Wimbledon 2014 Men's Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Preview and Prediction

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 4, 2014

Wimbledon 2014 Men's Final: Djokovic vs. Federer Preview and Prediction

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    During the second week of Wimbledon, everyone has been talking about the demise of the Big Four. Apparently, nobody talked to Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic about this.

    The two former Wimbledon champions both dismissed their novice 23-year-old opponents in the semifinals Friday. Now they will meet on Centre Court at Wimbledon on Sunday for the 35th showdown of their careers.

    A lot is on the line for both. Djokovic is trying to reclaim the top spot in the rankings from Rafael Nadal and find his mojo again. Though he's been consistently deep in majors, the Serb hasn't held a Grand Slam trophy since last January.

    Federer, meanwhile, is trying to make history with his eighth Wimbledon title. He's also trying to prove that he's still a force to be reckoned with on the ATP World Tour.

    Sit back and enjoy this rivalry Sunday. After a fortnight of surprises and frequently subpar play, this has the makings of a classic.

Who Has the Historic Edge?

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    Anja Niedringhaus/Associated Press

    These two have a storied eight-year history, with Federer leading the head-to-head 18-16.

    They have only met on grass once, two years ago in the Wimbledon semifinals, when Federer advanced 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.

    Even more surprisingly, they've only met once in a major final, way back at the 2007 U.S. Open. Federer beat a young Djokovic, 7-6(4), 7-6(2), 6-4.

    They've played three times this year, with Federer claiming two of those meetings. Plus, Federer has a much better record at Wimbledon—he's been in eight finals and has seven titles, while Djokovic has made two finals and won once.

    Looking at those stats, it's advantage Federer.

How Djokovic Has Looked So Far at Wimbledon

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Novak Djokovic is the top seed and has made it to the final, but it hasn't been a convincing route.

    In three matches, Djokovic has had an early lead and then taken his foot off the pedal and let his opponent back into it. This happened in his second-round match against Radek Stepanek, his quarter-final against Marin Cilic and once again in his semi-final against Grigor Dimitrov.

    It's of course a good sign that Djokovic has been able to get through these matches without his best tennis, but it's far from ideal.

    During the semi-final, the Serb looked to be incredibly tight in the big moments, frustrated with himself and uncomfortable on the grass, slipping and sliding all over the place. He is certainly feeling the pressure of being No. 1, especially since he's lost in his last three major finals.

    He's going to have to find another gear if he wants to take out Federer.

How Federer Has Looked So Far at Wimbledon

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    Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    While Novak Djokovic has been sweating it out and fighting his way through the Championships, Roger Federer has hardly broken a sweat.

    The 17-time major champion has only dropped one set this fortnight, in the quarterfinals to his friend and the Australian Open champion, Stan Wawrinka. He breezed through his semifinal match against Milos Raonic, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. His serve, return and forehand look close to vintage form.

    Apparently, Federer fans can thank coach Stefan Edberg for this resurgence, according to Neil Harman of The Times (via ESPN):

    Tony Pickard, who masterminded Edberg's rise to world No. 1 and six Grand Slam singles titles, says his former pupil has given Federer a new edge as he pushed for a record eighth Wimbledon title.

    "He [Federer] believes in coming in a little bit and it's not on a wing and a prayer. He is looking for the moment, but still doesn't do it enough for me," Pickard told the Times.

    "Before he didn't do it at all and in six months, the two of them have a rapport and they obviously trust each other."

Biggest X-Factors in the Final

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Since both of these guys are so experienced with winning majors, it sounds weird to say that nerves are going to be a big factor. However, that's certainly the case.

    Djokovic hasn't won a major since the 2013 Australian Open, a period that doesn't sound that long until you realize that he's been in seven major finals since 2012 and only won two of them.

    The Serb is in the prime of his career, and he is clearly flustered with letting so many chances slip through his fingers. Wimbledon means a lot to him, and he knows he needs this for his confidence going forward.

    Federer is dealing with even more urgency. The 32-year-old hasn't been to a major final since Wimbledon two years ago, and he knows how hard these opportunities are going to be to come by late in his career.

    Crowd support will be another issue. Djokovic hates when crowds are against him, and given the All England Club's love affair with Federer, its allegiance will be clear. The No. 1 is going to have to stay calm.

    Pay attention to who starts fast. Besides the obvious, Djokovic is going to want to start strongly to take the crowd out of it and to keep his confidence in check. Federer, meanwhile, will want to start well because he's at a disadvantage if the match is a very long and physical one.

Djokovic Will Win If...

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    Anthony Devlin/Associated Press

    For Djokovic, focus, calmness and great serving will be the keys to winning his second Wimbledon crown.

    As previously mentioned, the Serb has had multiple lapses of concentration throughout the fortnight, making his matches much more complicated than they needed to be. This simply cannot happen against someone as experienced as Federer.

    Additionally, Djokovic is going to have to keep from getting so flustered and emotional mid-match. On rare occasions he can use his frustration to his advantage, but usually it just wastes energy and distracts from the task at hand. He might want to practice some deep breaths before he steps out onto the court.

    This might sound obvious, but he also needs to hold his serve. Federer reads serves so well on this surface, and with the way Federer is serving, Djokovic won't have a chance if he doesn't take care of business.

    As John Branch of The New York Times reported, Djokovic is well aware of how well Federer is playing.

    "This is where he has the most success in his career, winning many titles," Djokovic said of Federer. "He's been looking very good throughout the whole tournament, very dominant with his matches. I'm sure that he wants to win this title as much as I do."

    Oh, and it would help if Djokovic could stay on his feet. He has been slipping and sliding since his first match, changing shoes and socks frequently yet still falling. It's a surprise he hasn't been seriously injured yet.

Federer Will Win If...

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    Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Federer has looked great throughout these Championships, but he's going to have to step it up a notch if he wants to take down Djokovic.

    The seven-time Wimbledon champion has to keep his errors to a minimum. In his recent bad losses, he has been known to shank many balls and mistime his forehand, giving a lot of free points to his opponents. If he gives Djokovic any gifts, the Serb will take them and run.

    The Swiss Maestro also needs to find a way to relax. He is at home on Centre Court at Wimbledon, and he knows how to win big in front of that audience. He has to keep his mind off history and just focus on the match at hand. This way, he can use the setting to his advantage.

    If Federer can stay calm and aggressive while playing a clean match, he will be lifting a familiar trophy Sunday.


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    Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

    Before the tournament, I predicted Federer would be able to find his way into the final, but I didn't expect him to do it so effortlessly. I also predicted he would lose to Andy Murray once he got there.

    Clearly, that's not going to happen.

    It feels like this tournament has opened up perfectly for Federer, with Rafael Nadal and Murray losing early, and his opponents offering little resistance in the first week. The veteran is fresh and confident here in the final weekend, and with the crowd on his side, he will find his way to championship point.

    Djokovic will offer resistance, but in the end, the King of Grass will prevail.

    I predict that Mr. Federer will become Mr. 18 on Sunday, winning a record eighth Wimbledon title in four tight sets.