History will be written and repeated on Sunday at the All England Club. Today Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer advanced to the Wimbledon final, a rematch of last year’s five set battle.
It was a straightforward affair for two-time Wimbledon champion Djokovic, who advances to his 4th Championships final. He defeated Richard Gasquet who, playing in his second Wimbledon semifinal, was unable to find the same form that allowed him to stun 4th seed and recent French Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
After a tiebreak first set that ended 7-2 to Djokovic, the world’s best player cruised through the following two sets, both 6-4, to take the match and advance to the final. A rare stumble came when Djokovic failed to convert on match points during a Gasquet service game at 5-3. However, Djokovic calmly closed out the match on his serve, hitting a forehand winner on a short Gasquet return to seal his place in Sunday’s championship.
In reality, Djokovic will play against history and critics of his long-term legacy. With eight Grand Slam titles, he is currently 8th on the all-time list and sits behind Rafael Nadal and Federer. The world’s most dominant player for some time, he has a 2-1 record in Wimbledon finals and an 8-8 record in all Grand Slam finals—this compared to Federer’s 17-8 record. A win on Sunday would help Djokovic further establish himself on the all-time list and advance on the records of Nadal and Federer.
Indeed Federer will provide the present and the historical challenge for Djokovic as he looks to capture his 8th Wimbledon title on Sunday. Federer advanced easily to the final, dispatching Andy Murray in straight sets 7-5, 7-5, 6-4. Federer delivered a comprehensive performance, winning 84 percent of first serve points and not allowing Murray to break.
“I was able to mix it up like I usually do,” said Federer, the oldest man since Ken Rosewall in 1974 to make the Wimbledon final, in his post match interview. Yes, Federer’s versatility was at its best on the surface that is best suited to the breadth of his game.
While Djokovic is playing to establish his place in history, Federer is playing to supplement his—the 17-time Grand Slam winner is 1st on the all-time list. Although Djokovic defeated Federer in last year’s final, Federer has been enjoying resurgence in his game. He stated at the beginning of the fortnight that he views last year’s tournament as a success, having made the final without feeling that he was playing particularly well. On ESPN Brad Gilbert asserted that Federer must be considered the favorite if he plays as well as he did today—a bold statement considering his opponent.
But reluctance towards Gilbert’s statement speaks more to how the tennis world currently views Federer than to Djokovic’s success of the last few years—we take Federer for granted. It has been 13 years since Federer’s first Wimbledon victory, and his ability to reach and maintain his place in the highest reaches of the sport is, quite literally, historical. But we grow accustomed to, and possibly weary of, seeing him play on Sundays and lift trophies.
With a victory on Sunday, Federer will win his first Grand Slam since 2012 and 18th overall. Perhaps this potential hiatus would allow us to look upon him and his career with renewed appreciation.