Novak Djokovic does not expect Roger Federer to be scarred by the trauma of losing to him in the longest Wimbledon final of them all when they meet for the 49th time in London this week. Early evidence suggests that is a charitable assessment.
After fifth-ranked Dominic Thiem beat Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the first round of the ATP Tour Finals on Sunday night, the 38-year-old Swiss will view his rematch with Djokovic on Thursday as he might an alp without skis. It was Thiem’s third win this year over Federer.
After his fifth defeat in seven matches against the Austrian, Federer said: “He played a tough first-round performance today, and my game was probably just not good enough.” Of his next match, against Berrettini , he added: “It’s a normal tournament from here on forward. Not allowed to lose any more. With his serve, with what he can do, obviously he’s dangerous. I’ve got to play better than today.”
Meanwhile Djokovic, the world No2, is poised to replace Rafael Nadal at the top of the rankings, and earlier took only 62 minutes to beat the young Italian, Matteo Berrettini, 6-2, 6-1. He is in awesome form.
Djokovic and Federer spent nearly five hours together on Centre Court on the last Sunday of the championships in mid-July. It was a final Federer could have won. Federer said when he arrived in London on Friday he had long come to terms with that defeat. Selecting his words carefully, Djokovic was inclined to agree with him.
“I will not expect it, to be honest,” he said of a Federer meltdown, “because Roger’s experience and mental strength have been almost unprecedented. His ability to recover after big losses and cope with the pressure in tough moments on the court have been phenomenal over the years.