London: Eight-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer believes the “stars have aligned” as he attempts to become the oldest Grand Slam winner of modern times in Sunday’s final against Novak Djokovic.
The 37-year-old Swiss can clinch a record-extending 21st major if he manages to break free of the world No. 1’s stranglehold.
Four-time Wimbledon winner and defending champion Djokovic enjoys a 25-22 edge in career meetings, stretching back 13 years.
The Serb has won 14 of their last 20 meetings and eight of the last 10.
Federer has lost all four of their most recent meetings at the Slams and it’s now seven years since he triumphed over the 32-year-old at the majors.
That was 2012 in four sets in a Wimbledon semi-final.
However, Federer, who will be 38 next month, insists such statistics are meaningless as he attempts to succeed Ken Rosewall, at the 1972 Australian Open, as the oldest Slam champion of the Open era.
“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,” said Federer.
“From that standpoint, I can go into the match very confident.”
Federer, who passed the 100-win mark at Wimbledon in his quarter-final victory over Kei Nishikori, is feeling especially confident after seeing off Rafael Nadal in four sets in the semi-final.
That win was crucial coming as it did just a month after his old rival had condemned him to his worst Slam loss in 11 years in the semi-finals at Roland Garros.
Appearing in his 12th final at the All England Club, and 16 years after his maiden Wimbledon title triumph, Federer believes there is little new that either he or Djokovic can do to prepare for Sunday’s showdown.
“This is like at school — on the day of the test you’re not going to read, I don’t know, how many books that day.
“It’s quite clear the work was done way before.”
There is no doubt whatsoever as to who the crowd will support.
Djokovic, a 15-time Grand Slam champion, is respected by British fans but certainly not revered in the same saintly fashion reserved for Federer.
Too intense and too new age for modest British tastes, Djokovic did little to endear himself in his semi-final win over Roberto Bautista Agut.
After a punishing 45-shot rally ended in his favour, the Serb roared out his frustration, cupped his ear and placed an admonishing finger to his lips as most of Centre Court willed the ball to fall in the Spaniard’s favour.
“Look, I focus on what I need to do,” said Djokovic.
“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.”
Djokovic has yet to be truly tested at this Wimbledon.
The highest-ranked player he has faced was 21st-seeded David Goffin of Belgium, who was dismissed for the loss of just six games in the quarter-finals.
The ‘NextGen’ hopefuls in his half of the draw all failed to fire.
Highly regarded Stefanos Tsitsipas never made it past the first day while Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime fell in the third round.
“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 meeting at the Slams and 20th meeting 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.”
Djokovic is playing in his 25th Grand Slam final while Federer has played six more.
Whoever emerges as champion on Sunday, it will yet again confirm the dominance of the ‘Big Three’ of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal.
Between them, they will have won the last 11 majors, 15 of the last 17 and 54 of the last 65.
Head to head
Federer vs Djokovic at Wimbledon
Semi-final: Federer 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Federer became the first man to reach eight Wimbledon finals by knocking out defending champion Djokovic under the Centre Court roof.
Federer needed just two hours and 19 minutes to come through and set-up a final against Andy Murray which he also went on to win, capturing his seventh title at the tournament.
“Obviously, I’m ecstatic, I’m so happy,” said Federer.
Djokovic added: “It’s not the first, it’s not the last time I lost a match. I lost to a great champion, somebody that has the most Grand Slams in the history of the sport.”
Final: Djokovic 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4), 5-7, 6-4
After losing three successive Slam finals, Djokovic claimed his second Wimbledon title. Djokovic, who was also the 2011 champion, wasted a match point in the fourth set as sentimental favourite Federer came back from 2-5 down.
It was a seventh Slam title for the Serb, secured after almost four hours on court.
“After losing the fourth set it wasn’t easy to go on and win the fifth set, I don’t know how I did it,” said Djokovic, who also reclaimed the world number one ranking.
Final: Djokovic 7-6 (7/1), 6-7 (10/12), 6-4, 6-3
Djokovic claimed his third Wimbledon title, taking his Slam total to nine. Victory also took him to 48 match wins in the year against just three losses.
However, one of those had been a shattering defeat in the Roland Garros final to Stan Wawrinka just a few weeks earlier.
“I have to say it’s a big challenge playing against Roger,” said Djokovic.
“A lot of players of my generation have looked up to him and followed his lead.”