Novak Djokovic does not care that Britain has not had a men’s singles champion at Wimbledon for 77 years and today said he was ready to deny Andy Murray the trophy he desires above all others.
After a remarkable fortnight of upsets at the All England Club, tomorrow’s men’s final pits the top two seeds against one another.
It promises to be quite a battle: Djokovic, the world number one, bidding for a seventh grand slam crown, against home favourite Murray, on the verge of a special achievement.
The 26-year-old became Britain’s first male grand slam winner since 1936 when he overcame the Serbian at last year’s US Open.
Wimbledon is different, though. No Briton has triumphed in the men’s singles since Fred Perry all those years ago – not that Djokovic gives a hoot.
“For me it’s another final,” he said. “I don’t really think about that fact. I’m just trying to focus and get ready for what’s expecting me.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the final. It’s the biggest final in tennis that you can be a part of, so I’m very honoured to be playing in that match again.
“The 2011 experience and winning that trophy can maybe help me prior to tomorrow’s encounter.”
It makes the Serbian confident of coping with the partisan home support in what will be his 11th grand slam final.
However, Djokovic knows how much the Centre Court crowd can help. They played a big role two years ago as he overcame Rafael Nadal to secure his first Wimbledon title – something he had dreamt about in the mountain ranges of Kopaonik with his first coach, Jelena Gencic.
She first met Djokovic when he was six years old and was swift to spot his talent. Such was her impact that he celebrated his Wimbledon triumph by taking the trophy back to her house in Serbia.
There will be no such celebrations this year. Gencic passed away aged 76 last month.
“I’d rather not talk about it anymore,” Djokovic said.
“The only thing I can say is that she stays in my best memories and I know that she wants me to go out and fight for the trophy and win Wimbledon. It’s what I’m going to try to do.”
It was a rare sombre moment in a press conference littered with stories about his friend-cum-foe Murray.
“We have known each other since we were 11 years old,” Djokovic said, referring to their first meeting at a youth tournament in Tarbes, France.
“It was maybe my first international tournament. That’s where he crushed me.
“I remember his curly hair. That’s all I remember. I remember I had a short visit on the tennis court.”
Circumstances have changed markedly since and tomorrow will be the fourth grand slam final Djokovic and Murray have contested, with the Serbian holding the upper hand.
He has won their two Australian Open battles to Murray’s US Open triumph and holds a 11-7 head-to-head lead amid a growing rivalry that has changed the dynamics of their relationship.
“It is difficult,” Djokovic said. “He has his own team, his own routines, his own way.
“So we don’t get together and have dinners and parties, but we definitely always chat and remember the fun days we had as juniors.”
The friendship may be tougher now, but they still have fun.
A prime example came last year when Djokovic took his girlfriend away on holiday to Scotland.
The pair share a love of medieval castles so they went away for her birthday to Gleneagles, near Murray’s Dunblane home.
“I was passing by on the highway so I made a picture of the road sign of Dunblane and I sent him that photo,” the Serbian said.
“He said, ’What are you doing there?’. I said, ’I was paying you a visit but you’re not at home’.”
It was one of many asides from Djokovic during a relaxed interview in which he quashed concerns over his fitness after yesterday’s record-breaking semi-final with Juan Martin del Potro.
He was in upbeat mood but will not be so confident about returning to Scotland should he deny Murray tomorrow.
“I got a very friendly welcome, but I still hadn’t played Andy at that time,” Djokovic said with a smile.