Roger Federer must “take it up a level” to beat Novak Djokovic and claim a record-equalling ninth Wimbledon singles title, says three-time champion John McEnroe.
Swiss Federer, 37, produced a stellar performance to beat long-time rival Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals.
Serbia’s defending champion and world number one Djokovic, 32, is seen as the favourite by many to win a fifth title.
“Djokovic is a human backboard,” American great McEnroe said.
“It is going to be a tough task.”
Top seed Djokovic, 32, has won three of the past four Grand Slams, while Federer’s most recent major triumph came at the 2018 Australian Open.
Federer, the second seed, has won Wimbledon more times than any other man and will equal Martina Navratilova’s all-time record with a ninth triumph.
It is the first Wimbledon final between the top two men’s seeds since Djokovic and Federer met in 2015.
The pair are meeting for the 48th time in their illustrious careers – only Djokovic and Nadal have played more often.
How they reached the final
Djokovic and Federer have looked on top of their grass-court games on their way to the final.
Djokovic has dropped only two sets, although he has not faced an opponent seeded in the top 20.
Up until his three-hour battle against Nadal, Federer had only dropped sets against Japan’s eighth seed Kei Nishikori and, more surprisingly, South African debutant Lloyd Harris in the opening round.
What they say about each other
Djokovic on Federer:
“We all know how good he is anywhere, but especially here. This surface complements his game very much.
“He loves to play very fast. He takes away the time from his opponent.
“He just rushes you to everything. So for players maybe like Nadal or myself that like to have a little more time, it’s a constant pressure that you have to deal with.
“I’ve played with Roger in some epic finals here a couple years in a row, so I know what to expect.”
Federer on Djokovic:
“If I think of Novak, one thing that jumps out at me, is his jump back and to the left.
“It’s how he’s able to defend on that side, which I think has won him numerous matches and trophies.
“He does that better than anybody. Nobody else really has it as consistent and good as he has.”
Can Djokovic close the gap on Federer in the ‘GOAT’ race?
Djokovic’s semi-final win over Roberto Bautista Agut ensured it would be a major final between two of the ‘big three’ in the men’s game for the first time since 2015.
Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles – a record for a male player, Djokovic 15 and Nadal 18.
A fifth Wimbledon triumph for Djokovic, who won the 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2018 titles, would take him closer than he has ever been to Federer’s tally.
Almost six years younger than Federer, Djokovic could add plenty more barring a loss of form or fitness.
His pursuit of Federer and Nadal is made more remarkable by the fact he won his first major in 2008 – when Federer had claimed 13 and Nadal five – and only added a second three years later.
Djokovic unfazed by pro-Federer crowd
Federer, widely considered the greatest grass-court player to have graced Wimbledon, had the backing of the majority of the 15,000 crowd in his semi-final win over Nadal.
Djokovic has struggled to earn the same level of popularity as Federer and Nadal throughout his career and appeared to get tetchy when Centre Court supported Bautista Agut.
He threw his hands into the air when they cheered Bautista Agut winning the second set, then put his fingers to his lips and cupped his ear after winning a 45-shot rally on a break point.
“Regardless of who’s across the net or what is happening around, I’ll definitely give it my all,” Djokovic said.
“It won’t be the first time playing against Nadal nor Federer on the Centre Court. I’ve had that experience more than once. I know what to expect.
“I had enough support here over the years, so I don’t complain.”
‘I see Novak winning in four sets’
John McEnroe, seven-time Grand Slam champion
What I really respect about Novak Djokovic is that he inspires himself [by geeing up the crowd] and plays better. That’s what really matters.
He is one of the all-time great movers on a tennis court. He gets to a lot more balls than people expect. He makes you hit so many extra shots and it drives you nuts.
As for Roger, can you imagine five or six years ago that he would be trading forehands with Rafa Nadal at his age? It’s unthinkable.
Can Federer do it? Of course he can. But I see Novak winning in four sets.
Tim Henman, former British number one and four-time Wimbledon semi-finalist
Federer has got to play even better but the crowd will have a big part to play. The crowd will be massively on his side.
Federer has to get off to a good start but Djokovic is the favourite.
Game, set and stats
- Djokovic will stay as world number one regardless of Sunday’s outcome, while Federer will rise to second in the rankings if he wins.
- It will be the 48th meeting between the number one and two seeds in a Grand Slam men’s singles final in the Open era, with the top seed prevailing 24 times.
- It will be the 15th meeting between the number one and two seeds at Wimbledon, wit the top seed prevailing eight times.
- Federer is bidding to become the second player to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the same Grand Slam, following in the footsteps of Swiss Stan Wawrinka at the 2014 Australian Open
- At 37 years 340 days, Federer is bidding to become the oldest player in the Open era to win a Grand Slam men’s singles title