Article By: Harrison Weaver
Alright readers, this week is going to be a little different. For any of you who follow along with my articles, you know that I write about basketball every week. However, something else in the sporting world caught my eye this past weekend that really embodied the thrill and emotion that all of us love. This past Sunday was the championship match at Wimbledon between two all-time great tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Personally, I don’t have a lot of stake in tennis. A lot of us have grown up watching Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and whether you follow tennis closely or not they’ve become household names to us just from seeing their names on TV during all the major tennis tournaments throughout the years. Luckily, we got another treat this past Sunday. The #1 and #3 players in the world reached the final stage to play each other, as Federer defeated Nadal in a classic matchup in the semifinals, and Djokovic defeated Bautista Agut. The stage was set for an instant classic.
Roger Federer came into the match not only battling against #1 Novak Djokovic, but also against Father Time. Federer is 37 years old and is supposed to be past his prime. Instead, he is ranked #3 in the world and once again knocking on the door of his 21st Grand Slam title and playing some of the most dominant tennis of his career. On the other side of the court was 32-year-old, #1 ranked Djokovic. The 16-time Grand Slam winner, still very much in his prime, made easy work of the rest of the field. In attendance for this highly touted match was a long list of celebrities including Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kendall Jenner, David Beckham, Rebel Wilson, Woody Harrelson, etc.
Right off the bat in this match, the first set went to a tiebreaker which Djokovic stole 7-5. The very next set, Federer came back with a dominant 6-1 victory. Already, you could begin to see that these heavyweights were not going to back down as they were jarring back and forth constantly for control of this match. In the third set, we saw yet another tiebreaker, which became the overlying theme of this match. Yet again, Djokovic stole the tiebreaker, positioning himself to have a chance to close out the match in four sets. Federer would not allow that to happen, as he won the fourth set comfortably, 6-4. By this point in the match, you could feel the tension at Centre Court as the camera panned over the crowd, all leaning in and on the edge of their seats. By this point in the match, it had become abundantly clear who the crowd is siding with. Every time Federer made a good play, the crowd erupted as if they were trying to physically push the aging legend to a Grand Slam title. Close-up shots of Federer and Djokovic rotate between looks of absolute laser focus, and very short, disciplined looks of either excitement or frustration.
Now to the fifth set. The first two sets were split, followed by a dominant run by Djokovic which kept Federer off-balance and chasing for majority of the time which put the set score at 4-2. But what do champions do? They push back. Federer won the next game in close fashion, and ultimately got the match tied at 5-5 after the next few games. The 11th game is where things really started to ramp up. Federer had Djokovic on his heels during a crazy rally as Federer was up 30-15, looking to go up 40-15. Federer rushed the net on a short Djokovic shot and attempted to drop one down to the near-right where Djokovic wouldn’t be able to reach. Instead, Djokovic dove and incredibly put it over Federer’s head, out of his reach, in-bounds to likely save the game. He was even able to come back from a Federer advantage to steal the game. Fast forward and the set is tied at 12-12. Both Federer and Djokovic had each other on the ropes throughout the course of the past few games. Each having to rally to stay alive at points. The pressure is off the charts as the match comes down to one decisive tiebreaker with a Grand Slam title on the line.
This is the first year that Wimbledon was introducing the new tiebreak rule. To prevent super long marathon matches, the new rule is that if the score reaches 12-12 in the fifth game, then the player who scores seven or more points, with an advantage of at least two points, will be declared the winner. That’s exactly where Federer and Djokovic headed. An absolute all-time great match heading to a tiebreaker in the first year of the new rule change. Djokovic seized early control and went up 4-1, only needing 3 more points to win. The camera continued to pan over to Mirka Federer, Roger’s wife, as she sat in complete agony watching her husband fight to the end to win his 21st Grand Slam. She couldn’t bear to watch, as she held her hands over her face to hide from the inescapable pressure. The rest of the crowd was doing the same as almost everybody was rooting for good-guy Federer. The match concluded with Djokovic being up 6-3. He returned Federer’s serve, which Federer mishit way out of bounds, finally securing the Djokovic 7-3 tiebreaker win and ending this amazing, one-for-the-ages tennis match. It only took 4 hours and 57 minutes, which was the longest men’s singles match in Wimbledon history. Finally, after enduring hours of top-level tennis, Novak Djokovic was able to win his 16th Grand Slam title.
The two classy competitors shook hands, both having so much respect for each other for the incredible game they both just played, and for everything they have both achieved in their careers. In absolute pure joy, Djokovic waved to the crowd to thank them for the energy and excitement they brought as he knelt to taste a few pieces of the Centre Court grass to commemorate this ever-lasting memory. Federer was first called to say a few words for the crowd. He congratulated Djokovic, gave him all his credit. Upon the awaited question of how long he’s going to keep playing, he said he has every ability to keep doing so as long as his body can handle it and he has the support of his family. When it was Djokovic’s time to speak, he had nothing but praise for Federer, as he literally admitted that Federer seemed to be in control for majority of that match, dictating the flow and keeping him off-balance. He also joked that he hopes to be playing that well when he gets to be 37 years old.
Overall, this was one of the greatest tennis matches ever played, and it was so incredibly entertaining to watch. With the high stakes, the legendary players, the top level of play and respect, even though I was watching on TV, I felt like I was a part of this match as I’m sure many viewers did. Like I said, I have never been a big tennis guy, but this era of Djokovic, Federer, Nadal is one that myself and the rest of you readers who are in college have grown up with. From the time that I was just a boy, I would turn on ESPN and see headlines of these guys winning Grand Slam titles repeatedly. Even without paying super close attention to the sport, it is really cool to be able to sit back on a Sunday afternoon all these years later and still see the same guys at the top of the world rankings, playing the highest level of tennis in the world. This match was just another example of what continues to make sports so special, and more than just a game.
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