Djokovic looks like he could catch Federer, Nadal

Wimbledon men’s singles champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic with his trophy at the Champions Dinner on Sunday in central London. (AFP)
Updated 15 July 2019

Djokovic looks like he could catch Federer, Nadal

  • Federer owns the men’s record of 20 Slams, Nadal has 18, Djokovic 16

WIMBLEDON: Novak Djokovic never has been this close to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the Grand Slam trophy count.

Given the way Djokovic edged Federer in a thrilling Wimbledon final for his fourth championship at the past five major tournaments, there is little reason to think the 32-year-old Serb doesn’t have a realistic shot at catching his two great rivals at the top of tennis.

Federer owns the men’s record of 20 Slams, Nadal has 18, Djokovic 16. The chase is really and truly on now.

“For him, it’s the goal, absolutely,” said Djokovic’s coach, Marian Vajda.

Djokovic’s 7-6 (5), 1-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 13-12 (3) victory Sunday offered some insight about what the future might hold and what his place in the hierarchy eventually could become.

At 4 hours, 57 minutes, it was the longest Wimbledon final in history.

More remarkably, Djokovic became the first man since 1948 to win the title at the All England Club after facing championship points; Federer was on the verge of winning while serving at 8-7, 40-15 in the fifth set.

But Djokovic took the next two points and, eventually, was better in the closing tiebreaker, instituted at 12-all in deciding sets at Wimbledon for the first time this year.

If the consensus is that Federer’s excellence is defined by the word “elegance,” and Nadal’s by “doggedness,” then Djokovic’s might be best distilled to “clutchness.”

As Sunday’s match stretched into the evening, one element of their respective past performances at Wimbledon seemed particular relevant: Djokovic is now 8-1 in five-setters there; Federer 7-7. Against each other? Djokovic is 4-0.

Turned out the words spoken by eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer two days before the final were rather prescient: “It comes very much down to who’s better on the day, who’s in a better mental place, who’s got more energy left, who’s tougher when it really comes to the crunch.”

Federer lost despite winning more total points, 218-204, and dominating just about every other significant statistic, too: aces (25-10), service breaks (7-3), winners (94-54) and so on.

The key: Djokovic won all three tiebreakers, the sort of can’t-take-a-point-off segment of a match that is as much dependent on how capable a player is of steeling oneself as it is about this or that particular stroke.

In the moments that meant the most, when the sets were at stake, when the outcome was in the balance, Djokovic was superior.

Seven times, Federer was two points away from taking the opening set. Djokovic didn’t allow it. Federer was one point from seizing the third. Again, Djokovic prevented it.

And then, just like when he erased two match points each time in the 2010 and 2011 US Open semifinals, Djokovic came back from the brink to win.

“A mental battle, more than anything else,” Vajda said. “It was all about focus there at the end.”

For years, in part because he zoomed past Pete Sampras’ old mark of 14 Grand Slam titles, Federer was considered by many to be the greatest male tennis player in history. Then Nadal earned his supporters and created a debate, not so much by accumulating his own impressive collection of trophies, but by repeatedly getting the better of Federer, including beating him in the epic 2008 Wimbledon final.

Djokovic has strengthened his case for being part of the conversation. Younger than both men — Nadal is 33; Federer turns 38 on Aug. 8 — he is gaining on them in Slams, is the only member of the trio to have won four consecutive majors and holds an edge in the head-to-head series with each.

Against Nadal, he is 28-26.

Against Federer, he is 26-22 overall, 10-6 at majors and 3-1 at Wimbledon, including 3-0 in finals at the grass-court tournament.

Those, though, aren’t the numbers people generally look at when trying to decide which of the Big Three deserves to be listed first.

Djokovic, No. 1 in the ATP rankings at the moment, knows what category matters the most to many.

“Those two guys (are) probably one of the biggest reasons I still compete at this level. The fact that they made history (in) this sport motivates me as well, inspires me to try to do what they have done, what they’ve achieved, and even more,” said Djokovic, who has won 33 of his past 34 matches at majors.

