LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic got the better of Roger Federer at Wimbledon again.
The defending champion outplayed Federer in four sets Sunday to win his third Wimbledon title and ninth Grand Slam championship, cementing his status as the dominant player in the game.
In a repeat of last year’s final, won by Djokovic in five sets, the top-ranked Serb overcame the loss of seven set points in the second set and pulled away to beat the seven-time champion 7-6 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3.
The top-seeded Djokovic broke No. 2 Federer four times and saved six of the seven break points he faced. Still in his prime at the age of 28, Djokovic further enhanced his reputation as one of the greats of the game.
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In winning the 40th career matchup between the two, Djokovic prevented Federer from winning a record eighth Wimbledon title.
“I was aware coming on the court that Roger was going to play like he always plays — at his best, when it matters the most,” Djokovic said. “He makes you push your limits, he makes you work hard and earn every single point. He’s not going to hand you the match.”
Djokovic closed out the match by breaking Federer for the second time in the fourth set, hitting an inside-out forehand winner into the open court on the final point. He pumped his arms and screamed, then bent down, plucked some grass from Centre Court and put it his mouth — just as he did when he won his first title in 2011 and again last year.
“It tasted very, very good this year,” Djokovic said. “I don’t know what the groundspeople have done, but they’ve done a great job. It’s a little tradition, obviously. As a kid, I was really dreaming of winning Wimbledon, and as every child, you dream to do something crazy when you actually achieve it, if you achieve it, and that was one of the things.”
Djokovic equaled the number of Wimbledon titles won by his coach Boris Becker, who won at the All England Club in 1985, ’86 and ’89.
“We managed to find the right chemistry and he has contributed a lot,” Djokovic said. “This is his trophy equally as mine.”
Djokovic also became the first man to retain the Wimbledon title since Federer did it in 2007.
“He was tough on the bigger points,” Federer said. “Then at the end, he was rock-solid. I thought he played great. I didn’t play bad myself. … That’s how it goes.”
Sunday’s victory evened their career head-to-head record at 20-20, but Djokovic now holds a narrow edge where it counts the most — 2-1 in Grand Slam finals, 2-1 at Wimbledon and 7-6 in majors overall.
The 33-year-old Federer will now have to wait another year to try again to become the first man to win eight Wimbledon singles titles. In 2012, he equaled Pete Sampras and 1880s player William Renshaw with seven.
“Novak played not only great today but the whole two weeks, plus the whole year, plus last year, plus the year before that,” Federer said in an on-court interview after the trophy presentation. “So you deserve it. Well done, Novak.”
Federer was playing in his 10th Wimbledon final and 26th Grand Slam final. He had been broken only once coming into the match, but dropped serve four times against Djokovic, considered the best returner in the game.
The final featured two of the fiercest competitors in the sport going toe-to-toe, with each going for big serves and engaging in furious corner-to-corner rallies.
Federer took more risks and was more aggressive, but the steely Djokovic refused to bend, digging in and lifting his game whenever he had to in order to prevent his opponent from gaining the edge.
While Federer had more winners (58) than Djokovic (46), the Serb finished with only 16 unforced errors, compared to 35 for the Swiss player.
The match featured a classic 15-minute tiebreaker in the second set, in which Federer saved six set points. Federer had a set point of his own at 8-7 but Djokovic responded with a 119 mph ace down the middle. Federer earned another set point at 11-10, and this time he came to the net after a second serve and converted a backhand volley to even the match.
The match turned quickly in Djokovic’s favor, however, early in the third set, when he broke for a 2-1 lead after Federer missed an easy forehand sitter at the net, slapping the ball long.