Djokovic finds Federer’s weak spot in Wimbledon final
How did Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) in the Wimbledon 2019 final despite Roger winning 14 more points, hitting 40 more winners and 15 more aces, and leading in almost every category?
Djokovic won the crucial points by trapping Roger with the same tactic that befuddled Federer at the US Open in 2015. In Sunday’s three crucial tie-breakers, Novak repeatedly hit rally balls to The Spot, a fountain of errors for Roger and others who face the world number one, who has now won 16 grand slam titles including five at Wimbledon.
The Spot, for a right-hander, is a step or two to the left of the center of the baseline. It’s not down the middle, where Federer can hit forehand winners to either wing. It’s not down the alley, where Federer has an open court of angles to rip winners cross-court or down the line. It’s between those two attacking positions, and it “closes” the court for Federer while opening up offensive options for Djokovic. The Spot puts Federer in a defensive position, which he doesn’t like, and forces him to swing cautiously, not freely.
From The Spot, Federer has limited angles of attack and too many options, something which plagued him before his career blossomed. He’s in “two minds” with a lack of clarity whether to go forehand or backhand.
He can run-around and hit a forehand. But he often loops his inside-out forehand long or wide if aiming for the narrow sharp angle cross court. If he goes inside-in, Djokovic is waiting to take away Roger’s time and hit a cross-court forehand from an offensive position.
If Federer chooses to hit a backhand, it’s very difficult for him to go inside out with one hand to a narrow opening, and he doesn’t have the angles to hit a winner cross-court. Thus Djokovic is ready to pounce on a short ball or slice from Roger’s backhand if he plays a safer shot to avoid an error.
Thus The Spot puts the offensive-minded Federer in an uncomfortable defensive position where he can’t swing freely without making errors. It puts Djokovic in a position to transition from defense to offense (something which Federer, speaking to me at the Western and Southern Open in Ohio, said he most admires about Djokovic.)
In the first four sets of the Wimbledon final, Federer made at least a dozen errors from The Spot, often hitting too long or too wide.
Roger was leading the first set tie-breaker 5-3, then missed from The Spot and lost four points in a row.
In the third set tie-breaker, Federer missed four in a row from The Spot to trail 0-4, and missed another one from The Spot on the way to losing a set he “should” have won.
On Roger’s first match point in the fifth set at 8-7 and 40-15, Novak jammed his forehand — guess where — in The Spot.
At 12-12 in the epic fifth set, Roger missed again from The Spot in the tie-breaker. At match point, Novak went back to The Spot and Roger mis-hit a forehand, giving Djokovic his fifth championship at Wimbledon.
Federer deserved to win all five sets, yet Djokovic won most of the big points that really matter by going to The Spot.
(words and images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)