LONDON — Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are building a Grand Slam rivalry, one that perhaps someday will merit mention alongside Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal or Djokovic-Nadal.
When No. 1-ranked Djokovic faces No. 2 Murray today to determine Wimbledon's men's champion, it will be their fourth meeting in a major final and third in less than a year.
Djokovic beat Murray at the Australian Open in 2011. Murray beat Djokovic at the U.S. Open in September. Djokovic returned the favor in January's Australian Open.
That's not yet up to the lofty standard set by Federer and Nadal, who played each other in eight Grand Slam title matches from 2006-11. Djokovic and Nadal have contested five major finals since 2010, including a stretch of four in a row.
Unlike Federer-Nadal, which features vastly contrasting games, Djokovic-Murray is a matchup of rather similar styles.
They are improving servers and fantastic returners who silenced big hitters in Friday's semifinals. It's tough to decide whether it was more surprising that Djokovic had a 22-4 edge in aces during his five-set victory over No. 8 seed Juan Martin del Potro or that Murray had a 20-9 edge in aces to beat No. 24 Jerzy Janowicz in four sets.
Murray and Djokovic are cover-every-inch hustlers who can switch from defense to offense quick as can be.
"There is some similarities there, in terms of … stats and stuff," said Murray, aiming to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. "I mean, both of us return well. That's probably the strongest part of our games. Both play predominantly from the baseline.
"We both move well, but a different sort of movement."
Djokovic, the 2011 Wimbledon champion, seeks his seventh Grand Slam title overall in his 11th major final. Murray is 1-5 in major finals.
Born a week apart in May 1987 (Murray is seven days older), Djokovic and Murray met as junior players.
"We know each other since we were 11 years old," Djokovic said. "On and off the court, we have lots of respect for each other. Always very fair, very honest relationship. Now we are big rivals, and it's difficult.
"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."