Preview: Sweet 16 for Djokovic or will Federer extend major title gap?

Preview: Sweet 16 for Djokovic or will Federer extend major title gap?

The world No. 1 carries a 25-22 lead over the Swiss in their head-to-head series, having won their past four major meetings.

Sunday at Wimbledon features the men's final. Here, our match preview and prediction.

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer

When Djokovic and Federer were asked about playing each other on Sunday, there was a clear theme to their answers:

We’ve been here before.

“I’ve played with Roger in some epic finals here a couple years in a row, so I know what to expect,” Djokovic said.

“I think the moment you’ve played somebody probably more than 15 times, especially in recent years also a few times, there’s not much more left out there,” Federer said.

Indeed, Djokovic and Federer have faced off 47 times since 2006, twice in the Wimbledon final, and twice since Djokovic began his comeback in 2018. Looking at the results of those matches, and assuming there are no new wrinkles to their rivalry, Djokovic has to be the favorite in this one. He leads Federer 25-22 overall; he’s won their last four meetings dating back to 2015; he won their Wimbledon finals in 2014 and 2015; and he has won their last four matches at Grand Slams. The last time Federer beat Djokovic at a major was at Wimbledon in 2012.

Djokovic is younger, he’s won three of the last four Slams, and he presents matchup problems for everyone, including Federer. Djokovic can parry Federer’s serve, which is his core weapon on grass, with his best-on-tour return. He’s steadier from the baseline. And unlike the vast majority of Federer’s opponents, Djokovic believes he should beat him. While he hasn’t been spectacular in his first six matches, that’s kind of the point with Djokovic. He doesn’t need to be.

Of course, none of this means we should hand the trophy to Djokovic quite yet. Their Wimbledon finals from earlier in the decade were decided by razor-thin margins, as was their most recent meeting, in Bercy last November, which Djokovic won in a third-set tiebreaker in one of the year’s best contests. One unknowable factor this time will be Federer’s reaction to his three-hour win over Nadal in the semifinals. Will it fill him with confidence that he’s the man of the hour? Or will it leave him ripe for an emotional and physical letdown? Either way, to beat Djokovic, Federer will likely have to play better than he did to beat Nadal. That’s a lot to ask, even for him.

Winner: Djokovic

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