WIMBLEDON, England - Novak Djokovic understood whom he was playing and where he was playing Sunday. He also understood what he had to do against Roger Federer, a seven-time Wimbledon champion.
"You know he's not going to lose," Djokovic said. "I'm going to have to win it if I want to lift that trophy."
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And for a second straight year, Djokovic did win against Federer. His 7-6 (1), 6-7 (10), 6-4, 6-3 victory proved that he has taken over as king of Wimbledon, which for so long was Federer's domain.
This was Djokovic's third Wimbledon victory and his ninth win in a Grand Slam event, more than Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and Djokovic's coach, Boris Becker.
Djokovic, 28, now heads to the U.S. Open with wins in two of the majors, the Australian and Wimbledon. He's No. 1 in the rankings and would seem to have many years of quality tennis ahead of him.
"He's clearly making a big name for himself," said Federer, still the record-holder with 17 major titles. Seven of them have come at Wimbledon, but the most recent was three years ago.
Federer advanced to his 10th Wimbledon final on the strength of a serve broken only once in six matches. But Djokovic is one of the best, if not the best, at returns, and he broke Federer four times.
"We both had our chances," Federer said.
He will be 34 next month, and despite his outstanding play in a tournament in which he was the No. 2 seed, thoughts of another major victory have ebbed, especially with Djokovic having established himself.
"You can have good tournaments without winning, as well, at the end," Federer said. "But of course you walk away empty-handed. For me, a finalist trophy is not the same."
The best and longest set of the match was the second, which ran more than an hour, as Djokovic failed seven times to follow an advantage in the tiebreaker and then lost it, 12-10.
"It was very frustrating, obviously, not to be able to close it out," he said. "Very frustrated on the changeover because I know against Roger, this might be my last chance in the match."
But it wasn't.
A year ago, Djokovic outlasted Federer in five sets, and some tennis people thought that was Federer's last hurrah. But he's intent on playing for a long while.
"It means so much to me," Federer said of the cheers every time he scored a point. "A pity I couldn't make more of the momentum."
The match was halted by a light drizzle in the third set. Even though there's a retractable roof over Centre Court, officials insist this is an outdoor tournament and do all they can to keep it that way. Then the rain stopped and play restarted.
"In the rain delay," Djokovic said, "I got my thoughts together and went back to basics after the second set and played a really good match after that."
Djokovic and Federer are 20-20 against each other, but Djokovic has a 2-1 edge at Wimbledon.
"He played amazing tennis throughout the tournament," Djokovic said. "I managed to sustain that pressure he put on my service games. Especially in the first set."
Just like last year after the final shot, he reached down, plucked a blade or two of grass and put it in his mouth.
"I was assured it was gluten- free," said Djokovic, who has given up food with gluten. "It's not processed, completely organic, and I could eat it."