After thinking a lot about tomorrow’s Wimbledon men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, which is set to take place in less than 12 hours, I remain conflicted in my expectations.
On one hand, my head is telling me that there is no way Federer can possibly lose this final.
The Swiss legend has played phenomenal tennis over the fortnight, rising to every challenge he’s faced, including a solid baseliner in Tommy Robredo, an on-fire Stan Wawrinka, and the big-serving Milos Raonic. Djokovic, by contrast, has struggled in a number of matches against all sorts of opposition. Modern master of the serve-and-volley, Radek Stepanek, stretched Djokovic over four sets in the second round. Quarterfinal opponent Marin Cilic exploited the Serb’s mental uncertainty and took him to five sets. Then, just two days ago, the Federer-like Grigor Dimitrov had Djokovic on the ropes in a four-set semifinal; in fact, the young Bulgarian had set points to take it to a fifth.
Consequently, Federer is presumably in better physical and mental shape than Djokovic going into tomorrow’s match. Djokovic has spent five more hours than Federer on court, a figure that constitutes a significant disadvantage for Djokovic even considering his age advantage. More importantly, Djokovic expended a lot of emotional energy in those long matches, fighting against his opponents’ momentum as well as his own struggles.
Not only has Federer been in better form than Djokovic and spent less time on court, but he—approaching 33 years of age—still leads the head-to-head with Djokovic by two wins (18-16). He won two of their three matches this year (and took Djokovic to a third-set tiebreak in the one he lost) and won their only meeting on grass just two years ago at Wimbledon. All of this is important as it demonstrates Federer’s ability to trouble his much younger rival even today.
Perhaps most importantly, Federer’s game is tailor-made for the grass while Djokovic’s is absolutely not. The grass hinders Djokovic’s defensive abilities, causing him to slip and slide at the baseline. Not a natural volleyer, the Serb also struggles at the net at times, which eliminates the possibility of a reliable plan B. Meanwhile, Federer is arguably the greatest grass court player in men’s tennis history, winning more titles on the surface than anyone in the Open Era, including a record 7 titles at Wimbledon. Unlike Djokovic, Federer is a natural volleyer, he moves effortlessly, and the pace, precision, and variety of his serve wins him tons of points on the grass.
Federer’s success on this surface is one of the many things that gives him the edge over Djokovic in the confidence department as well. The Swiss believes in himself far more on grass than on any other surface when confronting younger rivals. He seems sure of his form, even in the face of strong opposition, and he has no reason to doubt himself. This contrasts with Djokovic, who is lower on confidence than he has been in years. Djokovic now has a long-standing tendency of playing poorly in big matches, which he’s done since the 2012 French Open final. This is a tendency to which he has admitted in press conferences—one that causes doubt to enter his mind at crucial stages in matches. Djokovic also struggles to hold leads, his once-pristine backhand has grown less reliable, and he becomes perilously frustrated in many of his matches.
Therefore, all of the numerical and logical data points to one winner: Roger Federer.
On the other hand, my gut tells me different. It tells me, for no particular rational reason, that Djokovic will come away with the title.
Therefore, I am conflicted between the logic of my brain and the compelling, deafeningly loud voice of my gut. And, perhaps errantly, it is my gut that I feel compelled to listen to. I think Djokovic will beat Federer to win Wimbledon.
Obviously I cannot say with any certainty how the match will progress, but I believe it will be a close battle. I can see Federer, the better grass-courter, taking a two-sets-to-one lead over Djokovic with simply superior play. Just when it seems Federer will win in four sets, as so many have predicted, Djokovic will play well at the right moment, as he did in the fourth set of this year’s French Open final, and make a push to get back into the match. Unlike Rafael Nadal, though, Federer will be unable to stop the Serb’s momentum, it will go to a fifth, and Djokovic will leave London with a brand new trophy.
That was one of the most mind-blowingly awesome displays of tennis I have ever seen in my many years of watching the pro game. Petra Kvitova was absolutely unplayable, and there was almost nothing Eugenie Bouchard could do to stop her.
Kvitova deserves all the credit she gets for this win, and I believe she will go on to win more Wimbledon titles and have an even more successful career than she already has. Now number four in the world, the sky is the limit for Petra, and I hope she comes to dominate the tour one day, as her tennis is awe-inspiring.
As for Bouchard, she had an incredible fortnight at the Championships and an even more incredible year overall, especially at the three Majors. She has gained countless fans, helped to interest the Canadian people in her sport, and no one doubts that she will continue her ascent in the women’s game. Her future is bright.
All things considered, I think the women’s tournament was a satisfying one.