London: Roger Federer reached the Wimbledon last 16 for the 18th time on Saturday and then admitted that overwhelming title favourite Novak Djokovic “deserves” to stand on the brink of history.
Djokovic can draw level with Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 Grand Slam titles if he secures a sixth Wimbledon title next weekend.
That will leave the world number one needing just the US Open in September to become only the third man in history, and first since Rod Laver in 1969, to complete the calendar Grand Slam.
“It’s just very, very impressive to see what he’s doing this year,” said Federer after beating Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday to book a place in the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the 69th time.
“He’s able to have different ways how to win matches. He’s done incredibly well in Australia, now again also in Paris. That was exceptional, of course.
“He looks like the big favourite here. He deserves it. He’s worked extremely hard. He’s playing great at the same time, too. He’s going to be tough to beat.”
Djokovic has already achieved something that both Federer and Nadal have so far failed to do – win all four Slams twice.
The Serb has this year also taken Federer’s record for total weeks spent at world number one.
Eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer is the third-oldest man to reach the round of 16 at the All England Club in the Open Era – after Pancho Gonzales (41) in 1969 and Ken Rosewall (40) in 1975.
He could have wrapped up Saturday’s match in straight sets when he had two break points in the 11th game of the third set.
However, Norrie dug deep to force the tie into a fourth set but when Federer broke for 5-4, there was no second opportunity.
Federer finished with 48 winners as he won his 104th Wimbledon match.
He will face Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Monday for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It’s a nice stat to hear,” said Federer when informed of making the last 16 of a Slam for the 69th time.
That’s 14 more than Djokovic and 19 ahead of Nadal.
“It proves to me when I wake up in the morning that has happened,” added Federer who will turn 40 in five weeks’ time.
“I have loved every minute and I hope there’s a bit more left in me. It’s a pleasure still playing right now.
“This one is special because I’m almost 40 – at this point it’s all a bonus and I will see how far I can go here.”