Wimbledon 2014: Novak Djokovic thanks Roger Federer for 'letting him win' after epic five-set final battle
Novak Djokovic has won the Wimbledon 2014 men's singles title after beating Roger Federer in an epic five-set final battle.
The Serbian defeated seven-time champion Federer 6-7 (7/9) 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 6-4, withstanding a courageous fightback in one of the most remarkable Wimbledon finals of all time.
After collecting the historic trophy, he jokingly thanked the Swiss player for "letting him win".
He denied Federer a record eighth Wimbledon crown, but conceded he feared the match might slip away after failing to convert a match point in the fourth set.
"Congratulations to Roger, he proved what a great champion he is once again here this year," said Djokovic.
"I respect your career and everything you've done Roger - thank you for letting me win today!
"After dropping a fourth set it wasn't easy to regroup. I tried to compose myself and find the necessary energy to win the fifth. I don't know how I managed to do it.
"This is the tournament I always dreamed of winning. This is the best tournament in the world, the most valuable one."
After thanking his family and his camp, Djokovic added: "Last but not least, I would like to dedicate this title to my first coach who taught me all the basics of tennis shots and behaviour and everything I know about tennis - Jelena Gencic - and she passed away last year, and this is for her."
Djokovic knelt to the turf to eat some of the famous All England Club grass to greet his victory - just as in 2011.
The Belgrade native lost out in last summer's final to Andy Murray, and admitted it was a thrill to win again.
"The last time I won here was part of a fantastic year, and it's just amazing for it to happen again," he said.
A clearly-deflated Federer remained as gracious as ever in defeat despite failing to claim his 18th grand slam title.
The 32-year-old did however concede he was pleased with his run to the final, especially after his wretched 2013 that was dogged by back injuries.
"He's a great opponent and I would just like to congratulate Novak on his title," said Federer.
"You know going into a match against Novak it's going to be tough, I can only say congratulations.
"I'm certainly delighted to have been able to be back here again in this final."
World No 1
It was the Serbian's seventh grand slam title and his second Wimbledon triumph, while Federer will be left to wonder whether he will ever get a better chance to win an 18th slam.
Djokovic returns to world No 1, overtaking Rafael Nadal, while Federer moves up to No 3.
This was also a first slam title with Djokovic for the Serbian's head coach Boris Becker, who found himself on opposite sides to his old rival Stefan Edberg, now coaching Federer.
The two men could only look on from the sidelines this time, and Becker would have settled the easier into his seat as his charge made a brilliant start.
If there was mental anguish carried over from recent finals, Djokovic had buried it away, and it was only Federer's serve that kept the man from Basle on level terms in the opening set.
The 32-year-old had to fight toe to toe off the ground in the 10th game, successfully repelling a Djokovic charge to the delight of his adoring public.
Djokovic recovered from 0-3 in the tie-break to lead 6-5 with a set point on his own serve but Federer found the sideline and forced the error.
Another came and went with a Federer ace and, when the seven-time Wimbledon champion brought up his first chance, it was Djokovic who faltered, netting a backhand.
The guest list for the Royal Box befitted the occasion, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, David and Victoria Beckham and Hollywood star Samuel L Jackson joining various tennis greats.
The presence of Sir Chris Hoy and, in the public seats, Sir Alex Ferguson was surely an indication that the Scots had hoped for a different man to be in the final, after Andy Murray's victory over Djokovic 12 months ago.
Not that anyone present could complain about the tennis on show.
Djokovic finally made the breakthrough in the third game of the second set, sweeping a backhand pass beyond Federer and breaking the world number four's serve for only the second time all tournament.
The Serbian called the trainer for treatment to his left ankle after taking a heavy fall but there did not appear to be any lasting damage.
Federer had one chance to retrieve the break when Djokovic betrayed a few nerves serving for the set, but the threat was averted.
This was the 35th meeting between the two men but only their second grand slam final - the first came back in 2007 at the US Open - and second match at Wimbledon.
Federer won both of those clashes, and the third set appeared crucial to his hopes of a repeat.
Federer's serving was almost immaculate and there may have been a first for the world's best returner in the ninth game as four consecutive aces flew past him.
