LONDON (AP) — When Roger Federer faces Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final for the second consecutive year on Sunday, they’ll be resuming a rivalry that has been about as even as possible.
This is their 40th head-to-head meeting; Federer leads 20-19.
It’s the 10th since the start of last season; Djokovic leads 5-4.
It’s the 13th at a Grand Slam tournament; they’re tied 6-all.
It’s the third in a major final; they’re tied 1-all.
It’s the third on grass; they’re tied 1-all.
“He’s become very match tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. You know, he’s been very injury-free. He’s been good for the game,” Federer said about Djokovic, who beat him in five sets in the 2014 final at the All England Club. “For me, I don’t really think about the match we played against each other last year. … I’m just happy, personally for myself, to be back in the finals. Whoever that’s going to be against, it’s always a big occasion. That it’s Novak, the world No. 1, it obviously adds something extra.”
In the Open era of professional tennis, which dates to 1968, only one tour-level matchup has occurred more often: Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have played 42 times.
Djokovic, who defeated Nadal in 2011 to win his first Wimbledon title, called his second a year ago “even more special,” because he had to get past Federer.
“We all know how good he is,” Djokovic said. “He’s the greatest ever.”
Top the No. 2-seeded Federer again, and No. 1-seeded Djokovic — who said a stiff left shoulder won’t be a problem Sunday — would raise his major title count to nine, one more than Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Fred Perry or Ken Rosewall.
No one has won two Wimbledon championships in a row since Federer collected his fifth consecutive trophy in 2007.
Federer, meanwhile, can become the first man in the history of a tournament that dates to 1877 to win the trophy eight times. He also can end a three-year Grand Slam title drought and collect No. 18, extending his record.
Not that such numbers mean all that much to him.
“If it’s the eighth here, or the 18th Grand Slam in all, of course that’s great,” Federer said. “But I see this as just about having this feeling of victory, especially on grass. That’s why I still play tennis, and I’m happy I’ve given myself the chance.”
He’ll turn 34 on Aug. 8, making him the oldest Wimbledon finalist since Rosewall was the 1974 runner-up at age 39. A victory Sunday would make Federer the oldest champion at any major since Andres Gimeno won the 1972 French Open at 34.
“He doesn’t put loads of strain on his body,” 2013 Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said. “That’s why he’s been able to compete into his mid-30s at the highest level.”
In Friday’s semifinals, Murray got a taste of just how well the seemingly ageless Federer still can play — and, in particular, serve.
Federer hit 20 aces, won 70 of the 91 points he served, and saved the only break point he faced in a straight-set victory over Murray, one of the game’s top returners.
The very best returner at the moment might be Djokovic, making for what could be another fascinating duel Sunday, because Federer has won 89 of 90 service games these two weeks.
Keep this in mind: A year ago, Federer held in 88 of 89 service games heading into the final, where he delivered 29 aces and still got broken four times by Djokovic.
Now they’ll meet again on the grass-court tournament’s last Sunday, with a couple of old rivals and past Wimbledon champions on hand as coaches: Stefan Edberg works with Federer, Boris Becker works with Djokovic.
“This is where (Federer) loves to play. This is where he plays his best tennis, I think: the Centre Court of Wimbledon; seven titles. It’s his court. He loves it. He usually rises up to the occasion. He’s always playing his toughest when it matters the most,” Djokovic said. “That’s why he’s a big champion.”
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