ROGER FEDERER will begin his campaign for a record sixth straight Wimbledon title on the back of his 59th consecutive win on grass.
The world number one equalled Pete Sampras’ record of 10 grass court titles with his fifth victory in Halle last weekend — his previous four were all followed by Wimbledon triumphs.
“That’s exactly what I hope for this time,” Federer said. “That’s why I’m so satisfied. That’s why I will go to Wimbledon with a lot of hope.”
Hope rather than expectation? It is no wonder the feeling persists that backing the Swiss star to win in SW19 is no longer the sure thing it once was, with Federer’s air of invincibility eroded by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open, and then shredded by Rafael Nadal in Paris.
Of course that crushing defeat to Nadal in the French Open final was on clay, but Nadal has proved he is no slouch on grass either.
The 22-year-old has lost to Federer in the last two Wimbledon finals, but pushed him all the way in a five-set thriller 12 months ago and lifted his first title on grass in the Artois Championships while Federer was winning in Halle.
“For grass I’ve improved some things,” admitted the world number two. “The serve is important but I play more slices, changing the way of the point with slice sometimes. I’m feeling good with my volleys too.”
Djokovic concedes Nadal has improved considerably on grass, but has taken enormous confidence from his Australian Open victory, his first grand slam title.
And the 21-year-old is keen to do equally well at Wimbledon if he can get lucky with the weather this time.
“Last year I was one of the players really hurt bad by the weather,” Djokovic said. “I had to play one match over five days.
“Then I just could not hold on, because I had marathon matches in the fourth round and quarter-finals, lasting almost five hours. I was just hurt and too exhausted to play in the semis.
“Wimbledon is my favourite Grand Slam, I have always said that. I have always wanted to win Wimbledon.’’
Meanwhile former Wimbledon champion Martina Hingis has backed top seed Ana Ivanovic to triumph at the All England Club this year but says the retirement of Justine Henin has left a void in the women’s game.
Hingis, who beat Jana Novotna to win her first and only SW19 title in 1997 at the age of 16, believes Ivanovic is best equipped to seize the mantle having claimed her first French Open crown earlier this month.
But the Swiss star bemoaned the loss of Henin, whom she described as “a little warrior” in a women’s game which has become increasingly reliant on strength and power.
Hingis said: “Everyone was shocked to hear about Justine’s retirement and her reasons for it. She was one of the last little warriors out there. She was known for being such a fighter and her decision was so abrupt.”
Hingis believes Ivanovic will have the edge in a women’s competition, with the likes of Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters also in serious contention.
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