WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – Novak Djokovic never has been this close to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam trophy count.
Given the way Djokovic edged Federer in a thrilling Wimbledon final for his fourth championship at the past five major tournaments, there is little reason to think the 32-year-old Serb doesn’t have a realistic shot at catching his two great rivals at the top of tennis.
Federer owns the men’s record of 20 Slams, Nadal has 18, Djokovic 16.
The chase is really and truly on now.
“For him, it’s the goal, absolutely,” said Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda.
Djokovic’s 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) victory Sunday offered some insight about what the future might hold and what his place in the hierarchy eventually could become.
At 4 hours, 57 minutes, it was the longest Wimbledon final in history.
More remarkably, Djokovic became the first man since 1948 to win the title at the All England Club after facing championship points; Federer was on the verge of winning while serving at 8-7, 40-15 in the fifth set.
But Djokovic took the next two points and, eventually, was better in the closing tiebreaker, instituted at 12-all in deciding sets at Wimbledon for the first time this year.
If the consensus is that Federer’s excellence is defined by the word “elegance,” and Nadal’s by “doggedness,” then Djokovic’s might be best distilled to “clutchness.”
As Sunday’s match stretched into the evening, one element of their respective past performances at Wimbledon seemed particular relevant: Djokovic is now 8-1 in five-setters there; Federer 7-7. Against each other? Djokovic is 4-0.
Turned out the words spoken by eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer two days before the final were rather prescient: “It comes very much down to who’s better on the day, who’s in a better mental place, who’s got more energy left, who’s tougher when it really comes to the crunch.”