Over the years, Wimbledon, specifically Centre Court, has belonged to certain legends of the game. Over the 1990s, it was the domain of Pete Sampras, the big-serving gun-slinger who won seven of eight titles between 1993 and 2000. Then the most famous court in tennis was dominated by Roger Federer who set a new precedent in the early 2000s.
For the best part of a decade after that, Wimbledon was shared between ‘The Big Four,’ with Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all getting their hands on that golden trophy. This Sunday’s final could change the pattern, though.
With victory over Federer, Djokovic will win his fourth Wimbledon title in the last six years. The Serbian hasn’t always been at his most comfortable on the grass courts of SW19, instead finding his best form on the American and Asian hard courts, but with every year he has played at Wimbledon he has worked on making the place his own.
In truth, Djokovic might already have succeeded in claiming Wimbledon as his own, winning the Championships in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2018. There has been a change in the tide, but another win this weekend would carry the Serbian towards the levels of dominance achieved by Sampras and Federer at the peak of their respective powers.
Federer mustn’t be discounted - because how could he be given all that he has achieved in the sport - but Djokovic seems to be playing at a different level to the rest of his peers at the moment. Indeed, the world number one has won 32 of the 33 Grand Slam matches he has played since the start of Wimbledon last year.
Indeed, it could be claimed that Djokovic hasn’t just made Wimbledon his own, he has made every Grand Slam, perhaps with the exception of the French Open, his own. If the the era of ‘The Big Three’ can be split into sub-eras, we are now entering the Djokovic generation. The Serbian is just five Slam titles behind Federer’s record of 20 and the way things are going it won’t take him long to make that difference up.
There was a point a couple years ago at which Djokovic lost his focus. Something was missing from the Serbian’s mindset as he went nearly two years, between Roland Garros of 2016 and Wimbledon of 2018, without winning a Grand Slam. Barring a similar sort of lapse, it’s feasible that Djokovic will clean up between now and the closing days of his career, whenever they come.
The physical nature of Djokovic’s game could see him suffer something of a decline as he ages, but his physicality is a different sort to that of someone like Nadal. The Spaniard’s style of play is brutal and puts huge pressure on his joints, contributing to the injuries he has suffered in recent years. Djokovic, on the other hand, is all about flexibility and sliding. His joints and the way they bend are the primary reason for his court coverage.
For a long time, Djokovic was the one chasing Federer and Nadal, the frontrunners in a race that for a time also involved Murray and Stan Wawrinka. It might not be long before Djokovic is leading that race and if he is to leapfrog his rivals it will be his record at Wimbledon that has primarily helped him get there.