Classic Exchange Stories: Djokovic comes back from the brink

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer shake hands after their epic duel
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In the latest of our series looking back at events that saw huge prices matched on the Exchange, Dave Tindall revisits last year's five-set epic Wimbledon final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer...

"Surely, we wouldn't go that far, would we? The answer was 'yes' but not before this final produced the ultimate of a 1.01 shot that got turned over."

Setting the scene

Pre-tournament favourite Novak Djokovic traded at [2.76] ahead of Wimbledon fortnight, with Roger Federer at [4.5].

With Rafa Nadal at [7.4], the betting looked predictable. Perhaps there was a chance from someone further down the market to make his mark.

However, with Andy Murray out of the equation, many punters decided it was simply a case of picking which of the Big Three would add to their haul of Grand Slams.

Djokovic was understandably clear favourite. He came into the event as defending champion having gained his fourth title at SW19 the year before while he'd won three of the previous four Grand Slams having followed that Wimbledon success 12 months earlier with victories at the 2019 US Open and 2020 Australian Open.

Federer was seeking an incredible ninth Wimbledon crown although just one of those (2017) had come in the previous six years.

Path to the final

The market - and the seedings - proved correct with No.1 Djokovic and No.2 Federer making their way to the final.

Djokovic had the easier path, defeating 21st seed David Goffin in the quarters for the loss of just six games and then surprise package Roberto Bautista (23rd seed) in a four-set semi-final.

Federer, meanwhile, lost the first set of his last-eight clash with Kei Nishikori (8th seed) before winning in four.

And despite losing the second set to old adversary Nadal (3rd seed) in the last four, Federer had too many weapons and won the next two to seal a 7-6 (3), 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

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What our previewer said ahead of the final:

Dan Weston: "Rather surprisingly, they've only met three times on grass, with Djokovic winning the most recent two clashes, but those head to head matches on the surface show similar data for each player - there's little to be gained by analysing their previous grass meetings, particularly given the last one was in 2015.

However, Djokovic has taken eight of 11 in head to head meetings since the start of 2015 across all surfaces, and the set count in those matches reads 19-11 in favour of the world number one - he's largely bossed those head to head matches in a more recent time frame.

Given this, and the fact that my model felt that Djokovic was value without taking this more recent head to head advantage into account, I think the [1.57] about him is reasonable value. I don't think it's a huge edge, but it's enough for a recommendation in today's final."

The Match

Djokovic makes first move but Federer levels

Over £44 million pounds was matched on this five-set classic which stretched out to a mighty four hours and 57 minutes.

Federer, playing in his 12th final, headed into the showdown as the [2.68] underdog but more than matched his opponent for much of the contest.

The Swiss led 5-4 in the opener but Djokovic eventually took it in a tie-break with just under an hour on the clock, hardening to [1.47].

Unexpectedly, the Serb dipped badly in the second set though as Federer went for his shots and breezed through it 6-1 to level the contest up at one set apiece.

Defending champ edges back in front

The market still favoured Djokovic but now the momentum appeared to be with his opponent. Once more, though, the two heavyweights went into a tie-break and, once more, it went the way of Djokovic.

To the frustration of Federer backers, the No.1 seed had yet to have a break point and yet led their man two sets to one.

Djokovic now traded at [1.27] but this wasn't done yet and Federer broke his great rival in the fourth game of the fourth set and went on to take it 6-4. We were going into a fifth and final set.

Final set epic as Roger matched at 1/100

In a bid to avoid the ludicrous and infamous 138-game deciding set between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010 (Isner won it 70-68!), a new rule had been brought in to ensure that the maximum scoreline from now on at Wimbledon could be 12-12 before the two players would contest a tie-break to settle the outcome.

Surely, we wouldn't go that far, would we? The answer was 'yes' but not before this final produced the ultimate of a 1.01 shot that got turned over.

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The man who joined that club was Federer, who held two match points at 8-7, causing his price to crash to [1.01] while Djokovic traded at [70.0].

Prices oscillate wildly in tennis, of course, and four minutes later Djokovic was back to odds-on favourite again.

Federer had banged down two aces to reach 40-15 and get to the very brink of victory but Djokovic wouldn't buckle. The first opportunity went as Federer put a forehand wide before Djokovic came up with a forehand pass for deuce.

Two more points for Djokovic and he'd broken back: 8-8 and on they went.

Federer sniffed another opportunity at 10-10 when reaching 30-all on his opponent's serve but once again Djokovic shut the door on him and, almost inevitably, the next four games were shared to send the match into a 12-all tie-break.

The tie break

With both mental and physical reserves almost exhausted, who would be last man standing?

Djokovic served first and moved into a 4-1 lead as Federer's forehand twice failed him at 2-1. There was a brief momentum change again as Federer cut the gap back to 4-3 but Djokovic would not be denied.

A backhand down the line gave him three championship points and he needed just one of them, securing victory on the Federer serve just three minutes short of five hours.

The market showed one final surprise. Perhaps in the belief that the match would never end and there would be another twist, Djokovic never traded below [1.1].

Result: Djokovic won 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12


Dave Tindall,

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