Djokovic looks like he could catch Federer, Nadal

Wimbledon men’s singles champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic with his trophy at the Champions Dinner on Sunday in central London. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2019

Djokovic looks like he could catch Federer, Nadal

  • Federer owns the men’s record of 20 Slams, Nadal has 18, Djokovic 16

WIMBLEDON: Novak Djokovic never has been this close to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam trophy count.

Given the way Djokovic edged Federer in a thrilling Wimbledon final for his fourth championship at the past five major tournaments, there is little reason to think the 32-year-old Serb doesn’t have a realistic shot at catching his two great rivals at the top of tennis.

Federer owns the men’s record of 20 Slams, Nadal has 18, Djokovic 16. The chase is really and truly on now.

“For him, it’s the goal, absolutely,” said Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda.

Djokovic’s 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) victory Sunday offered some insight about what the future might hold and what his place in the hierarchy eventually could become.

At 4 hours, 57 minutes, it was the longest Wimbledon final in history.

More remarkably, Djokovic became the first man since 1948 to win the title at the All England Club after facing championship points; Federer was on the verge of winning while serving at 8-7, 40-15 in the fifth set.

But Djokovic took the next two points and, eventually, was better in the closing tiebreaker, instituted at 12-all in deciding sets at Wimbledon for the first time this year.

If the consensus is that Federer’s excellence is defined by the word “elegance,” and Nadal’s by “doggedness,” then Djokovic’s might be best distilled to “clutchness.”

As Sunday’s match stretched into the evening, one element of their respective past performances at Wimbledon seemed particular relevant: Djokovic is now 8-1 in five-setters there; Federer 7-7. Against each other? Djokovic is 4-0.

Turned out the words spoken by eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer two days before the final were rather prescient: “It comes very much down to who’s better on the day, who’s in a better mental place, who’s got more energy left, who’s tougher when it really comes to the crunch.”

Federer lost despite winning more total points, 218-204, and dominating just about every other significant statistic, too: aces (25-10), service breaks (7-3), winners (94-54) and so on.

The key: Djokovic won all three tiebreakers, the sort of can’t-take-a-point-off segment of a match that is as much dependent on how capable a player is of steeling oneself as it is about this or that particular stroke.

In the moments that meant the most, when the sets were at stake, when the outcome was in the balance, Djokovic was superior.

Seven times, Federer was two points away from taking the opening set. Djokovic didn’t allow it. Federer was one point from seizing the third. Again, Djokovic prevented it.

And then, just like when he erased two match points each time in the 2010 and 2011 US Open semifinals, Djokovic came back from the brink to win.

“A mental battle, more than anything else,” Vajda said. “It was all about focus there at the end.”

For years, in part because he zoomed past Pete Sampras’ old mark of 14 Grand Slam titles, Federer was considered by many to be the greatest male tennis player in history. Then Nadal earned his supporters and created a debate, not so much by accumulating his own impressive collection of trophies, but by repeatedly getting the better of Federer, including beating him in the epic 2008 Wimbledon final.

Djokovic has strengthened his case for being part of the conversation. Younger than both men — Nadal is 33; Federer turns 38 on Aug. 8 — he is gaining on them in Slams, is the only member of the trio to have won four consecutive majors and holds an edge in the head-to-head series with each.

Against Nadal, he is 28-26.

Against Federer, he is 26-22 overall, 10-6 at majors and 3-1 at Wimbledon, including 3-0 in finals at the grass-court tournament.

Those, though, aren’t the numbers people generally look at when trying to decide which of the Big Three deserves to be listed first.

Djokovic, No. 1 in the ATP rankings at the moment, knows what category matters the most to many.

“Those two guys (are) probably one of the biggest reasons I still compete at this level. The fact that they made history (in) this sport motivates me as well, inspires me to try to do what they have done, what they’ve achieved, and even more,” said Djokovic, who has won 33 of his past 34 matches at majors.

“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not,” he added, “I don’t know.”

Neither do we. But it sure should be fun watching him try.


‘Liverpool spirits are high’ despite virus lockdown

Jurgen Klopp
Updated 28 March 2020

‘Liverpool spirits are high’ despite virus lockdown

  • Klopp praised the efforts of Liverpool and other clubs in helping support more vulnerable members of the community during the current crisis

Jurgen Klopp says the mood at Liverpool is upbeat despite the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown, even admitting he has tried to copy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s dance moves to keep himself occupied.
The Premier League leaders were on the verge of their first top-flight title for 30 years when English football was suspended earlier this month.
Klopp said his players’ spirits remained high despite the frustrations of having no football to play and praised the efforts of his backroom staff who are looking after the players’ fitness.
“We spoke a couple of times, we have a really intense, big, big group chat — the whole of Melwood (training ground) are in that,” he said, speaking to the club’s website by videolink from his home.
“The boys are really lively in that, the boys are just interested in what everybody is doing, comments on what everybody is doing — if Ox is on Instagram or whatever.”
Midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain and his girlfriend, Little Mix singer Perrie Edwards, performed a dance routine, which she posted on social media.
Teammate James Milner played up to his “boring James Milner” tag by posting a video of himself cutting his grass with a ruler and scissors.
“I didn’t cut the grass but I tried the dance of Ox,” said Klopp. “Not as bad as you probably think. It’s very important in these times that we all show we take this situation seriously, but we are human beings.”

HIGHLIGHT

Jurgen Klopp praises the efforts of Liverpool and other clubs in helping support more vulnerable members of the community during the current crisis. He urges people to abide by the lockdown.

“If the boys do anything on Instagram, as long as it’s in a legal frame I’m overly happy about it — it just shows they are still cheeky and all that stuff,” he added.
Klopp praised the efforts of Liverpool and other clubs in helping support more vulnerable members of the community during the current crisis.
And he urged people to abide by the lockdown.
“The only way to get football back as soon as possible, if that’s what the people want, the more disciplined we are now the earlier we will get, piece by piece by piece, our life back,” Klopp said. “That’s how it is.”
“At one point we will play football again as well, 100 percent,” he added. “I couldn’t wish more for it because of a few really good reasons, how you can imagine. I can’t wait actually, but even I have to be disciplined and I try to be as much as I can.”