Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had played 51 times over a dozen years, but only twice had they gone to a fifth set. Djokovic won 7-5 in the fifth at the 2002 Australian Open, and Nadal returned the favor, 9-7 in the fifth, the following spring at the French Open.
It took half a decade, but the Serb and the Spaniard finally brought their high-wire act, and their finest tennis, to Centre Court at Wimbledon.
We might call Djokovic’s 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (9), 3-6, 10-8 win their Third Epic. As far as level of play and entertainment value per point, this one was likely the best of all. The degree of difficulty was also the highest, as Nadal and Djokovic had to wait six hours for Kevin Anderson to beat John Isner in the first semifinal on Friday; they had to play with a curfew encroaching on Friday night; and they had to come back out and rev it up again 14 hours later on Saturday.