ESPN Stats & Information and The Associated Press contributed to this report.