But Roger Federer, as much royalty to tennis as Prince William and Kate Middleton sitting in a box at his quarterfinals match on Wednesday, has shown otherwise.
Federer is 30 years old, an age that sends most other tennis players toward the Champions Series. But Federer, long known for his superhuman fitness, has said he's not ready to go just yet. His game backs him up, and although Djokovic and Nadal have had the upper hand these past few years, Federer clearly has the drive that's needed to turn his flawless game into a Grand Slam win one more time.
The question is whether that win will come at Wimbledon, which has always been one of Federer's favorite places to play. The answer comes Friday, against Djokovic, the world No. 1, in what could be one of the finest tennis matches ever at the All England Club.
It's unfortunate that Federer and Djokovic have to meet in a semifinal, but Federer has been no more than third best in the world for a while. The main contender to win it all coming in was actually Nadal, who seemed to be swinging the pendulum in his most recent rivalry — with Djokovic — in his direction. But Nadal fell to an early upset at Wimbledon, and his test of greatness among the two rivals who have defined his career has to wait for another day.
Instead, Federer will look to again grab the throne that was his for so long.
Federer got his first Grand Slam win in 2003 at the All England Club, when finally slaying the Wimbledon demon set off the most dominant reign in tennis ever. Federer has collected 16 Grand Slams, a No. 1 ranking that spanned years rather than months and enough regular-season titles to shame the record books.
Of the individual accomplishments Federer can get, all he is missing is the actual Grand Slam — all four major events in one year — and the record for total victories at Wimbledon. Right now, Federer has six titles, compared to Sampras' record seven on grass.
Djokovic, the defending champion at Wimbledon, has never faced Federer at the All England Club. Federer leads their head-to-head series 14-12, but Djokovic has been stronger as of late. Djokovic has won four of the last five semifinal meetings between the pair in the last two years and, coming off one of the most dominant years in tennis, has the edge entering this one.
Beyond the usual head-to-head with all of its title implications, though, the Federer-Djokovic matchup is going to be a beauty to watch. While Federer boasts one of the most beautiful, fluid games ever seen, complete with pinpoint forehands, backhands that leave opponents flat-footed and drop shots that have redefined the way people play the net, Djokovic is an all-around great player, too. He has the legs to keep up with Nadal, meaning his baseline-to-baseline game has always been a struggle for Federer. Basically, when these two play, they throw everything at each other. Expect long volleys, incredible serves and shots, and a slugging match that goes to whoever can dig deeper.
But the best part of this match will be how good both players look coming in. Djokovic has been his usual, solid self throughout Wimbledon, but at this stage, questions surround Federer at each step. He's been battling intermittent back pain, and he got a scare in the third round from No. 29 Julien Benneteau, who had him down two sets before Federer came back for a 4-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 win.
But Federer clearly still has his game. He dispatched Mikhail Youzhny, a decent player in his own right, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 on Wednesday to clear the way for a nice, long rest before meeting Djokovic in what will be Federer's 32nd Grand Slam semifinal.
And if anyone is forgetting the legacy that surrounds the maestro in white, a Rolex commercial of Federer's finest moments has been playing on a loop throughout Wimbledon.
Djokovic may be the man of the hour, but the former crown-wearer will give him a match befitting legends if both come with their best games on Friday.
Wimbledon has staged many classics, one of the best being just a few years ago in Nadal and Federer's epic meeting in 2008. But this year should be even better.
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