“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not,” he added, “I don’t know.”

Neither do we. But it sure should be fun watching him try.


Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

Updated 21 November 2019

Motorsport must encourage more women to compete, says Saudi female driver Aseel Al-Hamad

  • FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track"
  • Said Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting popularity of motorsport

RIYADH: One of Saudi Arabia’s first female racing drivers believes motorsport is too male dominated and that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter the sport.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Aseel Al-Hamad said the fact that only 1.5 percent of racing licences are held by women was “a big international issue.”

Al-Hamad, who is also the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, said that while there are some women blazing a trail in the sport, more needs to be done by its authorities.

“There are Formula 1 drivers like Tatiana Calderón, team principles such as Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. We also have female mechanical engineers and in all kinds of positions, but they are just a few. 

“We need to use them as role models to encourage more young girls to become like these amazing women,” she added.

Al-Hamad, who has been passionate about cars since her youth, told Arab News that she is a fan of Formula 1 and a highlight of her career was being invited to drive an F1 car, but her driving idol was Michèle Mouton. 

“Because, back then in the 1980s, she competed in an all-men rally championship. And honestly, I don't think anyone did what she did at that time,” she said.

It is experiences like those that inspired her to forge a path for more women in motorsport and lead the way for female drivers in Saudi Arabia and beyond.

Al-Hamad, who mixes racing with her interior design business, is one of the representatives on the International Automobile Federation (FIA)’s “Women in Motorsport Commission”, which creates programs and initiatives to encourage more young girls to be inspired by the sport and consider it as a career.

“I won’t forget the day I got contacted by the president of the Federation asking me to join the board of directors, it's great because I have lots of difficulties in my career and it's so great to now build a foundation for these young women and ensure that they won't go through the struggles and the challenges I went through,” she said.

On the possibility of one day seeing a Saudi female world champion in major motorsport such as F1 and Formula E, she said: “Today, it is possible, especially when we are seeing how the government is very much supporting sports and women’s participation in sport. 

“We have just recently started and we're starting really fast. I won’t be surprised to see a champion soon competing in big international events.”

Al-Hamad also said the Kingdom hosting events like Formula E is vital in boosting the popularity of motorsport in the country and the wider region. 

“Maybe most of the people used to watch football. But, today, when we have such international motorsport event, so many people will get closer to the motorsport and understand the rules. 

“And maybe these young generations, when they attend the race, they might get inspired and become fans of motorsport.” She added.

The FIA is hosting an event alongside the Nov. 22-23 Diriyah ePrix called “Girls on Track,” the second time such an event has been held outside of Europe.

“This event is very much focused on encouraging young girls from eight to 18 years old to discover their talents and motorsport, hopefully it will inspire them to consider a career in motorsport,” Al-Hamad said. 

The event will include educational workshops to introduce girls to a range of topics -- from mechanical engineering to motorsport journalism, as well as opportunities to use racing simulators and to drive on a carting track.

The girls will also take part in a panel discussion with some figurehead females in motorsport including Susie Wolff, team principal of Venturi Formula E. 

“We've approached mostly schools and we sent them invitations to have girls register and hopefully they will discover their talents,” Al-Hamad said.

Her advice to young women is to achieve what they dream for, even if they are dreaming big.

“They might have some fears at the beginning, they might think it's impossible. But my advice to them is to take small steps and just think of the steps with time, they will be surprised that they actually achieve their dreams,” she said.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber.

Ahead of the Diriyah ePrix, Al-Hamad drove Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle -- the Taycan -- from Dubai to Riyadh with former F1 driver Mark Webber. The model goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020. (Porsche)

The Taycan, which goes on sale in the Middle East in 2020, is the most powerful production electric model that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, hitting 0-100kmh in 3.2 seconds.

On driving it, Al-Hamad said: “We wanted to test the performance of the car and it's great that we just arrived ahead of Porsche's debut in the Formula E this weekend.

“I love the handling, the feeling, it's a fast car, it has the same Porsche DNA in its interior and exterior. It is a beautiful car.”