Reem's Wimbledon Diary: Kerber's night out, footy fan Garbi

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Our tennis expert Reem Abulleil has been behind the scenes at SW19.

It’s always a blast spending the last few days before Wimbledon roaming the grounds and catching players’ practices and Saturday was no exception.

We get a full practice schedule for all the players so we can head to specific courts for specific sessions.

I went to Court 12 Saturday to catch Roger Federer hit with Kei Nishikori but the Swiss was a no-show. Instead, preparing Nishikori for his tough opener against the huge-serving Sam Groth was the Japanese’s coach, Michael Chang.

Want to know how 175cm Chang tried to simulate the serve of the 193cm Groth for Nishikori’s return practice? Chang stood mid-court serving non-stop at Nishikori, showing no signs of the wear and tear a 44-year-old retired tennis player would be feeling in the same situation.

I also caught part of Serena and Venus Williams’ practice. Serena was working on her serve while Venus slammed back some epic returns and those few minutes I watched reminded me of how Serena got to be so good – she spent her entire life having Venus as a practice partner.

Ernests Gulbis was practicing with Novak Djokovic before rain interrupted their session while Dominic Thiem was hitting with Gilles Simon.

Garbine Muguruza was on the next court with Julia Goerges, while Carla Suarez Navarro was playing a practice set with Angelique Kerber.

Kerber, the Australian Open champion, told us later during her press conference that she always goes to a musical each year during Wimbledon and she plans on doing the same one day this fortnight. But she insisted that would not be the case on Sunday, as she will be otherwise busy watching Germany take on Slovakia in the Euro 2016 last-16 stage.

“I think they have a tough draw right now,” said Kerber of Die Mannschaft.

“I said from the beginning that I believe in this team because they know each other. This team is a really good team. They have great players. I think that they can go really far. I hope that they can win the Euro.”

Muguruza is also keeping tabs on Spain and she showed up to her press conference wearing the national team’s football jersey in a show of support.

I asked her who her favourite Spanish football players are and she named Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez as her top-three.

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Murray hoping Lendl confidence-booster can help deliver Wimbledon win repeat

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Murray reunited with Lendl in a winning effort at Queen's.

Andy Murray returns to SW19 armed with the not-so-secret weapon that helped him land the trophy here three years ago – that is of course his coach Ivan Lendl.

Murray and Lendl had a successful two years and three months together between the start of 2012 and March 2014, during which the Scot won his only two grand slam titles to date.

Lendl was forced to part ways with Murray, citing his inability to commit to the necessary weeks of travel as the main reason but the pair have reunited two weeks ago, looking to revive their glory days together.

The start of their second stint as a team was a promising one with Murray winning Queens for a fifth time in his first week back with the eight-time major winner.

As Murray looks to become the first British man to win multiple Wimbledon titles since Fred Perry, who won the title at the All England Club from 1934-36, the Scot world No2 says reuniting with Lendl has given him an extra boost heading into this fortnight’s action.

“It gives a bit of extra confidence, because I know last time we worked together, it was very successful,” Murray told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday, ahead of his first round on Tuesday against fellow Brit Liam Broady. “I trust in what he says.”

Murray, who split with his ex-coach Amelie Mauresmo prior to the French Open, has been working with Jamie Delgado and says Lendl has seemingly resumed his duties alongside the British coach.

“Genuinely it was easy, yeah. I mean, it was not difficult. He’s (Lendl) obviously very sort of clear in what he thinks and where my game needs to go if I want to keep improving and winning the major events again.

“Because I trust and believe in his opinion, it also helps when you get back on the court together. When we’ve chatted, it’s all gone very well.

“I believe my practice this week has been good. My team’s been happy with everything. If it wasn’t going well, probably wouldn’t have had a day off today.”

Also in a grand slam-winning drought is world No3 Roger Federer, who skipped the French Open with a back injury that followed knee surgery he had in February after the Australian Open.

The Swiss returned to action on the grass, losing in the Stuttgart and Halle semi-finals coming into Wimbledon, but says he is pleased with how his body has reacted to playing those matches.

“I think really for me was to get some confidence and some knowledge of where I was going to be in those seven matches in 10 days in Stuttgart and Halle,” said Federer, who is looking to win a record-extending eighth Wimbledon title and a first major since 2012.

“I think that was crucial for me going into Wimbledon knowing, okay, I passed that test, the body can take that amount of tennis, four matches back-to-back-to-back.

