While all four members of the big four have undeniably shown fragility at different points of 2014, we are here once more with two of them in Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, both feeling they have plenty to prove on Sunday afternoon when they take to Centre Court.
Aside from a quick start, Djokovic was far from his best in his semi final success over Grigor Dimitrov where he defeated the Bulgarian in 4 sets. 3 set points came and went for Dimitrov who lost the fourth set tiebreak and with it the match, despite holding a 6-3* lead. Even if Djokovic doesn’t play with the swagger of 2011 that earned him his sole Wimbledon title these days, he is brutally efficient in making it through draws. Before Stanislas Wawrinka defeated him in Melbourne, Djokovic had made 14 straight slam semi finals.
Unfortunately for him, that winning touch has disappeared on finals weekend far too often in recent times. After winning 5 of his first 7 Djokovic has lost that many in his last six attempts. A 2013 Australian Open victory is sandwiched between five losses to Rafael Nadal (FO 12, USO 13, FO 14) and Andy Murray (USO 12, W 13). On three occasions, including both times against Murray, he found himself in an 0-2 hole while the other two losses saw Djokovic fail to truly take advantage when the momentum was with him against Nadal.
Djokovic will have a different mindset coming into a slam final against a man whom he doesn’t have mental baggage when facing given the pair have met just once in this situation. It was 7 years ago in New York when Federer was a winner in straight sets but it should mean little given it was Djokovic’s first slam final at just 20 years of age. That win capped off an astonishing run of 10 straight finals for Federer, in which he won 8 of them.
Switch back to 2014 and Federer hasn’t even been making finals regularly – never mind winning them. It is only the 3rd slam final since the emergence of Djokovic as a major player in the final four of slams. Many felt that 2012 would be the Swiss’ last but he has a great opportunity to extend his record to 18 slams. He will surely be thanking Nick Kyrgios if he is successful in the final after the Aussie took out nemesis Rafael Nadal to clear his path to the final. A vintage semi final performance saw him pick apart the game of big serving Milos Raonic in straight sets.
To bounce back from the general disappointment of 2013 that saw bad losses at slams to injury issues has taken some doing. 2 titles and 3 additional finals make for a good year as do the multitude of top 10 victories that had been missing last year. Two of them were against Djokovic – in Dubai and Monte Carlo – which suggests that when fit and confident he is still well equipped to deal with the Djokovic game. Just once they have met on the grass, with Federer winning the 2012 semi final in four sets on his way to the title.
Grigor Dimitrov provided Djokovic with a scare but came up wanting on many of the matches big points which could be put down to inexperience. One suspects Federer may not be so forgiving if granted the same opportunities on the biggest stage of them all.