The Wimbledon final will not feature Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer for a third straight year in 2016. Friday’s draw set the world’s best and third-best players on a collision course towards the last four.
Federer and world number two Andy Murray may be the only two men capable of loosening Djokovic’s iron grip on grand slam silverware at the grass tournament at the All England Club starting on Monday.
But Djokovic, whose victory at this month’s French Open made him the first player since Jim Courier in 1992 to win the year’s first two majors, has maintained an incredible level of consistency in recent years that has left his rivals running out of ideas about how to stop him.
The Serb’s triumph at Roland Garros completed his career slam and he holds all four major titles at the same time: a first time in almost half a century. It also put him only five short of Federer’s record of 17 grand slam singles titles.
He has not lost at Wimbledon since 2013 when Murray beat him in the final and has won six of the last eight majors.
“Of course I am very proud to hold all four grand slam titles at the same time. It’s a remarkable achievement for my team and I,” Djokovic said this week. “But we’re moving on, it’s back on grass now and starting from scratch.”
The chances of seven-times champion Federer snatching the Wimbleldon crown back from Djokovic look to be receding fast.
The Swiss maestro finally appears to be succumbing to injury at the age of 34 and missed the French Open after 65 consecutive majors.
“Everyone is chasing Djokovic,” American former number one John McEnroe, a three-time Wimbledon winner, said this week. “He is approaching Roger’s records, which would seem insurmountable. It’s amazing.”
Closing on Graf record
In the women’s draw, defending champion and six-times winner Serena Williams is still one title away from equalling Steffi Graf’s Open era record of 22 grand slam singles titles after three times coming close to matching the German's feat.
Since beating Garbine Muguruza in last year’s title match, American Williams has fallen to Roberta Vinci of Italy in the final of the U.S. Open, Germany’s Angelique Kerber in the Australian Open final and Muguruza in this month’s French Open showpiece.
Spaniard Muguruza, who many are tipping to take over from the 34-year-old Williams at the summit of the women’s game, is seeded second in London and is hoping to join a select group of players to complete the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double.
“She’s come a long way,” former American great Chris Evert said this week. “That will be a real curiosity for me. Whether she can carry that momentum and confidence and do well … or is she going to have a hard time re-setting, especially in dealing with expectations.”
While Djokovic is in a league of his own and Murray stands ahead of the chasing pack, there are signs a new generation could be ready to break up the status quo in the men’s game.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev beat Federer in Halle last week, while Austrian Dominic Thiem, who also surprised Federer on grass this month, fell to Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals.