Nole is fighting for his first Wimbledon title, but he's already nabbed another important first in his career. Come Monday, Novak will be the No. 1 player in the world; a just reward for his stellar play this year that has seen him capture the Australian Open (his second) and lose just one match.
The Serb will face a tough test in Nadal, who is looking for his third Wimbledon title and 11th overall, and winning it would take a lot of pressure off the Djoker's shoulders.
In most sports, winning the title puts a target on your back and increases the pressure. Tennis is the exception.
Winning a Grand Slam justifies a player and shows everyone not only what he can do, but that he's already done it.
Being No. 1 but not having the Grand Slams to show for it is no fun at all—Caroline Wozniacki can attest to that.
If Nadal wins, Novak will still have it all to prove come the U.S. Open in August. Novak would likely be the No. 1 seed but, come the final, how much does seeding really matter?
The two runner-up appearances were in the U.S. Open against Roger Federer and Nadal. Those two losses stand out more than the victories.
Another loss to Nadal could put Novak in the "good but not good enough" category. Or worse, the "good until it really counts" category.
Nadal and Federer have dominated tennis in recent years and are in the mix for the best to ever play the sport—not because they've won the warm-up tournaments in between the four Grand Slams.
It's because of how they've performed on the big stages. They don't choke in Grand Slams; you have to find a way to beat them.
For Novak, the win would legitimize his play so far this year and his No. 1 ranking. It would ease his mind—which was easily rattled in his one loss to Federer in the French Open semifinal this year—and could take his play to a whole new level.
A win and suddenly everything looks great, and Novak looks like the one to take the sliding Federer's place in the tennis world (in play at least, no one could ever truly replace King Fed).
A loss and the pressure keeps mounting, and that No. 1 ranking is absolutely meaningless.