“It’s really, really important for your mind to know, then you also feel you can manage the five-setters. If you get a day off and all that stuff, it’s not a problem.”

A freak accident while giving his kids a bath after the Australian Open saw Federer suffer a torn meniscus in his knee that required surgery. For a man who prides himself on being healthy for the majority of his career, going under the knife was an experience the 34-year-old describes as “very, very sad”.

The back problems that followed made things tougher for him, and forced Federer to pull out of the French Open and end his remarkable record streak of competing at 65 consecutive majors. But the Swiss is keeping things in perspective.

“This back has won me 88 titles, so I’m okay with that back. It’s okay if it messes around with me sometimes,” said Federer, who commences his Wimbledon campaign on Monday against Argentinean Guido Pella.

“Clearly I’m not thinking of the title right away. It’s too far ahead. It’s too far. Regardless if even Novak (Djokovic) or Andy would be in the draw, and they are in the draw, they are the big favourites in my opinion. They’ve had such a great last six months, last few years. To me they are the ones to beat.”

Meanwhile, No4 seed Stan Wawrinka, has also bolstered his coaching staff with a new addition this grass court season, bringing in 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek to work alongside Magnus Norman.

Wawrinka says it was Norman’s idea to invite Krajicek to the table.

“We decided that maybe the grass was a good time to do it, not only because of the surface, but because I’m here in London for three, four weeks in the same place,” explained Wawrinka, who has never made it past the quarter-finals at Wimbledon – his least successful grand slam.

“You know you have time to practice, you can work on many things. The things we wanted to work on with Magnus was the thing that we thought that Richard can help with a little bit.

“I think it’s been going well so far. Richard has a lot of experience as a player. He won here. He used to be an amazing tennis player, really aggressive on the court, serve and volley a lot.”

Wawrinka faces Taylor Fritz in the opening round on Tuesday and could take on Juan Martin del Potro in the second round.

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From Djokovic to Zverev: Six men to watch at Wimbledon

Sport360 staff 25/06/2016
All eyes will be on Novak Djokovic while young star Alexander Zverev is causing a stir.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic is undoubtedly the favourite to win his third consecutive Wimbledon title and fourth in total but he will face stiff competition from the in-form Andy Murray and legend Roger Federer, if the Swiss can get back to his best on the lawns of SW19.

Meanwhile, there are a number of players, who on their day, have the ability to make headlines of their own.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

[inlinefactbox1] ATP Ranking: 1 Age: 29 Best Wimbledon result: Winner (2011, 2014-15) With the French Open monkey finally off his back, Djokovic comes to Wimbledon feeling differently than any of the other times he has featured at the All England Club. Last year, his burning desire to get over his French Open defeat helped him capture a third Wimbledon crown. Will he be just as hungry this fortnight? ANDY MURRAY ATP Ranking: 2 Age: 29 Best Wimbledon result: Winner (2013) [inlinefactbox2] The Scot has made the semis or better in five of his last six grand slam appearances but is yet to win a major since triumphing at Wimbledon three years ago. Is back with coach Ivan Lendl, the man who guided him to his two slam titles, and is in great form. But is Lendl enough to snap Murray’s Djokovic hoodoo? ROGER FEDERER ATP Ranking: 3 Age: 34 Best Wimbledon result: Winner (2003-07, 2009, 2012) [inlinefactbox3] Hasn’t played much this year (only 22 matches in six and a half months) due to his back injury and heads to SW19 coming off semi-final losses to Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev in Stuttgart and Halle respectively. Still he’s managed to play seven matches on grass this month, which should be enough preparation. OUTSIDERS TO WATCH AT SW19 ALEXANDER ZVEREV (GER) Seeded at a slam for the first time, the 19-year-old German has a game tailor-made for grass and he already showed his mettle on the surface in his victory over Roger Federer en route to the Halle final a week ago. This is just his fifth grand slam main draw but he can always cause an upset. BERNARD TOMIC (AUS) Made the quarters at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old qualifier in 2011 but has not reached the same stage at a slam since. When focused and motivated, is a real threat and should he get past Verdasco in round one, he could emerge from a quarter of the draw he shares with Wawrinka. IVO KARLOVIC (CRO) Shares a quarter of the draw with Kei Nishikori and Roger Federer and is a player no one would like to face no grass, with his monster serve that lands him countless aces. Has Borna Coric in the first round before his draw opens up a bit. Is a former quarter-finalist at Wimbledon.

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