It came to his rescue two games later as Djokovic forced two break points, the Serbian yelling at the chalk dust in frustration.
But in the tie-break Federer's resistance ran out, and his hopes of victory appeared over when he trailed 5-2 in the fourth set.
Having been broken for 3-1, Federer had hit straight back with his first break of the match only to drop serve once more.
But at the biggest moment of the match, Djokovic faltered and back came Federer again, the Swiss breaking serve to trail only 5-4 while his opponent lay sprawled on the ground.
Still it looked like it would not be enough as Djokovic brought up a first match point, but Federer, the man who loathes Hawk-Eye, may revise his opinion after a challenge gave him an ace.
The missed chances must have haunted Djokovic and he handed Federer a second straight break.
Federer duly served out one of the most remarkable sets of his long career.
The momentum was all with Federer, and physically Djokovic was struggling too, taking a medical time-out after the third game of the fifth set for treatment to his right leg.
Federer piled on the pressure in the seventh game and brought up a break point but then netted a backhand.
Djokovic held and suddenly he was the man pushing forward as Federer faced three break points. Each time the Swiss came up with an answer.
The third, when he dug a half-volley off his toes, was one of the shots of the championship.
But Djokovic was pressing intensely and two games later he brought up two match points.
This time Federer could not fight back, the Swiss netting a backhand as Djokovic celebrated a hugely emotional victory after three hours and 57 minutes.
Novak Djokovic: From Nikola Pilic academy to seventh grand slam
1987: Born May 22 in Belgrade.
1999: Joins the Nikola Pilic academy in Munich, Germany.
2006: June - Reaches French Open quarter-finals, where he is beaten by David Nalbandian.
July - Wins first title at the Dutch Open in Amersfoort.
2007: Wins Miami Masters to climb into the world's top 10. Reaches the French Open semi-finals, losing to eventual champion Rafael Nadal. Loses US Open final to Roger Federer in straight sets. Ends the year as world number three.
2008: Wins Australian Open after defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in four sets, becoming first Serbian to claim a singles grand slam. Loses to Nadal in straight sets in semi-finals of the French Open. Crashes out in the second round at Wimbledon to Marat Safin. Wins bronze medal in singles at Beijing Olympics. Loses to Federer in US Open semi-finals.
2009: Retires in fourth set of Australian Open quarter-final against Andy Roddick citing heat exhaustion, muscle cramps and soreness. Loses to Tommy Haas in quarter-finals at Wimbledon, and to Roger Federer in semi-finals of US Open.
2010: Loses to Tsonga in quarter-finals of Australian Open, but still moves up to career-high world number two. Beaten by Jurgen Melzer in French Open quarter-finals, by Czech Tomas Berdych in Wimbledon semi-finals, and by Nadal in US Open final. Helps Serbia win Davis Cup for the first time with a 3-2 victory over France in the final in Belgrade. Ends the year ranked third in the world.
2011: Beats Andy Murray 6-4 6-2 6-3 in Australian Open final. After adding titles at Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Belgrade, Madrid and Rome, to start the year with 41 straight victories, Djokovic's winning run comes to an end when he loses to Federer in the French Open semi-finals. Beats Nadal 6-4 6-1 1-6 6-3 in the final to win his first Wimbledon title. Beats Nadal again, in four sets, in the US Open final for his third grand slam title of the year and 64th win from 66 matches.
2012: Beats Murray in four hours and 50 minutes in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and then produces another superhuman effort to see off Nadal in the final in five hours and 53 minutes. Wins Miami title but loses in French Open final to Nadal, and in Wimbledon semi-finals to Federer. Beaten by Murray in five-set US Open final.
2013: January 27 - Beats Murray in four-set Australian Open final. Loses a five-set semi-final to Nadal at the French Open, and a three-set final to Murray at Wimbledon. Falls in four sets to Nadal in the US Open final, before landing the end-of-year ATP World Tour Finals title for a third time. Hires Boris Becker as his coach in December.
2014: Loses to Stan Wawrinka in Australian Open quarter-finals, but bounces back with a run to the French Open final, where he loses to Nadal, and to the Wimbledon final. On July 6 he lands his second Wimbledon title with a 6-7 (7/9) 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 5-7 6-4 win over Federer.
Belfast Telegraph Digital