2019 Wimbledon Men's Singles Final Preview: Federer vs Djokovic
And then there were two.
A 128 player draw at Wimbledon gets whittled down to the two best grass court players of the past one and a half decades. Record eight-time champion and second seed Roger Federer would be up against defending champion, four-time winner and top seed Novak Djokovic on the concluding Sunday of the oldest Grand Slam tournament.
Djokovic and Federer have duelled a staggering 47 times on the ATP tour and in Grand Slams (non-ATP events), which is second only to Djokovic and Nadal's record 54 meetings.
The Serbian has won eight of his past ten matches with Federer in all competitions and has triumphed in their last four Grand Slam meetings (2016 Australian Open semis, 2015 US Open final, 2015 Wimbledon final and 2014 Wimbledon final).
Djokovic is one of the eight players (Nicolas Keifer, Mikhail Youzhny, Tommy Robredo, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Juan Martin Del Potro, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych being the others) to have played Federer at each of the four Grand Slams. The Serbian is the only one from the octet to have beaten Federer at all the four majors (Djokovic leads 3-1 at the Australian Open and 2-1 at Wimbledon, and is tied 1-1 at the French Open and 3-3 at the US Open).
Djokovic is also one of only eight players to have won more than once against Federer at a Grand Slam. Nadal leads the way with 10 wins, Djokovic is a close second with 9, while the retired trio of Arnaud Clement, Alex Corretja, David Nalbandian, and the active trio of Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych each have beaten Federer twice at a Slam. Twenty five other players have exactly one Grand Slam win over the Swiss.
Federer and Djokovic will clash for a record 16th time at a Grand Slam, which is the most by any pair in the Open Era (Federer and Nadal comes in second at 14). Federer has a staggering 101-12 match wins record at Wimbledon. Djokovic, with a 71-10 record at the tournament, is the only one of eleven players to have beaten Federer twice at the Swiss' favourite Grand Slam (2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals).
In the first instance of two Spaniards gracing the last four stage at Wimbledon, both Federer and Djokovic survived stern examinations of their title credentials in respective three-hour four set semifinals en-route to the pair's third Wimbledon title showdown. Each dropped a set apiece and squandered multiple match points as Djokovic saw off first time Grand Slam semifinalist Roberto Bautista Agut and Federer survived a second set meltdown to overcome 18-time Grand Slam champion, Rafael Nadal.
In his record 21st consecutive Wimbledon appearance, Federer beat the gritty Kei Nishikori in four sets to become the first player ever to notch up 100 match wins at a Grand Slam (and for that matter, at any tournament). In the process, the Swiss' 186th win on grass usurped American Jimmy Connors for most wins on the surface.
Federer arguably had the less scenic route to the final at SW19, as Nishikori loomed in the quarters and then his good friend and arch rival Nadal laid in wait in the semis.
For Djokovic, shock first round exits for young next generation ATP guns Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, followed by second round ousters of big servers Kevin Anderson, Ivo Karlovic, Stanislas Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez, spectacularly opened up the top half of the draw.
The final would be Federer's record extending 31st Grand Slam title match (20-10) and Djokovic' 25th (15-9).
Each player has won their last three Slam finals. While Federer has triumphed at the 2018 Australian Open, 2017 Wimbledon and 2017 Australian Open; Djokovic has emerged victorious at the 2019 Australian Open, 2018 US Open and 2018 Wimbledon.
Federer's last reverse in a Slam final came against Djokovic at the 2015 US Open while Djokovic last lost in the title match at a major to Stanislas Wawrinka at the 2016 US Open.
Victory for Federer would extend his Grand Slam haul to 21, swell his grass court title tally to 20 (both records) and tie the Swiss with Martina Navratilova for a record 9 Wimbledon singles titles apiece (men or women). It would also make the Swiss the only player aged 30 and above to have triumphed five times at a major (Laver and Nadal won four titles each after turning 30).
A win for Djokovic would be his fifth at Wimbledon, and a 16th overall, and would take him to within two Slams of Nadal (18) and Federer (20) - the two all time Grand Slam title leaders.
Federer, of the silken one handed backhand, with arguably the greatest serve in the history of the sport, will start as the marginal favourite. He has trusted his attacking game to dismantle opponents with one-two serve volley punches, while also displaying admirable patience from the back of the court in bruising rallies against baseline hugging opponents (Nadal in the semis).
Against Djokovic, widely regarded as one of the best returners in history, Federer's best bet would be to keep points short, blitz through his service games and take chances on the return. The template for Djokovic would be to lay seige on the Federer second serve, attack the net rushing Swiss with impeccable passes and throw in the occasional serve and volley.
For it is on grass, the fastest surface in the sport of tennis, attacking play yields the richest dividends, and there is no better proponent of this facet than Roger Federer.
With a strew of records and history on the line, the stakes couldn't be higher. Who would be the last man standing on title Sunday? The Swiss king or the Serbian matador?
Over to Church Road, SW19 for a tantalising finale to the 133rd Wimbledon Championships.
May the best player win!