In the first Centre Court match of the Championships, defending champion Roger Federer will take on Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic for a place in the round of 64. Federer, who is an eight-time champion at Wimbledon, is unquestionably the favourite to lift the title again, but has not been unchallenged so far this grass court season. Lajovic has just two Wimbledon wins to his name, but has been playing some fine tennis this year. Who will come out on top?
Federer and Lajovic have met just once before, with that meeting coming at Wimbledon last year in the second round. Lajovic made a fast start to break Roger Federer early in the first set, but the Swiss swiftly struck back. Lajovic held on to reach a tiebreak, but the tide of the match had turned against him and Federer won it without losing a point. Thereafter the writing was on the wall and though Lajovic continued to battle valiantly, Federer progressed a 7-6 6-3 6-2 winner.
Last time out
Federer, who missed the clay court season for the third year in a row, made the perfect start to his grass campaign with a title in Stuttgart, defeating Milos Raonic in the final. But it did not go quite so well for the Swiss in Halle, where he was aiming for a tenth title. He battled through to the final, but was denied there by Borna Coric in three sets 6-7 6-3 2-6 having looked fallible all week. There is no doubt Federer is still the favourite at Wimbledon, but there are cracks in the façade.
Lajovic had a profitable clay swing, reaching a career high ranking of world #56 off the back of his efforts, which included taking second seeded Alexander Zverev the distance in Paris. He has played just one grass court tournament, however, making the trip to Turkey to compete in Antalya. He got the better of Slovakian qualifier Filip Horansky in the first round, but was ousted in three sets by Nikoloz Basilashvili in the second.
How do they match up?
The Centre Court crowd will be treated to two excellent one-handed backhands, which are always popular with the Wimbledon spectators. For Lajovic, it is his biggest weapon, and the Serbian will likely look to take it down the line as often as he can, a shot he uses to good effect. Federer, however, has a rather larger attacking arsenal. The centrepiece of it is his serve, which though not the most powerful is surely the most accurate in the game.
That is backed up by his aforementioned backhand, which has improved considerably under the tutelage of coach Ivan Ljubicic, and his excellent forehand. Federer, who grew up in an era still dominated by serve-and-volleyers, is comfortable in the forecourt and has some of the softest hands at the net on the Tour. An attacking approach has led him to eight Wimbledon titles, and it is hard to imagine that he will not play in a similar style again this year.
Last year, Lajovic gave a good account of himself against Federer without ever looking like he would win the match. It seems likely that the outcome will be similar again this year. The world #57 is not particularly adept on a grass court, and doesn’t have the weapons to really knock Federer out of his stride on a court where he has played some of his best tennis. The top seed will have too much for Lajovic in a straight sets win.