For the first time in eight grand slam finals over the same amount of years, Roger Federer will not play someone called Andy, Novak or Rafa when he bids for a record eighth Wimbledon title on Sunday.
Such has been the dominance of tennis’s so-called big-four along with Swiss Stan Wawrinka that Federer will have to wind the clock back to the 2009 U.S. Open when he lost to Juan Martin del Potro to remember what it is like to play a major final against someone outside of the sport’s established powerbase.
With Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal all having fallen by the wayside at Wimbledon this year, Federer will face Marin Cilic in the Centre Court showdown.
While the Croat comes armed with a huge serve and some grand slam pedigree, as the last person outside of the world’s current top five to win a major, Federer admits it will be a nice change to see a fresh face on the other side of the net.
“Thank God I’ve played also guys who were not called Rafa, Andy or Novak (in finals) in the past,” Federer told reporters.
“From that standpoint I don’t want to say it’s more relaxed going into it because I have a good head-to-head record against Marin, even though the matches were extremely close.
“But it’s not like we’ve played against each other 30 times. You feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. It’s more straightforward, in my opinion. I think that’s nice in some ways. It’s a nice change, but it doesn’t make things easier.”
Federer is level with Britain’s William Renshaw and American Pete Sampras on seven Wimbledon titles and has been refreshed after taking an extended break from the game to prepare for the grasscourt slam.
He has not dropped a set all tournament and is a clear favourite to claim a 19th grand slam title, after he began the year by winning the Australian Open.
“It makes me really happy, making history here at Wimbledon,” he said. “It’s a big deal. I love this tournament. All my dreams came true here as a player. To have another chance to go for number eight now, be so close now at this stage, is a great feeling.”