Preview: Djokovic & Federer Battle In Wimbledon Final
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer’s legendary rivalry gets another chapter on Sunday when they face off for the Wimbledon title. Both men have become synonymous with championship matches at The All England Club. At least one of them has made it to the final Sunday in all but two editions of The Championships since 2003.
“It’s the final of Wimbledon. This is the kind of match that I always dreamed of being part of as a young boy with the tennis racquet. This is what I worked for. I wanted to be in this position,” said Djokovic. “I have a chance to fight for a trophy. Regardless of who's across the net or what is happening, I'll definitely give it my all.”
Top seed and defending champion Djokovic leads second seed Federer 25-22 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. They have the second-most prolific rivalry in the Open Era, only trailing Djokovic-Nadal (54 matches). Federer and Djokovic have squared off in 13 of the 14 most recent seasons on the ATP Tour, but the Serbian has gotten the upper hand lately, winning their past four matches. Djokovic also leads their grass-court series 2-1, prevailing in the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals.
Their familiarity with each other means there will be no secrets when they take to Centre Court. Djokovic knows what he must do to beat Federer, and vice-versa. It will come down to who can execute their game plan most effectively.
“I think the moment you've played somebody more than 15 times, there's not that much more left out there. You know where the players go when it really matters,” said Federer. “I don't think there's much I need to do in terms of practice. This is like school: You're not going to read lots of books on the day of the test. You don't have the time. It’s quite clear the work was done way before.”
The two finalists carry different playing styles and personalities, but their paths to Sunday’s final have been similar. Federer and Djokovic each dropped two sets this fortnight, one in the first week and another in the second set of their respective semi-finals, Djokovic against Roberto Bautista Agut and Federer against Rafael Nadal. They’ve also hit more winners than unforced errors in all of their matches this fortnight.
Federer and Djokovic’s dominance for well over a decade makes it easy to forget that they’re both at an age when many of their contemporaries have either slowed down or retired. The 32-year-old Djokovic is looking to win his fourth major title since turning 30, something that only Federer, Nadal and Rod Laver have accomplished in the Open Era. A win on Sunday would also make the Serbian the first man in the Open Era over age 30 to successfully defend a Wimbledon title.
But Djokovic knows that to make history, he must beat history. With eight Wimbledon titles to his name, Federer is considered by many to be greatest grass-court player of all time. The ways in which he gives the World No. 1 trouble are amplified even further on this surface.
“We all know how good he is anywhere, but especially here. This surface complements his game very much. He loves to play very fast. Takes away the time from his opponent. Just doesn't give you any of the same looks. He rushes you to everything,” said Djokovic. “For players like Nadal or myself that like to have a little more time, it's a constant pressure that you have to deal with.”
Meanwhile, Federer could become the oldest man (37 years, 340 days) in the Open Era to win a Grand Slam singles title. He’s already made history this fortnight by becoming the first man to win 100 matches at a Grand Slam with his quarter-final victory over Kei Nishikori.
Most Wins By Grand Slam
|Australian Open||Roger Federer||97|
|Roland Garros||Rafael Nadal||93|
|US Open||Jimmy Connors||98|
Reaching his 12th Wimbledon final at age 37 is a mind-boggling achievement on its own. But with 20 major titles to his name already, Federer won’t be content with a runner-up finish. The Swiss believes he’s playing well enough for one last push against Djokovic.
“I know it's not over yet. There's no point to start partying tonight or getting too emotional, too happy about it, even though I am extremely happy,” said Federer. “If it was the end of the tournament, it would be very different right now. I'd be speaking very different, feeling very different.
“There is, unfortunately or fortunately, one more match. It's great on many levels. But I’ve got to put my head down and stay focused.”