November 5, 2013
It would be one of the great sports stories of the year if Roger Federer can beat Novak Djokovic in London tonight.
A victory for the millions who have always loved Roger. Hope for anyone who feels the onslaught of time and seeks to defy it in style.
Novak lit the touchpaper on Firework Night by suggesting that ‘Even though Roger is moving maybe a little slower than he used to, he still hits the ball really well…’
Djokovic didn’t mean to insult Federer, but the much-loved Swiss will be fired up even more after hearing that one.
The Fed has already come out fighting. ‘Last year I was number one at some point at 31 and now at 32 I can’t play tennis anymore? I don’t believe in that quick a turnaround.’
Roger can point to the nagging back which hampered him earlier in 2013, he can use Novak’s gentle jibe for extra motivation, he can call on every psychological trick in the book to pump himself up for the big one. There is no doubt that Roger Federer will walk out into the arena tonight convinced that he still has what he takes.
The O2 will be rocking, the support for Federer is always something to behold. Who doesn’t want Federer to pull off a minor miracle?
It’s not impossible. Djokovic could be a little jaded, Federer will be out to prove the doubters wrong and he is likely to come out as super-sharp as he has been for some time. No five-set war of attrition to grind down the older man this time.
Expect a sea of Swiss flags and the intense love of his British supporters to inspire Roger to unleash some rockets from his racquet. With a tinderbox atmosphere and so many pesky critics to silence, there are sure to be some great highlights. Now’s the time, Roger, now could be your moment.
Yet Novak will also be highly motivated. He wants to grab that number one spot right back from Rafa Nadal as quickly as possible – despite the Serb’s admirable recognition that his Spanish rival has been the better man this year. Djokovic wants love and recognition for his own showmanship and achievements down the years. Yet for all his likeability, he will never be as graceful or indeed as charming as Roger Federer. In the final analysis, he probably won’t be rated quite as good a tennis player either, not when the historians get round to comparing both men at their peak.
So there we are. The back-story to this scintillating clash tonight is perfect. Defiant Federer, ready to fight Novak and time itself. Djokovic, the melodramatic villain of the piece, determined to back up his unintentionally hurtful remarks with a further dose of reality.
I’m not going to try to break the hearts of the “Federistas” my predicting a Novak victory. What’s the point? Everyone knows he starts favourite.
Much more fun simply to applaud both men, sit back and enjoy two great characters going at it, because they’re sure to produce yet another great moment in London.
It’s a further reminder of the exquisite drama awaiting us on the other side of this glorious city come summer, at Wimbledon 2014.
But for now, let’s enjoy a Firework Night like no other. Over to you, gladiators!