Wimbledon | Roger or Novak for the title?
The Big Three has become the Big Two and destined to be reduced to the Big One at Wimbledon on Sunday.
Look, I'm excited about the game against Novak. We've played each other so, so much. I don't mind that, I think it's more of a clear game plan. Roger Federer
Eight-time champion Roger Federer, having affected the first reduction of the trio by defeating Rafa Nadal, faces defending title-holder Novak Djokovic, a winner of the golden trophy on four previous occasions, as both chase numero uno in the men’s final.
And the Swiss believes the “stars are aligned right now” for him to extend his winning record with his record 102nd win at the All England Club.
Federer, 38 next week, said: “From that standpoint I can go into that match very confident.”
But the player rated the greatest of all-time hopes his Serbian rival doesn’t get the “jump” on him.
Federer said: “If I think of Novak, one thing that jumps out at me, is his jump back and to the left. You know, how he’s able to defend on that side, which I think has won him numerous matches and trophies. He does that better than anybody. Nobody else really has it as consistent and good as he has.”
Federer will concentrate on recovery.
He said: “I don’t have much energy to go rain very much right now. Honestly, it’s about recovery, hitting some balls, warming up. It’s more in the tactics. I don’t think there’s much I need to do in terms of practice.
“This is like a school: the day of the test you’re not going to read, I don’t know, how many books that day. You don’t have the time anyhow. It’s quite clear the work was done way before. I think that’s why I was able to produce a good result against Rafa.
“It’s been a rock-solid year, won in Halle.”
Federer is looking forward to his umpteenth encounter with Djokovic.
He said: “Look, I’m excited about the game against Novak. We’ve played each other so, so much. I don’t mind that, I think it’s more of a clear game plan. Especially we had a great match against each other in Paris just recently. I hope we can back it up from there.”
When you’ve had such a tough and emotional match like the one against Nadal, how hard is it to recover for another one, two days later?
Federer said: “Age kicks in. I know it’s not over yet. There’s no point to start partying or get too emotional, too happy about it, even though I am extremely happy. I think I can with experience really separate the two. 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. It’s great on many levels. But got to put my head down and stay focused, you know.”
Djokovic is ready for the Federer Press.
He said: “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 same looks.
“He just rushes you to everything. So for players maybe like Nadal or myself that like to have a little more time, it’s a constant pressure that you have to deal with. I’ve played with Roger in some epic finals here a couple years in a row, so I know what to expect.”
Federer is certain to be the Centre Court favourite but Djokovic, it seems, would cope with the difference in popularity.
The world No.1’s former coach Boris Becker said to the BBC: “Well we had discussions about it (his charge’s popularity in comparison to Federer and Nadal). Obviously Novak has millions of fans himself but you’re talking about two of the most popular sportsmen – not just tennis players – and it’s a very difficult contest. I think by now he doesn’t care so much, he knows who he is. But there was a time when it bothered him, yes.”
And when Djokovic, 32 and 15-time Grand Slam winner, was asked whether he felt “a lack of love and respect from the Centre Court crowd” while beating Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut he said: “No, I mean, look, I focused on what I need to do. At times they wanted him to come back to the match, maybe take a lead because he was an underdog in the match. I understand that. But I had enough support here over the years, so I don’t complain.”
Former world No.1 Mats Wilander, who won seven majors, believes Djokovic is a “pretty strong clear favourite”.
The Eurosport TV pundit, quoted on the Tennis 365 website, said: “It’s hard to not see Novak be a pretty strong clear favourite for the title,
“Federer’s weapon is probably his serve, and Novak finds a way to neutralise that. Federer’s serve is not that hard, but well placed…so Novak will get a play on most serves and then he’s in the rally straight away.
“From the baseline, and when the balls in play, I think Federer can stay with Djokovic well. Of course, Novak can serve pretty much as well as Roger Federer does and can set up as many free points as Federer himself.
“If you look at everything, then you say that the weakest part of Djokovic’s game is as good as Federer’s, he’s stronger in a couple of places such as movement, the return of serve and the backhand. I think it’s going to be tough. I think Djokovic is going to feel pressure, that’s for sure, but then for Federer it might be his last chance.”