Preview: Wimbledon men’s singles final

Published by Matt Trollope

Novak Djokovic (L) after beating Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final of 2015 (Getty Images)
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer will clash for the third time in a Wimbledon final on Centre Court on Sunday.

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer have combined to win six of the past eight Wimbledon singles titles.

It’s thus fitting that two of the Championships’ most dominant players should clash for the trophy on Sunday – especially given they are the No.1 and No.2 seeds this fortnight.

This will be the third time the Serb and the Swiss have met in the Wimbledon decider, with Djokovic emerging triumphant in their 2014 and 2015 battles.

Djokovic was the first to take his place in the final thanks to a four-set win over Roberto Bautista Agut in Friday’s semifinal. Federer followed Djokovic onto Centre Court and stopped Rafael Nadal in a thrilling four-set encounter.

What might lie in store when Djokovic and Federer meet for an incredible 48th time? We delve into this highly-anticipated match-up.

Djokovic a Grand Slam giant

Should Djokovic win on Sunday, it would be his fourth Grand Slam singles title in the last five major tournaments. The only one he missed out on claiming in that span was the French Open; and it took Dominic Thiem to stop him in a dramatic five-set semifinal.

No player in the game is currently more confident or grooved at the sport’s biggest events; he has won 32 of his past 33 matches at Slams.

And his incredible success on the Grand Slam stage since 2018 has helped him gain ground on Federer and Nadal ahead of him on the all-time major winners’ list. A Wimbledon title would see Djokovic earn a 16th major trophy, just two behind Nadal’s 18 and four behind Federer’s 20.

“I would love to have a shot at as many Grand Slam titles as possible. Those are probably the top goals and ambitions. Next to that is the historic No.1, which is not so far away,” he said.

“I am looking to make history in this sport.”

A tough match-up for Federer

Those sentiments perhaps do not bode well for Federer, who comes up against arguably his toughest opponent in the best-of-five-set format.

Although their overall head-to-head series is finely poised at 25-22 in Djokovic’s favour, Federer has lost eight of his last 10 matches against Djokovic at Grand Slam tournaments, dating back to the 2010 US Open. He has lost the last four, including those Wimbledon finals of 2014 and 2015.

“At the end of the day it comes very much down to who’s better on the day, who’s in a better mental place, who’s got more energy left, who’s tougher when it really comes to the crunch,” Federer said.

“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 (Masters) just recently. I hope we can back it up from there.”

That was a best-of-three-set match, which Djokovic clinched in a final-set tiebreak.

Grass-court nous

A feather in Federer’s cap is his comfort on grass; he is currently enjoying an 11-match grass-court winning streak – taking in the Halle title as well as his run to the final at SW19 – and he can take encouragement from the fact that the last time he beat Djokovic at a major was right here in the 2012 semifinals.

Should Federer win on Sunday, it would be his ninth Wimbledon singles title, tying him for the all-time lead with Martina Navratilova. Earlier this tournament he notched a 100th career singles win at the All England Club.

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Djokovic, for one, is wary of the threat Federer poses on Wimbledon’s lawns.

“We all know how good he is anywhere, but especially here. This surface complements his game very much,” Djokovic said.

“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.”

Unchartered territory

Never before has Federer beaten Nadal and Djokovic in same major tournament. To do so for the first time as he approaches his 38th birthday would be, quite simply, a Herculean feat.

“Age kicks in,” Federer acknowledged when asked about recovery following his semifinal victory over Nadal.

“I know it’s not over yet. There’s no point to start partying tonight or get too emotional, too happy about it, even though I am extremely happy. I think I can with experience really separate the two. (I’ve) got to put my head down and stay focused

“I don’t think there’s much I need to do in terms of practice … It’s quite clear the work was done way before. I think that’s why I was able to produce a good result today. It’s been a rock solid year from mine, won in Halle. Stars are aligned right now.

“From that standpoint I can go into that match very confident.”

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