Novak Djokovic and his fascination for saving match points
- Djokovic saved two championship points against Federer to win his 5th Wimbledon title. But this is not the 1st time he's been down that road
The 'Ironman' from Serbia, Novak Djokovic celebrated his fifth Wimbledon title in the most dramatic of fashions, saving multiple championship points on Roger Federer's serve in the 15th game of the deciding set before triumphing in a first-ever deciding set tiebreak at Wimbledon, played at 12-12.
It was the first time in 71 years, since Robert Falkenburg beat John Bromwich in the 1948 final, that a player had saved championship points and gone on to triumph at Wimbledon.
However, this was not the first time Djokovic had fought back from the brink during his 16-year professional career. The 2019 Wimbledon final marked the 14th time - and the second time this year - that the Serb saved match points to emerge victorious.
Federer and Nadal, on the other hand, have achieved a similar feat 21 and 13 times respectively.
It was the first time in 15 years - since Gaston Gaudio beat countryman Guillermo Coria in the 2004 Roland Garros final - that a player emerged victorious in a Grand Slam after saving championship points.
Prior to this, we have to go all the way back to 1960 when Rod Laver beat countryman Neal Fraser at the Australian Open, then called the Australian Championships, at a time when tennis was yet to turn professional.
What makes the Serb's feat even more impressive is that while Federer has squandered match points on 22 occasions and Nadal has done so on 8 instances, Djokovic has been denied a victory after holding match points on a miserly three occasions.
Mikhail Youzhny saved match points against Djokovic in the 2007 Rotterdam semifinals, Nadal did the same in an epic 2009 Madrid semifinal battle and almost a decade later Marin Cilic saved two championship points against the Serb in the 2018 Queen's final.
The Serb is usually at his ruthless best at the business end of tournaments. Djokovic's steely resolve and mental strength are evident from the fact that the Serb has saved match points on an impressive five occasions in Grand Slams, three of which have been against Federer, with two of those unfolding on the Swiss' serve.
Federer has saved match points in a Grand Slam thrice and Nadal has done so only once.
Here is a lowdown of all the 14 instances where Djokovic emerged victorious from match point down (Grand Slam events have been highlighted).
(1) 2005 Wimbledon Round of 64: Defeated Guillermo Garcia Lopez 3–6 3–6 7–6(5) 7–6(3) 6–4.
(2) 2007 Vienna Quarterfinal: Beat Juan Ignacio Chela 6–3 5–7 7–6(2).
(3) 2009 Halle Round of 16: Beat Florent Serra 5–7 7–5 6–1.
(4) 2009 Basel Semifinal: Beat Radek Stepanek 6–7(4) 7–5 6–2.
(5) 2010 Indian Wells Masters Round of 32: Beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6–3 2–6 7–6(3).
(6) 2010 US Open Semifinal: Beat Roger Federer 5–7 6–1 5–7 6–2 7–5.
(7) 2011 US Open Semifinal: Beat Roger Federer 6–7(7) 4–6 6–3 6–2 7–5.
(8) 2011 London World Tour Finals Round Robin: Beat Tomas Berdych 3–6 6–3 7–6(3).
(9) 2012 French Open Quarterfinal: Beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6–1 5–7 5–7 7–6(6) 6–1.
(10) 2012 Shanghai Masters Final: Beat Andy Murray 5–7 7–6(11) 6–3.
(11) 2015 Montreal Quarterfinal: Beat Ernests Gulbis 5–7 7–6(7) 6–1.
(12) 2017 Doha Semifinal: Beat Fernando Verdasco 4–6 7–6(7) 6–3.
(13) 2019 Rome Masters Quarterfinal: Beat Juan Martin del Potro 4–6 7–6(6) 6–4.
(14) 2019 Wimbledon Final: Beat Roger Federer 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(4) 4-6 13-12(3).
As Djokovic would admit in an interview after the Wimbledon final, “There’s no particular secret to saving match points."
Perhaps there isn't one. Or perhaps Djokovic doesn't want to divulge his secret in public, if indeed there was one, particularly against the great Federer.
But it can be safely stated that we have not witnessed the last time the Serb saves match points as he looks forward to a strong finish to the season and an extended reign at the top of the world rankings.