Wimbledon Preview: Roger Federer vs. Novak Djokovic

 nytimes.com  07/14/2019 07:02:47  2  Ben Rothenberg

In Sundays final, Federer will be seeking his 21st Grand Slam title, and Djokovic will be aiming for his 16th.

ImageNovak Djokovic, the defending Wimbledon champion, during his semifinal victory Friday over Roberto Bautista Agut.
Novak Djokovic, the defending Wimbledon champion, during his semifinal victory Friday over Roberto Bautista Agut.CreditAndy Rain/Agence France-Presse  Getty Images

WIMBLEDON, England  Once more in mens tennis, the rich will be getting richer.

It was only 10 years ago, at Wimbledon, that Roger Federer eclipsed Pete Samprass mens singles record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Sampras now sits in fourth place, and the three players ahead of him show no signs of slowing.

On Sunday at Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic will go for his 16th Grand Slam singles title, while Roger Federer will seek his 21st.

It will be the 11th consecutive major mens championship won by one of the Big Three, which includes the 18-time winner Rafael Nadal, whom Federer beat in the semifinals on Friday.

[You can watch Sundays match on ESPN, beginning at 9 a.m. You can follow the live scoring here.]

Here are some other key story lines:

The Wimbledon final will be their 48th meeting, and a record 16th at a Grand Slam tournament. The familiarity breeds comfort. That is particularly true for Djokovic, who beat Federer in their two previous Wimbledon finals, in 2014 and 2015. Djokovic leads their head-to-head competition, 25-22, including nine wins at majors.

During his late-career renaissance, Federer has turned around his rivalry with Nadal, winning of six of their last seven matches. But he has not quite solved Djokovic, has not lost to Federer in any tournament since the ATP Tour Finals in 2015.

I think the moment youve played somebody probably more than 15 times, especially in recent years also a few times, theres not that much more left out there, Federer said. Especially you know where the players go when it really matters  how much can you still surprise somebody?

At the end of the day, it comes very much down to whos better on the day, whos in a better mental place, whos got more energy left, whos tougher when it really comes to the crunch.

Federer, who got his 100th Wimbledon match win in the quarterfinals, will turn 38 next month, and he is bidding to become the oldest player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam mens singles title, surpassing the record of Ken Rosewall, who was 37 years 62 days old when he won the 1972 Australian Open.

With a victory, Federer would also tie Martina Navratilovas Wimbledon record of nine singles titles.

Djokovic is the No. 1 seed and defending champion. The Wimbledon seeding formula bumped third-ranked Federer up to No. 2, ahead of Nadal, because of his stronger record on grass in recent years. The final will pit the top two mens singles seeds against each other for the 48th time at a major in the Open era. In these duels, No. 1 has won 24 of the previous 47 encounters. If Federer wins, he will rise to No. 2 in the rankings.

Roger Federer after defeating Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon semifinals. On Sunday the 37-year-old Federer will try to become the oldest Grand Slam mens singles champion in the Open era.CreditPool photo by Matthias Hangst

Within the Big Three, the Federer-Djokovic matchup has delivered reliably dramatic matches. Federers attacking and Djokovics counterpunching mesh in a way that allows both to play their A games simultaneously. Their matches also tend to have exceptionally raucous atmospheres, with crowds firmly in Federers favor.

Asked what he would do in a final in which the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of his opponent, Djokovic said he would know what to expect.

Regardless of whos across the net, he continued, or what is happening around, Ill definitely give it all.

The mental place will be paramount for Djokovic, 32. He said that visualization would be a very, very important part of his preparation for the match.

It is a quite challenging battle within yourself, Djokovic said of playing in a Grand Slam final. I think at this stage we play in one of the most important stadiums and tournaments in the world, playing semifinals, finals, fighting for a trophy with one of the biggest rivals.

I think the most important and probably the first win that you have to make is the one within yourself, then whatever happens externally is, I guess, a consequence or manifestation of that.

Federer said his preparation for his 12th Wimbledon final, five more than any other man has reached, would focus on the mental more than the physical. He has never beaten Nadal and Djokovic in the same major tournament.

I dont have much energy to go train very much right now, Federer said Friday. Honestly, its about recovery, hitting some balls tomorrow, warming up the next day. But its more in the tactics.

I dont think theres much I need to do in terms of practice. This is like a school: The day of the test youre not going to read I-dont-know-how-many books that day. You dont have the time anyhow.

A version of this article appears in print on , Section SP, Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Weve Seen This Before, And It Never Gets Old. Order Reprints | Todays Paper | Subscribe
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