Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will face off in the Wimbledon final on Sunday, and there will be history on the line.
Federer is chasing his record-extending eighth Wimbledon title and his 21st Grand Slam singles title, whereas Djokovic is after his fifth Wimbledon and 16th Slam crown.
It’ll be the third time the two all-time greats face off in the Wimbledon final, with Djokovic having won both prior encounters in 2014 and ’15. Federer won a semifinal match between the two in 2012 at the All England Club.
The SI Tennis crew breaks down the keys to the match and gives a prediction for Roger vs. Novak, part 48.
What are the keys to the match for Federer?
Jon Wertheim: He will have to serve well, even better than he did in the semifinal against Nadal. He needs to use the energy of the crowd, which will be something like 90% in his favor. And he’s also going to have to recover quickly from a match that was only four sets, but was emotionally taxing as well as physically.
Stanley Kay: He needs to start strong. If Djokovic wins the first set, I have a hard time seeing Federer coming back. Against Nadal, Federer won 45 of 76 points on rallies of five shots or more; a similar performance against Djokovic would bode well for his chances. A marathon would favor Djokovic, and Federer would benefit greatly from winning service games at love.
Daniel Rapaport: The serve will be absolutely crucial. Djokovic will want to get his teeth into points and draw the rallies out—there is no one in the history of tennis as ruthlessly consistent as he—so Fed needs to get his share of free points. That’s going to be difficult against the best returner in the game, but it’s crucial. And he’s going to have to get out in front. That’ll make the crowd believe that he can pull this upset—yes, it would be a sizable upset.
What are the keys to the match for Djokovic?
JW: Djokovic, likewise, is going to have to have a strong returning day. He’s also going to have to deal with a very, very pro-Roger crowd—in his semifinal win over Roberto Bautista Agut, he looked annoyed when the crowd cheered for RBA when he won the second set. There’s so much at stake, both for this tournament and for history. And both players know that.
SK: Djokovic is the clear favorite to win, but Federer will be the clear favorite among the Centre Court crowd. To be sure, patrons of the All England Club won't be as vociferous as Arthur Ashe Stadium, which felt like a home Davis Cup match for Federer at the 2015 U.S. Open final, the last major final featuring these two. Still, Djokovic can't let the crowd's pro-Federer bent bother him. An early break could rattle Federer and take the crowd out of the match.
DR: I’m with Jon, he’s going to have to keep his head about him. Every crowd is a pro-Federer crowd, but Wimbledon is his adopted homeland, and Centre Court is his throne. The crowd will do everything in its power to will him to victory, and Djokovic can’t let that bother him. As far as x’s and o’s go, same as always when they play: move Federer out wide to the ad court and then smash that up-the-line backhand. He knows how to beat Roger; he’s done it 25 times.
JW: Heart says Federer, mind says Djokovic in four.
SK: Djokovic is too good right now. He'll win in four sets.
DR: Federer is going to win a set. He has to win a set, right? But I think that’s all he’ll get. Novak is just too steady, and that semifinal took too much out of Roger. Novak in four.