Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer live up to top billing as titans clash in 2019 Wimbledon final
Form favours the top seed and defending champion but the majority of the support will be for the history-chasing Swiss
Rafael Nadal may have had a case when complaining about his demotion in the Wimbledon seedings, but as it turned out the formula used to decide the top seeds at the All England Club proved correct.
No 1 faces No 2 in Sunday's final when Novak Djokovic - top seed, defending champion and the most dominant player of recent years - takes on Roger Federer, this tournament's greatest ever male player.
There is little doubt as to where the crowd's loyalties will lie.
Federer may arguably be the greatest player of all time, but he is undoubtedly the most popular. Djokovic, on the other hand, does not receive the same universal adulation as his rival. Unquestionably another "GOAT" (Greatest Of All Time) contender, but Djokovic is received more with respect than the love afforded to Federer and Nadal.
Fortunately for the 32-year-old Serb, Wimbledon is not a popularity contest. If it was, he wouldn't have even got through his semi-final against the unheralded Roberto Bautista Agut.
He certainly did not endear himself to the Centre Court crowd when he sarcastically reacted in response to the eruption of cheers when Batista Agut won the second set.
"Look, I focus on what I need to do," four-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic said. "At times they wanted him to come back into the match, maybe take a lead because he was an underdog.
"I understand that. But I had enough support here over the years, so I don't complain."
He better be ready to play the pantomime villain once again, because outside of Serbia and the Djokovic family, few onlookers - both inside the stadium and watching on TV - will want to see the world No 1 deny Federer a record-extending ninth Wimbledon title. It could quite possibly be his last, too.
In a career filled with records and milestones, 37-year-old Federer could add another by becoming the oldest player to win a men's grand slam singles title, 16 years after clinching the first of his unprecedented 20 major trophies on the same court.
Recent history does not favour the Swiss, though. While Djokovic may edge their 13-year long head-to-head 25-22 (9–6 in grand slams), the Serb has dominated in more recent years: he has won 14 of their past 20 matches and eight of the past 10, including their past four meetings at the majors. Not since the 2012 Wimbledon semi-finals has Federer tasted victory over Djokovic at one of the four grand slams.
Yet Federer will enter the final with plenty of optimism. He has won his 100th, 101st and 102nd titles this year, and has looked typically menacing at Wimbledon. His win over Nadal, in particular, showed a player firing on all cylinders and while the Spaniard was uncharacteristically wasteful at times, Federer was there to capitalise.
The past 15 Federer v Djokovic grand slam meetings
"It's been a rock solid year for me. I won in Halle [on grass on the eve of Wimbledon]. The stars are aligned right now," he said. "From that standpoint I can go into the match very confident."
Federer will take solace from the fact Djokovic is yet to be severely tested at Wimbledon. While the Swiss has faced - and dismantled - the 17th-seeded Matteo Berrettini and eighth seed Kei Nishikori prior to facing Nadal, the highest-ranked player Djokovic played was 21st seed David Goffin.
However, no player can raise their game quite like Djokovic, who will be fully prepared for the challenge posed by Federer.
"With Federer, we all know how good he is anywhere, but especially here. This surface complements his game very well," said Djokovic ahead of the pair's 16th grand slam meeting and 20th in a tour-level final.
"He loves to play very fast. Takes away the time from his opponent. Just doesn't give you any of the same looks."
As is so often the case when these two titans clash, Federer is expecting Sunday's final to be decided by the finest of margins.
"It comes down to who is better on the day, who is in a better mental place, who has got more energy left, who is tougher when it really comes to the crunch," he said. "In tennis, there is always somebody who is going to be a little bit better because there are no draws in our sport."
Published: July 14, 2019 07:53 AM