Roger Federer hails Novak Djokovic as Serb deservedly ‘big favourite’ for Wimbledon title | Tennis | Sport

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Roger Federer believes that Novak Djokovic right now simply finds a way to win even when he is in a tight corner – and that could be the key to a golden 20th Grand Slam for the Serbian.

Djokovic takes on Chile’s Cristian Garin on the Centre Court in round four with the way to a sixth Wimbledon title and that 20th Grand Slam as seemingly open as it has ever been.

Even before this tournament began, his main rival Rafael Nadal had pulled out to give his battered body a rest, and Dominic Thiem dropped out because of injury.

Both Nadal and Federer have hit the magic 20 mark – and that is Djokovic’s target, his prize. He has already won the first two majors of this year, in Australia and Paris.

Since the opening day third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has also fallen, and gone as well are dangers like Diego Schwartzmann, Pablo Carreno Busta, Casper Ruud and Gael Monfils. Nick Kyrgios, back briefly and always a dark horse, withdrew on Saturday after a short but as ever lively stint, with an abdominal injury.

Federer, his 40th birthday looming in August, is still in there in the other half of the draw, starting unconvincingly last week after his knee surgeries but on Saturday in beating Cameron Norrie, looking more like his old self.

The eight-time SW19 champion said: “It’s very, very impressive to see what Novak is doing this year. It’s going to be another big one for him in the coming days. There’s always danger in the draw wherever you look.

“He’s able to have different ways how to win matches. He’s done incredibly well in Australia, and again also in Paris. That was exceptional. He looks like the big favourite here going into whatever round.

“He deserves it. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s playing great at the same time. He’s going to be tough to beat.”

But Federer, who Djokovic beat in an epic final in 2019, warned: “I definitely feel like I’ve gotten my rhythm now.

“I thought I had a really excellent attitude on Saturday. That has been something that has changed through the last weeks. I felt very much at peace out there.”

Daniil Medvedev, who lost to Djokovic in the final in Melbourne, faces Pole Hubert Hurkacz today and the Russian second seed said: “It can be my year. I believe it – but it’s tough. I was two times in finals and lost, against Novak and Rafa. It’s tough to win a Grand Slam.

“Coming here I’m going to feel like I can make it. It can be my year, could be the next one. Maybe it’s never. But I’m going to try my best.”

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who faces Felix Auger-Aliassime today and like Medvedev is in the other half of the draw, reckons experience will be the key: “It’s very important. That’s why the big three have been so dominant at Grand Slams. The young guys this year have been dominant at the Masters and other events. But still at the slams Novak has come through.

“Experience plays a big part. Knowing how to manage your time, how to manage your matches. It was something that I needed to learn.”

A fuming Djokovic insists he is playing against 90 per cent of the Wimbledon crowd – as he enters the defining week of his career. Djokovic, a five-time winner at the All England Club has never felt the love of the SW19 crowd like his rivals.

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The Serbian icon was booed in his 2019 Wimbledon final win over Federer, and when he played Brit Kyle Edmund in 2018, and has more than once reacted when the crowd have not been behind him.

Djokovic once again yelled out at a section of the crowd as he struggled in his third round win over Denis Kudla on Friday – and insisted: “I play 90 per cent of matches against the audience, the field, the opponents and everyone alive.

“It’s something I’m used to, but I’m a man of flesh and blood, I can’t always stay calm.

“When someone provokes me, when it crosses the line of taste, sportsmanship and respect, then I show him where he belongs.”

Novak Djokovic’s Wimbledon challengers

Alexander Zverev

Fourth seed. Reached the fourth round only once before but in good form after reaching the French Open semi-finals.

Daniil Medvedev

The world No 2, beaten in the Australian Open final by Djokovic. Won on grass in Mallorca as a warm up. Real threat.

Roger Federer

Can’t count him out even at 39. Gradually getting his form back after knee surgeries. Loves Wimbledon, now seeded sixth.

Matteo Berrettini

Won the cinch Championships at Queens Club, quarter-finalist at Roland Garros before losing to Djokovic. Aggressive and dangerous.

Denis Shapovalov

Beat Andy Murray in the third round impressively. In Djokovic’s half of the draw, could meet in the semi-finals.

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