Old guard snuff out crisis talk
6:50am Saturday 5th July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer kept the next generation waiting for their big moment as they set up a second grand slam final meeting at Wimbledon.
After all the talk about a changing of the guard, it is two of the 'big four' who have dominated the major events for so long that will fight for the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
Djokovic came closest to slipping up against Andy Murray's conqueror Grigor Dimitrov but saved four set points in the fourth to win 6-4 3-6 7-6 (7/2) 7-6 (9/7).
Federer followed him onto Centre Court and once again ruled the stage, beating another 23-year-old, Milos Raonic, 6-4 6-4 6-4 in less than two hours.
The Swiss will now bid for an unprecedented eighth Wimbledon title against a player with whom the head-to-head series is evenly poised, with 18 wins for Federer and 16 for Djokovic.
Strangely, only one of those 34 matches came in a grand slam final, and that back in 2007 at the US Open - the first of Djokovic's now 14 grand slam finals - while their only previous meeting at Wimbledon was in the semi-finals two years ago.
Between them Federer, Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Murray have won 35 of the last 37 slam titles, and Federer is not surprised that will become 36 from 38.
He said: "It was always going to be hard to get rid of all four guys at the same time, let's be honest. It was probably inevitably going to be one guy around, maybe two.
"Novak did his end, I was hoping I was going to be the other one. So I'm very happy with that."
Djokovic has been remarkably consistent, reaching the final at 12 of the last 16 grand slams, but, having won four of the first five, he has gone on to lose five of the last six.
The last of those defeats came four weeks ago, Nadal once again denying Djokovic the French Open title he craves, and the Serbian conceded the tough losses have taken a mental toll.
He said: "Of course, there is plenty of motivation from my side to win this grand slam final after losing the last three out of four. It would mean a lot mentally for me.
"I know that I can win the title. I should have won a few matches that I lost in the finals of grand slams in the last couple of years.
"We will try to understand what I did wrong in the French Open final from a mental perspective, and try to make it better in two days.
"Not winning a title, but being in several finals, this is something that I want to undo. Hopefully I can get the title in two days and start a new nice series of winning grand slam titles."
Dimitrov will make his top-10 debut on Monday after his best grand slam, but the Bulgarian was keen not to get too excited about his achievement.
"I don't want to over-analyse or make such a big, big deal out of what just happened," he said.
"I worked for that. I think I deserve to be here. So to me, it's just a good step ahead."