Novak Djokovic (SRB)(1) v Roger Federer (SUI)(3) - 1st match on Centre Court
This afternoon all British eyes will be on Andy Murray, but not before two of tennis’s greatest players take to Centre Court in the first semi-final of the day.
There are many stats circulating the infamous rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. Did you know…
* They have met on 26 previous occasions, with the Swiss narrowly leading 14-12.
* The pair have competed in six semi-finals in the last eight Grand Slam tournaments, with Djokovic edging four victories.
* Djokovic overcame Federer in straight sets (6-4 7-5 6-3) in last month’s French Open semi.
But when it comes down to these two titans, numbers only get you so far. Federer is widely considered to be one of (if not the) greatest champion ever to grace the All England Club courts – he has held the title 6 times and is bidding to match Pete Sampras’s record of seven in the Open Era. His majestic tennis and flair have earned him a wave of British support over the past eleven years and, in his heyday, he was considered unbeatable on his favourite grass surface.
But Fed hasn’t won a Slam in two and a half years (not since he defeated Andy Murray in the 2010 Australian Open final), and in that time Djokovic has superseded him to become world number one and reigning Wimbledon champion; the Serbian’s hard-fought four set victory over Nadal in last year’s final toppled the Spaniard from the top of the rankings and won Djokovic his maiden Wimbledon crown.
The 25-year-old number one seed has barely been tested in this year’s tournament, dropping just one set in the third round to Radek Stepanek, while Federer was taken to the brink by Julien Benneateau in a late-night five set thriller to reach the last 16.
That’s the lowdown, but the outcome of today’s match is anybody’s guess. Questions have recently been raised over 30-year-old Federer’s ability to continue to beat his younger adversaries – he has had a successful year on the circuit, but can he still maintain his level of play over five long sets? Today’s semi-final is his chance to silence the doubters once and for all.
Djokovic comes into this afternoon's clash brimming with confidence. He’s the world number one; he’s the reigning champion; he’s the player to beat. Intriguingly, the pair have never met on grass – once Federer’s domain – a surface arguably more suited to the third seed’s sliced shots and varied all-court style.
Federer’s hunger to re-gain his Wimbledon crown is palpable and, if he can bring his very best game to today’s match, a fierce tussle will take place on Centre Court. But if he runs out of fuel, it will surely be Djokovic who marches on to his second consecutive SW19 final – and who knows if Federer will ever lift the Wimbledon trophy again.