Djokovic is the greatest returner of all time and Federer is a steel trap… Here’s how the Wimbledon men’s finalists match up
- Novak Djokovic will face Roger Federer on Sunday in the Wimbledon men’s final
- There is very little to choose between two of tennis’ modern day greats
- Djokovic has an incredible ability to return serves that look impossible to return
- Yet a devastating forehand may be Federer’s most potent weapon in SW19
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer meet in Sunday’s Wimbledon final as the two old rivals do battle for silverware.
Here JOHN LLOYD runs the rule over the two tennis greats…
The Djokovic serve is underrated. I can remember when he was having some injury problems and tried to tinker with his serve in the quarter-finals of the French Open and had the yips. Fast forward to now, and it is one of the best in the game.
Djokovic is the greatest returner of all time. That is saying a lot when you think of the likes of Jimmy Connors, but he can return serves that look impossible to return, because he is like rubber.
Novak Djokovic throws his racquet as he dives for a return against Roberto Bautista Agut
We don’t talk about his forehand as much as his backhand but it is still a phenomenal shot. It is underrated only because when you talk about the two strokes, you talk about his backhand.
His backhand return is better than Federer and I would say that from the back of the court, Djokovic’s passing shot is the best. But he doesn’t have as good a slice as Federer.
While he is competent at volleying, he is not a great volleyer. Doesn’t punch it away as well as Federer. The overhead is probably the weakest part of his game but you can’t go out there and just say ‘I’ll lob him every shot’.
Djokovic volleys towards Roberto Bautista Agut in the men’s semi-final at Wimbledon
Trying to get past him is a joke. He can run down anything. He has got this rubber-like flexibility where he can slide and be at full strength. A shot you think he is defending, he turns it into attack.
Mental strength 10
This is the category where Djokovic has improved from his early career. Just like Federer, he refuses to be beaten until the handshake. You cannot separate the greats in this area.
He is the best defender that has ever lived. The great players all do this but Djokovic more than any, he narrows the court because he defends so well and is so quick. It means that after a set or two his opponents start to go for too much, and go out of their comfort zone.
Djokovic total = 76 (but with two 10+ categories)
He is not a John Isner, in terms of aces, but his serve nonetheless is one of the greats. He picks spots at the right moment, and his second serve is ridiculously good.
Roger Federer prepares to serve against Rafael Nadal during his semi-final victory
Brilliant return of server, with a lot of variety. Gets balls back in play when he needs to.
There was a period in his dominant years where his forehand was the biggest weapon on tour bar none. For a few years it wasn’t as potent but now he has gone up to the bigger racquet head he has more power. The weapon it used to be is back to right up there.
It used to be a bit of a liability, particularly up high against Nadal. But with the change of racquet it has improved and turned into a phenomenal backhand, with a lot of variety. He can do more with his than Djokovic, because of the slice, and he takes the ball brilliantly on the rise.
He is a very good volleyer and has improved in this area in the past two years when cutting points down a bit. In today’s terms his volley is probably close to the best, if not the best, because the vast majority of players come to the net just to shake hands. He never normally misses an overhead either.
Federer’s innate mental strength has made him a relentless competitor
He is moving as well as he did in his 20s, which is baffling. He is graceful and balletic, and kind of glides around the court. He is not a 10 in this category because over a period of three or four hours there could be a slight slowing-down.
Mental strength 10
He is a steel trap. With his demeanour, you cannot tell what he is thinking. He gets right back to business after tremendous disappointment, like the match points he had against Nadal. As soon as the point is over, he takes 15 seconds, and is back on it.
Federer is tremendous at this and moves beautifully, he slices the ball when he is out wide.
Federer total: 76 (but with four 10+ categories)