A year ago Switzerland’s Roger Federer arrived at Wimbledon as an unfulfilled talent, with serious question marks hanging over his temperament.This content was published on June 21, 2004 - 08:27
On Monday he returned to the Centre Court as defending champion, world number one, and confident of adding a third grand-slam title to his growing list of tournament victories.
In his opening match, the Swiss outclassed British wildcard Alex Bogdanovic in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, 6-0.
Federer is in ominously good form. Earlier this month he won his second successive Halle title in Germany, and he has now gone 17 matches unbeaten on grass.
“I’m much more confident this year than last year and I’m definitely playing better,” he said.
“There are always little things I would like to improve, but if I’m playing at this level already, then obviously things are looking good for Wimbledon too.”
Since winning last year’s Wimbledon crown, his prodigious gifts have been given a free rein, and Federer has been virtually unstoppable on all surfaces.
Highlights include his near-flawless display at the Masters Cup in Houston, Texas, where he dismantled a thoroughbred field, and his Australian Open triumph.
He also proved that he is a force to be reckoned with on clay, ending Guillermo Coria’s 31-match winning streak in Hamburg.
He carried this form into the French Open at Roland Garros but came unstuck against three-times winner Gustavo Kuerten in the third round.
Commentators and opponents alike are struggling to find a weakness in his game.
“There hasn’t been such a complete player for years. Looking back at all the past champions, you could always find some kind of weakness – even with [Pete] Sampras,” René Stauffer, sports journalist with the “Tages-Anzeiger” newspaper, told swissinfo.
“Some experts go so far as to say that Roger Federer is the most complete player since Rod Laver – and Laver is the only man who won the Grand Slam twice, once as a pro and once as an amateur.”
Stauffer, who has followed the 22-year-old Basel player’s progress for several years, maintains that this year’s Wimbledon will be a crucial test of how far Federer has come.
He says Federer has the ability to make the Centre Court his own for many years to come, and anything other than a second title will be considered a failure back home.
“If you look back, history tells us that there are only a few players capable of winning Wimbledon, and if you are one of them it’s common that you keep on winning Wimbledon,” said Stauffer.
“Remember that Borg did it five times, Laver four times, McEnroe and Becker three times.
“Federer is only 22, so it will be interesting to see whether he can retain his title. The expectations are that he will, because he has the game and all the weapons to do it.”
Federer expects the biggest threat to his Wimbledon crown to come from Britain’s Tim Henman, former champion Lleyton Hewitt of Australia and world number two Andy Roddick of the United States.
“Henman is really one of my biggest rivals, and it’s going to be tough if I have to play him.”
The 29-year-old Henman, who surprised the tennis world by reaching the semi-finals at Roland Garros, has beaten the Swiss in six of their eight meetings.
Top-seeded Federer is in the other half of the draw to Henman, but the Swiss still faces a potentially tricky quarter-final against Hewitt.
swissinfo, Adam Beaumont
Federer has won five titles already this year: Halle, Hamburg, Australian Open, Dubai, Indian Wells.
He is ranked number one by a huge margin – almost 1,000 points ahead of Andy Roddick.
His biggest threats at Wimbledon are likely to be Roddick, Tim Henman and Lleyton Hewitt.
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