LONDON–Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, two household names, will take to Centre Court on Sunday to play for the 2014 Wimbledon gentlemen’s singles title. Which player will have the upper hand?
In what has all the makings of a blockbuster showdown, Federer will seek his record-setting eighth Wimbledon title. He is currently tied with American great Pete Sampras with seven. Federer’s only loss in a Wimbledon final was to Rafael Nadal in 2008 in what was one of the best matches in tennis history and arguably the greatest Wimbledon showdown. Nadal denied Federer a chance to win a sixth straight Wimbledon title, prevailing over Federer in a five-set match that took nearly five hours and needed 16 games (9-7) in the 5th set to resolve.
Djokovic was the favorite to win Wimbledon even before the draws were announced. Nadal is the world’s top-ranked player, but grass is not his preferred surface, and Djokovic received the first seed. After Djokovic’s loss at the French Open, a lot of tennis reporters figured his motivation at Wimbledon would be through the roof.
But take a look at Federer’s matches at Wimbledon. Nadal is the King of Clay, and one could say Federer is the King of Grass. He’s playing for an eighth Wimbledon title! In 2013, he was ousted in the second round and had a lot to prove this year. He flew through the first four rounds, and he did not drop a set or lose a serve. Stan Wawrinka gave Federer trouble in the quarterfinals, and won the first set and broke Federer’s serve. But Federer regained his composure and glided through the rest of the match. He faced Milos Raonic, a man with a powerful serve, in the semifinals. Break points were essential in this match, and Federer capitalized. He broke Raonic right away and won the first set. He then broke him two more times in the match.
Federer has found his fountain of youth this year. At the beginning of Wimbledon he acknowledged the younger players were volleying more, and he had to work on the skill. The extra work obviously paid off because his volleys have been impressive and so has his net play.
Djokovic did not have exactly a smooth ride to the finals (well, maybe a smooth ride for others, but not for someone like Djokovic), but he proved he could rally back. Radek Stepanek and Djokovic played a third round for the ages, but Djokovic ultimately prevailed. Djokovic had more problems against Marin Cilic in the quarterfinals, but once he changed his shoes he was back in top form. Centre Court has been tricky for Djokovic, as he has slipped many times, especially in the semifinals against Grigor Dimitrov.
He dropped one set against Dimitrov and won the last two sets on the tiebreak. But what separated him from the young Bulgarian was overall experience. In the fourth set, Dimitrov was on his first set point. Djokovic bounced the ball, took a deep breath, and slammed the ball home to bring erase it. He then fought off two more set points to win the match. He proved why he is the top seed, and when in danger, he can easily find his way back.
Who will win? I honestly do not know. I originally chose Djokovic over Federer by a slim margin because I did not expect Federer to be so dominant. I would say Djokovic has more to prove after he lost the French Open to Nadal, but Federer can make history with an eighth Wimbledon title and an 18th Grand Slam title.
It will be an outstanding match.
(Photo via NBC Sports)