Roger Federer insists he won’t have an easy road to a record eighth Wimbledon crown despite the recent struggles of his title rivals.
Federer is the bookmakers’ favourite to win Wimbledon for the first time since 2012, after landing the Australian Open title in January and then pulling out of the French Open to remain fresh for his latest assault on the All England Club.
The 35-year-old’s challenge could be helped by Andy Murray’s hip injury, which prompted the reigning Wimbledon champion to withdraw from two exhibition matches this week after he was stunned in the Queen’s Club first round by world number 90 Jordan Thompson.
Novak Djokovic, three times a Wimbledon winner, won on grass at Eastbourne on Saturday, but the Serb has endured the worst run of his career over the last 12 months, while French Open champion Rafael Nadal hasn’t been past the fourth round at the All England Club since 2011.
While Federer is aware of his rival’s various issues, he still expects to be confronted by one or two of them in the latter stages at Wimbledon.
“Depending how fit he is, if he’s anything close to 100 percent physically, I consider Andy one of the big favourites to win the tournament. It’s that simple,” Federer told reporters at Wimbledon on Saturday.
“For me, everything that happened before Queen’s for Andy doesn’t matter so much because I feel like he’s one of the best players in the first week at Wimbledon. I don’t worry too much for him there. He can play himself into shape hopefully for week two.
“It’s the same for Novak and the same for Rafa. I think it’s very even when we put it all out on the line. Look, Novak is just coming back from winning Eastbourne now. Rafa is coming in red hot from the clay.
“So I see it positive for them rather than negative in some shape, which I’m sure people will try to see that way. I see that they are going to be tough to beat here.”
Lleyton Hewitt was the last man other than Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray to win Wimbledon, back in 2002.
There appears little chance of that changing this year and Federer, bidding to win his 19th Grand Slam title, agrees that the big four are still head and shoulders above the rest.
“Zverev and Kyrgios have shown what they can do, how good they can be. The likes of Raonic and Nishikori and Dimitrov I think are in a good spot right now where they can go very deep and nobody would really be surprised,” he said.
“Away from those five players, I’m not sure how deep we’re talking about. Are we talking about winning Wimbledon? That’s going to be obviously a long shot.
“It’s been very dominant by a few players here at Wimbledon, and in many of the other Slams too.”
Federer, seeded third, starts his bid to reach an 11th Wimbledon final with a first-round clash against Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.
Worryingly for his rivals, after missing the clay campaign, Federer is fresh and ready to roll again.
“It hurt because it was the first time I pulled out of a Slam actually feeling 100 percent ready to go,” he said.
“But it gave me the best chance for the grass, so I would never look back and have regrets once I came here. I don’t want to be at the mercy of my opponent. I want to take charge and play aggressive myself. For that I need to be fast on my feet and quick in my mind. I just need enough rest so I can play enough inspired tennis.”
* Provided by AFP