Just 24 hours after a 33-year-old Serena Williams became the oldest female grand slam champion in the modern era, Roger Federer today could walk away as the oldest men’s singles Wimbledon champion in the same era.
There is something very special it seems about the year 1981 with both Federer and Williams – born a month apart – showing the world what a couple of ‘veterans’ can still do on a tennis court.
“That was a good year,” laughed Williams. “Roger is playing so great and we’re both the same age and it’s kind of cool to have someone so great as Roger Federer to be in that same sport and do so well side by side to have similar careers for the whole time, it’s really incredible.”
On whether he can follow her into the winners’ circle today, she said: “If I can do it, God knows he can do it. I saw his semi-final match. He was playing unbelievable. I was totally inspired by that.”
Standing between Federer and a record-breaking eighth Wimbledon crown is world No1 Novak Djokovic, who beat the Swiss in the final here last year.
The pair have the second-biggest rivalry in tennis as they enter their 40th meeting against each other (Djokovic’s 42 matches with Rafael Nadal is the most played between the same two players in the Open Era). They have split their previous 12 grand slam clashes but Djokovic has been more successful in their more recent ones, winning five of their last seven.
But Federer’s form this tournament has been so prolific that all previous history between these two seems irrelevant.
Federer is the classiest sportsman there’s ever been
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The Swiss was in emphatic form when he beat Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-finals on Friday and he has dropped serve just once in the entire fortnight.
“Roger is one of my greatest rivals,” said the Serb, who is targeting a 200th grand slam match win today and a third Wimbledon trophy. “He’s one of the people that actually made me a better player.
“In the matches against him, I went through a lot of different emotions and things that allowed me to understand what I need to do to become a better player and to win against him and win grand slam trophies. This is where he 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 to the occasion. He’s always playing his toughest when it matters the most. That’s why he’s a big champion. It’s going to be probably the biggest challenge I can have.”
Their rivalry could not be any tighter as Federer has the tiniest of edges, leading Djokovic 20-19 in career meetings.
The Serbian world No 1 enters this final in a different place com- pared to last year though. In 2014, he hadn’t won a major in 18 months heading into Wimbledon and his five-set win over Federer ended a five-slam title drought.
This year, Djokovic is playing his third final of the season and has captured a record fifth Australian Open a mere six months ago.
“It was a very important match for me to win last year in Wimbledon final because I had lost quite a few grand slam finals. To win that match in five sets against Roger on grass was definitely something that gave me a lot of confidence.”
On his part, Federer is happy to take on Djokovic again, with a chance to do things right this time.
“It’s great to play Novak anywhere these days because he’s a great player,” he said. “He’s had great success, unbelievable success actually, throughout his career,” said Federer who will be playing a record 26th major final.
“He’s become very match-tough. He always shows up. It’s tough to beat him. For me, I don’t really think about the match we played against each other last year. I just remember it was unbelievably thrilling. The crowd really got into it. I’m just happy personally for myself to be back in a final.”