Federer warning to title challengers

Roger Federer today warned the pretenders to his Wimbledon crown he feels as good as ever ahead of his first-round match with Slovakia’s Dominik Hrbaty.

Federer was scheduled to be first on Centre Court at 1pm as he looked to put his thrashing at the hands of Rafael Nadal in the French Open final behind him.

The world number one won his fifth Halle title last Sunday to extend his unbeaten streak on grass to 59 matches, and although he has lost both his previous meetings with Hrbaty, neither match was on grass and the most recent was back in 2004.

Federer has endured a poor season by his own incredibly high standards, winning just two low-key titles – one on grass, one on clay – and has lost eight times already in 2008; last year he lost just nine matches in total and from 2004 to 2006 amazingly suffered just 15 defeats.

However, the Swiss star was suffering from glandular fever earlier this year and insisted he feels in good shape now as he targets a 13th grand slam title.

“Maybe at the beginning of the year, I felt a little slow,” the 26-year-old admitted.

“I just felt a little bit rattled due to the sickness I had.

“But today I feel as good again as last year. I’ve played plenty of matches. I feel like I’m playing well, which is good.”

Federer is followed on court by French Open champion and top seed Ana Ivanovic, the Serbian taking on Paraguay’s Rossana De Los Rios.

“I do feel very excited to be back on grass and to start competing again,” said Ivanovic, who reached the semi-finals last year before losing to eventual champion Venus Williams.

“The last few weeks gave me a lot of confidence, so I’m very, very excited about the new challenges. I think from first match on, you have to be alert. Especially on grass, everything is happening so fast and there are many girls that can give you trouble.”

The third match on Centre Court sees third seed and Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, a semi-finalist last year, up against Germany’s Michael Berrer.

Serena Williams kicks off the action on court one against Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi followed by 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt against Holland’s Robin Haase, followed by the man he beat in the 2002 final, David Nalbandian, against Frank Dancevic.

Andy Murray will have to wait until tomorrow to begin his campaign against Fabrice Santoro, but three British players will be in action.

Former British number one Elena Baltacha faces Germany’s Angelique Kerber on court 11 followed by British number two Alex Bogdanovic against Italy’s Simone Bolelli.

Melanie South is fourth on court 18 against Ukraine’s Alona Bondarenko, the 28th seed.

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