Djokovic had won six of their past seven meetings, including four of their past five in grand slams. But this was their first match on grass and that, it seems, was the key. The Serb admitted later that he had not been feeling 100% for the past few days but Federer's victory was a reward for his aggression and his willingness to attack at every opportunity. Free of the back pain he suffered earlier in the tournament, he served beautifully and when Djokovic let him in with a couple of loose service games, he took his chance.
In recent years, Federer has proved to be vulnerable over five sets, especially on the slower surfaces when the matches get physical. But even though the grass here is slower than it was when serve and volleying was the norm, it is still fast enough to help the more attacking players.
"I think the surface obviously does make our match quite different, to be quite honest," Federer said as he reflected on reaching his 24th grand slam final. "We barely had rallies in the first couple of sets. We did a lot of first-strike tennis; a lot of service winners out there. That obviously changes the momentum of the match, maybe doesn't make it as physical. It's more explosive, maybe a touch unpredictable. I think overall the surface made [things] potentially in my favour. I was able to be very aggressive. Looking back, that was obviously the key."
It is two and a half years since Federer last won a grand slam title, when he beat Murray in the Australian Open. Victory over the Scot here on Sunday would put Federer alongside William Renshaw and Pete Sampras as the third man in history to win seven Wimbledon titles. It would also give him back the No1 ranking for the first time in more than two years, equalling another Sampras record, the American's 286 weeks at the top.
Having won a record 16 grand slam titles, Federer is well used to setting new standards. The Swiss loves everything that goes together with being world No1 and winning another Wimbledon, where it all began for him in 2003, would be the icing on the cake. But he will not allow any complacency to creep in.
"I'm aware that the tournament's not over yet. I didn't break down crying and fall to my knees and think the tournament is over and I achieved everything I ever wanted," Federer said. "Honestly, it happens faster than you think it does. Then all of a sudden you come out the next match and you're not the same anymore because you're emotionally too drained already and you think it's been a great tournament. I know it's been a great tournament, but we'll assess that once the tournament is over. Right now I want to try to play the best possible final I can."
With the roof closed because of early afternoon rain, the Swiss never allowed Djokovic the chance to dictate. The Serb was lacking some of his usual gusto and Federer did not need a second chance. The first set went by in 24 minutes and though Djokovic recovered to win the second, it was always the Swiss who looked more at ease with himself.
The third set produced the best tennis of the match as Djokovic dug deep to save break points in the first and fifth games before setting up a break point of his own at 4-4. "I thought when I missed my chance early on in the third I might pay for it dearly," Federer said. "I almost did." Federer saved the break point with a fine serve and then broke in the next game, clinching the set with a fine smash.
When Djokovic was broken in the second game of the fourth set, Federer sniffed blood. The Serb saved himself from 0-40 to reduce the deficit to 4-2 but he could not make an impression on the Federer serve. Serving at 5-3, Federer's mind must have gone back to the US Opens of 2010 and 2011 when he had two match points only for Djokovic to hit back and win both times. But he held his nerve and threw his hands aloft when the final point went his way.
Murray will have the hopes of a nation on his shoulderson Sunday but Federer said there would be equal pressure on him. "There's a lot on the line for me," he said. "I'm not denying that. I've worked extremely hard since I lost those match points against Novak last year at the US Open. My run has been extremely good. Now I have a chance at world No1, at the title again all at once. It's a big match for me and I hope I can keep my nerves. I'm sure I can. Then hopefully win the match."