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WIMBLEDON, England – In 2011, Novak Djokovic was nearly unbeatable. He kicked off the season with a 41-match winning streak, won three of the four Grand Slams and went 70-6.

It tormented him. Suddenly, he couldn't cross the finish line. He continued to play deep into majors but looked like a man wrestling with himself. He had lost his last three major finals.

On Sunday, Djokovic buried his recent Grand Slam failures by holding off Roger Federer 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4 to win his second Wimbledon title in four years and his seventh major overall.

"I needed this win a lot," he said.

Federer, with the crowd at his back, pushed Djokovic to the brink of his lingering doubts.

And Djokovic wobbled, failing to close out the match leading 5-2 in the fourth set by dropping five consecutive games and one match point that Federer saved with an ace.

But in the end, Djokovic refused to fail. Playing the dogged brand of defensive tennis that is his specialty, the top-seeded Serb punched back returns and lured No. 4 seed Federer into long rallies, most of which Djokovic won. But he also pressed forward, took the offensive and protected his serve, which he lost three times only during his fourth-set lapse.

"I think Novak tried as much as he could to play offensive as well," said Federer, who hit more winners (75 to 68) and aces (29 to 13).

He eventually wore 32-year-old Federer down, breaking him early in the third set, buckling down in the third-set tiebreaker and then holding on to break him in the final game for a fourth time. Federer, seeking a record eighth Wimbledon crown, had been broken just once entering the final.

"I don't know how I managed to do it," said a choked up Djokovic on court after the nearly 4-hour match, later calling it the highest-quality Grand Slam final he'd taken part in.

Djokovic had lost five of his last six Grand Slam finals and was one defeat away from joining Ivan Lendl, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray as the only men in the post-1968 Open era to lose four major finals in a row.

His last major victory was at the 2013 Australian Open nearly 18 months ago, part of the reason he hired three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker at the start of 2014 to help him get him over the hump.

With his seventh major crown, Djokovic equals John McEnroe and Mats Wilander for eighth place in the Open era.

Djokovic dedicated the win to his family, his team and to his soon-to-be-wife, Jelena Ristic, who is pregnant with their child. But last and not least he said it was for his childhood coach and muse, Jelena Gencic, who passed away last year.

"This is for her," an emotional Djokovic said.

It may not be 2011, but Djokovic can head to the summer hardcourt season that culminates at the U.S. Open considerably more angst-free.

The 27-year-old has reclaimed the No. 1 ranking he lost to Rafael Nadal last fall. He is back on his favorite surface, which has accounted for five of his seven majors. The monkey is off his back.

"He can almost take a deep breath," said ESPN's Patrick McEnroe, who called the 2011 U.S. Open winner a significant favorite for New York.

Said Becker: "He lost in the final to Rafa there last year so hopefully he can do one better."

"I'm not going to say it's his greatest victory, but it's certainly up there," McEnroe added of Sunday's win. "This was one where he had to really dig deep when a lot of things went against him."

On Sunday shortly after his win, Djokovic plucked a blade of grass from Center Court and ate it, repeating what he did in 2011 when he won for the first time here.

It tasted different, he said, but "like the best meal that I ever had in my life probably."

Cement might taste better yet.

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