In the end, an exhausted, sweat-soaked Novak Djokovic could not stop himself from joining 15,000 hollering fans in giving Argentine warrior Juan Martin Del Potro a standing ovation after an epic display of courage and endurance at Wimbledon on Friday.
A contest that many feared would last only a few minutes after Del Potro damaged his knee so badly that he “came close to quitting” two days ago, went into surreal territory as Djokovic relied on his survival instincts to reach the final with a rousing 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-7(6), 6-3 win.
At four hours 43 minutes, it was the longest semi-final ever played at the All England Club and while the scoreline showed that the Serbian world number one had emerged victorious, for all those lucky enough to be on Centre Court, there were no losers.
“It was one of my best matches I’ve been a part of, one of the most exciting. It was so close,” the 2011 champion said after being stretched to his fifth five-hour marathon within the space of 18 months.
“I could not separate us. That was one of the best matches I’ve played here, it was at such a high level. I’m just privileged to be the winner of this match.”