Baseline Buzz: Federer's best chance


LONDON -- Tennis is a delicate balance of heart and head.

You can't be a professional, never mind a multi-Slam winner, without some serious fortitude coming from somewhere deep inside.

Fortunately for Novak Djokovic, he is a living, breathing example of both. And that's a good thing, given that he's navigated his way to the Wimbledon final playing with anything but his A-game.

Take for instance the Serb's last match, a queasy 3-hour, 2-minute slip-fest against Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic appeared frustrated and spent trying to fend off a Bulgarian superstar in the making. But say what you will, the top seed figured it out. And in the end, this is a bottom-line-business sport, and the bottom line is that Djokovic won.

So yes, Djokovic gets five stars for the aplomb he's showed, but is that going to be enough to take down an in-form Roger Federer when the two meet for the Wimbledon crown Sunday? tennis editor Matt Wilansky and FiveThirtyEight's Carl Bialik spend a few moments kicking around their thoughts with some more Baseline Buzz banter.

Matt Wilansky: The first thing I have to say is that this final is nearly as juicy as they come. Say what you will about the Big Four. Rafael Nadal and Djokovic might be the most competitive rivalry in tennis, perhaps ever, but when Federer is around, a few more people are paying attention. The good news for you Fedaholics is that the seven-time Wimbledon champ is playing some real crisp ball; he's dropped serve only one time and, amazingly, has spent five fewer hours on court than Djokovic. Even though the Serb is nearly six years younger, that's still a massive advantage for Federer.

Carl Bialik: Agreed, advantage, Federer, in the rest department. The lack of play on Middle Sunday, which Djokovic decried this past week for its disruptive potential, appeared to hurt Federer, since he'd have to play Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. He neutralized that obstacle by dropping just one set in the three matches. Djokovic has struggled at times in recent Grand Slam finals when he has had to work harder than his opponent to get there, such as at the French Open, when he lost a set in the semis while Rafa cruised; at the US Open last year, when he needed five sets to get past Stan Wawrinka in the semis and at Wimbledon last year, when Juan Martin del Potro pushed Djokovic to five grueling, thrilling sets. Whether Djokovic lost those subsequent finals because he was tired or because his tough semi signaled that he was the second-best player in the final is unclear. Either way, if Federer and Djokovic play in the final at the same level they've showed so far, then I agree, advantage, Federer. Whom do you think feels more pressure to win, and whom does that help?

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