The dubious distinction of being the top ranked men’s tennis player in the world did not change hands Friday at Wimbledon in my mind.
In what could quite possibly be Roger Federer’s last shot at winning a Grand Slam event, he defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to advance to his eighth career final at the All England Club.
This is Federer’s last realistic chance of tying Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for seven career titles at Wimbledon. He played like a man knowing his biological clock is running out and seized the opportunity.
Federer was a man on a mission on Friday, blasting the ball with the sort of consistent force rarely seen in the game. He was relentless and kept Djoker on his heels for the vast majority of the match. He improved to 8-0 in semifinals at Wimbledon and has only lost in the finals once (Rafael Nadal, 2008) in his career. In other words, this is Federer’s best Grand Slam event.
Does that mean Federer deserves to be the No. 1 ranked player in the world if he wins in the finals? Absolutely not.
Djokovic has held the No. 1 ranking for a full year now, and has an Australian Open title to his name in 2012. Despite the loss, Djokovic is still 6-2 in his last eight meetings against Federer dating back to the beginning of 2011.
I don’t need to remind you of his incredible 70-6 record in 2011, which included 10 tournament wins and three Grand Slam victories (including Wimbledon) and was one of the most incredible runs the sport has ever seen.
There is history on the line for the 30-year-old Federer. He knows his time is almost up and played like it. Djokovic still has plenty of Grand Slam winning tennis in front of him. He takes care of his body off the court, doesn’t play with the reckless style of Nadal and has the drive to continue to play elite-level tennis for years.
Nobody has this blend, to go along with the experience and drive of Djokovic. Federer is making his last stand as an elite tennis player at the sport's grandest stage and was able to outlast Djokovic in one match. There is no question Federer has lost the foot speed of years past and is unable to consistently catch up to the hardest hitters of the sport.
Just because he lost in the finals to Nadal at his own personal playground (French Open) and Federer at his best event in the semis doesn’t mean Djoker can’t win the US Open and once again earn the distinction of best player of the year with two Grand Slam victories.
Federer deserves this moment at Wimbledon, but once this weekend is over, it's back to crediting who the real king of tennis is right now.
That is, Novak Djokovic.