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LONDON – Novak Djokovic called his five-set victory over Roger Federer at Wimbledon the "most special Grand Slam final I've played."
Not merely because it earned Djokovic a second title at the All England Club, and seventh major championship overall.
And not simply because it was a back-and-forth struggle against Federer, owner of 17 Grand Slam trophies, including a record-tying seven at Wimbledon.
That all made the moment worth relishing, of course. Still, what really made Djokovic so enthusiastic about getting past Federer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 was that it proved again — to others, yes, but mainly to himself — that he can come up big on the biggest stages.
Before Sunday, Djokovic had lost three consecutive Grand Slam finals, and five of his most recent six.
"Started doubting, of course, a little bit," Djokovic acknowledged. "I needed this win a lot. I'm going to try to use it in the best possible way and for my confidence to grow for the rest of my season — and the rest of my career."
Here are five things we learned at Wimbledon:
DJOKOVIC IS BACK: The 27-year-old Serb is once again a major champion — it had been 18 months since his 2013 Australian Open title — and he's also once again No. 1 in the ATP rankings, moving up a spot to overtake Rafael Nadal on Monday. The other time Djokovic won Wimbledon, in 2011, he also rose to No. 1 the next day.
FEDERER CAN CONTEND: This, truly, is something most of the tennis world already knew. But Federer, who turns 33 on Aug. 8, had gone two years without getting to a Grand Slam final. For six matches, he was at his best, playing an attacking style and serving phenomenally well. In 2013, he left Wimbledon a second-round loser, part of a stretch in which he failed to get past the fourth round at three out of four majors. Other early exits followed for Federer, who was plagued by a bad back and had trouble settling on the proper racket. "I'm very happy to see that with feeling (healthy), I can produce a performance like I did the last two weeks," he said. "That clearly makes me believe that this was just a steppingstone to many more great things in the future."
THE KIDS ARE COMING: Yes, Djokovic's win means he, Federer, Nadal and Andy Murray — tennis' "Big 4" — have won 36 of the past 38 Slams. But this fortnight showed that the next generation is on its way, from semifinalists Grigor "Baby Fed" Dimitrov of Bulgaria and big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada, to 19-year-old Nick Kyrgios, who not only beat Nadal but also wowed with a nonchalant, behind-the-back, between-the-legs winner.
BOUCHARD IS HERE TO STAY: Women's tennis might have found its next star in 20-year-old Eugenie Bouchard, the first Canadian to reach a Grand Slam singles final. She lost meekly to Petra Kvitova — who, by the way, is only 24, now owns two Wimbledon titles, and seems ready to be a consistent challenger at other majors, too — but is 16-2 in Grand Slam matches on three surfaces this season.
KEEP AN EYE ON WILLIAMS: First, No. 1-ranked Serena Williams lost before the quarterfinals in singles for the third consecutive major. Three days later, she pulled out after three games of a doubles match with what she called a "bug" and the tournament referee's office said was a viral illness.
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