Though Novak Djokovic is the youngest member of the “Big Three”—the trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Djokovic that has reigned supreme over men’s tennis for the past decade—it often feels like he’s the overlooked middle child of the bunch. Both Federer and Nadal are superstars beloved for the sporting ideals their respective games epitomize: the elegance and precision of Federer’s classic style of attacking tennis, the grit and ferocity of Nadal’s power-baseline game. Djokovic, who today defeated Federer in the longest men’s singles final ever played at Wimbledon, 7–6 (5), 1–6, 7–6 (4), 4–6, 13–12 (3), has never elicited that same kind of adulation. With this victory, however, Djokovic added fuel to the idea that he’s the greatest player of this generation.
Throughout the match, the crowd rooted most strongly for Federer. The obvious lack of support didn’t bother Djokovic to the same degree it did during his semifinal match against the Spanish journeyman Roberto Bautista Agut, when Djokovic took to mocking the audience for backing the underdog. Early in today’s final, the pro-Federer crowd began cheering so loudly for the Swiss that the ESPN commentator Chris Fowler noted the environment was becoming unfair to Djokovic. In the fifth set, Djokovic saved a break point with a dramatic overhead smash. The crowd barely reacted, clearly disappointed that Federer had failed to convert his break opportunity, and Djokovic let a wry smile slip over his face, as if to acknowledge that, no matter how well he played, he knew he wouldn’t finish the day as the fan favorite.