NOVAK Djokovic insists it’s only fair that he should play his Wimbledon quarter-final on Centre Court on Wednesday, handing the All England Club a dilemma over relegating Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal to Court One.
Despite being a three-time champion, Djokovic has featured just once on Centre Court — against British home favourite Kyle Edmund in the last 32 — in the opening four rounds.
By contrast, eight-time champion Federer, and Nadal, the title winner on two occasions, have played exclusively on the 15,000-seater Centre Court.
So, with two quarter-finals being played on Centre Court and two on Court One, something has got to give.
“We’ll see. Hopefully,” said Djokovic when asked if he expected to face Japan’s Kei Nishikori on the most famous arena in tennis.
The Serb went on to tell Serbian media that he “deserved” to be on Centre Court.
Djokovic has played twice on the 11,000-capacity Court One this year but was shunted off to the 4,000-seater Court Two for his second round clash against Horacio Zeballos.
Three times he was scheduled last on court, putting him at risk of falling victim to fading light with the burden of having to return the following day.
He managed to finish off Russia’s Karen Khachanov in straight sets in the gathering gloom on Monday.
Twelve months ago, his last-16 match with Adrian Mannarino, also scheduled for Court One, was cancelled despite Centre Court with its retractable roof being available.
Djokovic had to play that fourth round on Tuesday and quarter-final on Wednesday when he was forced to retire against Tomas Berdych with an elbow injury.
On Monday, he almost fell victim to the scheduling curse again.
“I heard that the organisers were planning to cancel my match if Gael Monfils and Kevin Anderson went to a fifth. Luckily for me it didn’t happen,” he said of the tie which preceded his clash with Khachanov.
Bizarrely, organisers decided to put a mixed doubles match on Centre Court, which was concluded under the roof after sunset.
– ‘Big war’ –
“It’s what I wished for,” said Djokovic when asked if he would have preferred to move to Centre Court.
“Like last year, I received the information that they can’t reschedule my match on the other court because of the tickets that are presold.
“I guess there are other factors that play in.”
Wherever he ends up playing, Djokovic, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 champion, will be favourite to see off Nishikori for a 14th time in 16 meetings.
Nishikori is playing in his first Wimbledon quarter-final.
He is also the first Japanese man to reach the quarter-finals since Shuzo Matsuoka in 1995.
“It’s always like a big war for me,” said Nishikori on facing Djokovic.
Defending champion Federer will be playing in his 16th Wimbledon quarter-final and 53rd at all Grand Slams.
His opponent on Wednesday is eighth-seeded Kevin Anderson, the first South African since Wayne Ferreira in 1994 to get to the last eight.
Top seed Federer, 36, has now won 32 consecutive sets at Wimbledon, just two behind his record run from the third round in 2005 to his title triumph in 2006.
He also holds a 4-0 career lead over 2017 US Open runner-up Anderson who has yet to take a set off the Swiss.
Federer hasn’t dropped serve at Wimbledon so far but is wary of the challenge posed by Anderson whose big serving style is flourishing on courts cooked by last week’s heatwave.
“It’s definitely helped a certain style of player, maybe the big servers,” said 20-time major winner Federer.
– ‘It’s about being smart’ –
Nadal has made the quarter-finals for the first time since finishing runner-up to Djokovic in 2011.
The world number one, chasing an 18th major, will now take on Juan Martin del Potro boasting a 10-5 career lead.
Del Potro is in his first quarter-final at the tournament since 2013 when he reached the semi-final.
Many are already anticipating a Sunday final between Federer and Nadal, 10 years after their 2008 epic championship showdown widely regarded as the greatest final ever played.
“Facing Roger again will be something fantastic,” said Nadal.
“But if you ask me if I prefer another one, I say yes. It’s about being smart, no?”
Wednesday’s other quarter-final sees 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic tackle US ninth seed John Isner, making his Wimbledon last-eight debut at 33.
It won’t be pretty.
Isner, 33, has not been broken in 74 service games while Raonic has dropped serve just three times in 72 games.
Isner has unleashed a tournament-leading 135 aces while Canadian 13th seed Raonic is in second place, having fired 117.
Raonic has the fastest serve of this year’s Wimbledon at 147 miles (236.5 kilometres) per hour, while Isner is just behind on 144mph (231.7kph). (AFP)