LONDON (Reuters) - Pushing his baby’s pram through the leafy surroundings of Wimbledon Common is how Novak Djokovic collected his thoughts and mapped out his game plan to try and win a third title at the All England Club.
That stroll in the park helped him execute the penultimate stage of his plan perfectly on Friday as he sauntered into the final with a 7-6(2) 6-4 6-4 hammering of Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
A leisurely walk with his eight-month-old son Stefan on Saturday, though, could be a long one as he gets ready to face a man he calls “the greatest ever” and who poses “the biggest challenge” the Serb could face at Wimbledon -- Roger Federer.
“He’s one of the people that actually made me a better player,” Djokovic said after setting up a second successive final with the seven-times champion who he beat in a five-set thriller 12 months ago.
“In the matches against him, I went through a lot of different emotions and things that allowed me to understand what I need to do to become a better player and to win against him and win grand slam trophies.”
While Federer leads that rivalry 20-19, the Serbian world number one will be boosted by the knowledge that he has won four of their six meetings over the past year.
But when it comes to Wimbledon, Djokovic knows that Federer’s silky-smooth game takes on a new dimension.
“This is where he loves to play. This is where he plays his best tennis. The Centre Court of Wimbledon, seven titles. It’s his court. He loves it,” said the eight-times grand slam champion who is looking to become the first man since Federer in 2007 to win back-to-back titles at the grasscourt major.
“He usually rises up to the occasion. He’s always playing his toughest when it matters the most. That’s why he’s a big champion.”
One thing both men have in common is that they will be aided by two men famed for their own Wimbledon duels -- Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg. That famous pair contested a hat-trick of finals from 1988 -- with Swede Edberg winning twice.
Becker, though, hoisted the gilded Challenge Cup three times in total and is having sleepless nights as he desperately wants his charge, Djokovic, to draw level with him on that score.
“Ever since Boris came to our team last year, it’s a pleasure to have a legend of our sport next to me who is mentoring me and is giving me advice to be better,” said Djokovic, who woke up on Friday with a stiff left shoulder but was confident that would not be an issue on Sunday.
”Boris, for sure he’s got a different motivation now than he had when he was playing. But he’s going through the emotions with me like when he was playing. I can see that.
“There are times when he (Becker) doesn’t sleep well before the big match, stuff like this. There has to be that kind of chemistry in order to really deliver something that you want.”
Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Ken Ferris