Novak Djokovic saved two championship points to retain his Wimbledon title with a thrilling final-set tie-break 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).
The Serbian world number one has now won 16 Grand Slam titles.
It was the longest Wimbledon final, at four hours 57 minutes, with a Federer error handing Djokovic victory.
“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 meeting of the greats serves up a classic
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 the Wimbledon record of four hours 48 minutes play of the 2008 final he lost to Rafael Nadal.
Down in the stats – but up in the match
Anyone looking at the stats for this match would simply not fathom how Djokovic came out on top.
The Serb trailed the Swiss on first-serve points won, winners made, aces, break points converted, games won and total points won and led him on double faults.
But he won the key points – and none more so than in the final set.
A diving volley winner at 5-5 and 15-30 prevented Federer establishing two break points, while having let the Swiss take an 8-7 lead with an opportunity to serve for the match, he immediately broke back.
Ignoring the increasingly vocal “Roger, Roger” chants from the partisan crowd and the cheers for some of the top seed’s double faults, Djokovic surged 6-3 ahead in the tie-break.
There was more drama when the final point had to be replayed after a Hawkeye challenge, but Djokovic finally celebrated victory when Federer sent a forehand off the frame of his racquet.
The Serb became the first man to win a Wimbledon singles final after being down match point since 1948 when Bob Falkenburg saved three match points and came back to defeat 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.”
BBC Sport tennis commentator Andrew Castle: “What a treat this has been. The top seed triumphs and it can surprise no one. Novak Djokovic has beaten Roger Federer in the longest final in Wimbledon history. And he’s beaten Roger Federer in all three Wimbledon finals that he has played him in. Roger Federer can look back with such pride on his effort.”
Former British number one Tim Henman on BBC TV: “I am still in a slight daze on Roger Federer’s behalf. Federer played all the tennis in the first four sets, he could have won all of them. And to then have two Championship points on his own serve, which is one of the most efficient. He tried to be bold on the second, but Novak Djokovic came up with the pass.”
Former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra: “It was a rollercoaster ride. It was amazing to see a tie-break in the end. There was nothing in that match in the end. You have to compliment both players. I was glad I got to witness this.”
More to follow.