Novak Djokovic saved two championship points in Wimbledon’s longest singles final to retain his title in a thrilling win over Roger Federer.
On a Centre Court, with an atmosphere that felt at times more akin to football than tennis, Djokovic won 7-6 (7-5) 1-6 7-6 (7-4) 4-6 13-12 (7-3).
As the clock ticked to four hours 57 minutes, Federer hit a ball high to hand the Serb victory.
The world number one has won 16 Grand Slams – and four of the last five.
“It’s quite unreal,” Djokovic said after winning his fifth Wimbledon title.
Federer, who at 37 was chasing a record-equalling ninth Wimbledon singles title, added: “It was a great match, it was long, it had everything. Novak, congratulations, man, that was crazy.”
A highly anticipated final between two of the sport’s greats always had the potential to go the distance – and this did that and more.
With fans unable to watch at times, while leaping to their feet and chanting at others, a nerve-jangling final set turned this into a classic.
When Federer had two championship points at 8-7, Djokovic held his nerve to save both and then break back, eventually taking it to the new tie-break at 12-12.
The Serb – who for extended periods of the match had been second best – had won the match’s previous two tie-breaks and he did so again, snatching victory when Federer scooped a return high.
The Swiss had been seeking to become the oldest Grand Slam champion of the Open era but instead found himself part of a different record as the match time surpassed Wimbledon’s longest final – the four hours 48 minutes of play in 2008 as he lost to Rafael Nadal.
The incredible fifth set lasted more than two hours.
There was more drama when the final point had to be replayed after a Hawk-Eye challenge, but Djokovic finally celebrated victory – albeit in muted fashion – when Federer sent a forehand off the frame of his racquet.
There was no wild jumping up and down, just a smile to himself as he walked to the net to shake hands with Federer after becoming the first man to win a Wimbledon singles final having been down match point since 1948 when Bob Falkenburg saved three match points and came back to beat John Bromwich.
An emotional Federer looked over towards his wife and children in his box during the trophy presentation, perhaps an acknowledgement that less than four weeks from his 38th birthday his opportunities for more Grand Slams may be limited.
While the match will be remembered by many for its thrills, Federer said: “I will try to forget. I had my chances, so did he. We played some great tennis.”