Roger Federer will attempt to make history Sunday that another aging tennis star could not.
In the Wimbledon men’s singles final against Novak Djokovic, the 37-year-old Federer aims to become the oldest player to win a major championship in the Open era.
Serena Williams, also 37 but 49 days younger than the Swiss legend, hoped to achieve that record Saturday but was brushed aside in the women’s final by Simona Halep 6-2, 6-2.
But the way Federer has eluded Father Time has blown away even fellow icons of the sport.
“It’s definitely remarkable, the way Roger looks at almost 38,” said three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe, now an ESPN analyst, before mentioning an ageless yet 41-year-old New England Patriots quarterback. “Tom Brady is amazing, but he’s part of a team. He’s not having to do it all on his own like Roger.”
Federer is facing a formidable challenge, one every bit as daunting as his relentless back-and-forth showdown with Rafael Nadal in a three-hour semifinal on Friday. Djokovic is the world’s No. 1 player and defending Wimbledon champion. He and No. 2 Federer will play each other for a record 16th time in a Grand Slam tournament; no two men have met more often on the biggest stages.
“We’ve played each other so, so much,” said Federer, an eight-time Wimbledon champion playing in his 12th career final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club. “I don’t mind that. I think it’s more of a clear game plan.”
Overall, the two have played each other 47 times, and Djokovic has a 25-22 advantage. All three of their grass-court meetings have come at Wimbledon, with Federer winning a semifinal in 2012, and Djokovic beating him in the 2014 and ’15 finals.
Djokovic, 32, is angling for his fifth Wimbledon singles title, which would tie him with Bjorn Borg and leave him trailing only Pete Sampras (seven) and Federer.
“I’m going to go out there and fight and give it all,” Djokovic said. “It’s finals of Wimbledon. This is the kind of match that I always dreamt of as a young boy with a tennis racket. This is what I worked for. I wanted to be in this position.”
“If I think of Novak, one thing that jumps out at me is his jump back and to the left,” Federer said. “You know how he’s able to defend on that side, which I think has won him numerous matches and trophies. He does that better than anybody.”
That said, Federer wasn’t planning to do any extensive physical work after his victory over Nadal. He’s already done all he can do to prepare.
“I don’t have much energy to train very much right now,” he said in the aftermath of the Nadal match. “Honestly, it’s about recovery, hitting some balls [Saturday], warming up the next day.
“I don’t think there’s much I need to do in terms of practice. This is like a school; the day of the test, you’re not going to read, I don’t know, how many books that day. You don’t have the time.”
The Colombian team of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah defeated France’s Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in an ultra-close men’s doubles final Saturday night that lasted nearly five hours.
Every set but the last was decided by tiebreaker: 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-3.
Mahut was involved in the longest tennis match in history — against American John Isner in the opening round of the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 2010. That lasted 11 hours 5 minutes over three days. with Isner winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7), 7-6 (3), 70-68 — a total of 183 games.
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