If the first few days at the All England Club are an indicator to go by, then the men’s draw is more open than it has ever been since Roger Federer beat Mark Philippoussis in the 2003 Wimbledon final.
Rafael Nadal, the 2008 champion, looks more likely to be one of the finalists at the end of the second week, but the climb for Federer would be steep after the dogfights he’s had in the first two rounds.
After the Australian Open this year, Federer has gone through an unprecedented slump and has come to his favorite surface without having won a title since the first Grand Slam of the year.
On the other hand, Nadal, who missed last year’s Wimbledon due to injury, has devoured all clay court tournaments leading up to the French Open with an extra-large hunger.
After the three-clay court Masters 1000 events, Nadal won the French Open without losing a set to complete a perfect clay court season; a record-first in the history of the game. A five-setter in the second round of Wimbledon, though, shows that he too will have to pass sterner tests than the ones he had on his favoured surface.
Last year’s runner-up Andy Roddick, and semi-finalist Andy Murray, have looked in great shape in their initial two rounds and Serbian Novak Djokovic has also coasted to the third round. It all bodes well for tennis but is worrisome for the six-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer who is looking to tie the record with seven-time champion Pete Sampras.
For five years, Federer made winning the title look like a forgone conclusion as he displayed the yawning gap between him and the rest of the field. In 2008—after suffering the worst defeat of his career at the hands of Nadal in the French Open—Nadal ended Federer’s reign at Wimbledon in what is regarded as the best tennis match of all times.
In two years since then Federer has added four Grand Slam titles to sit at the top of the pile with 16 but his supremacy on grass and hardcourts is on the decline, and he will now have to display a different side of his game to remain competitive: The ability to guts it out in tough situations.
Federer seems a bit out of touch at Wimbledon and perhaps is lacking confidence though one good forehand and a smooth win could change that just like an inside out forehand against Tommy Haas at Roland Garros changed the entire 2009 for him.
Even if Federer is somehow able to work his way through the field, a clash with Nadal would mean playing a man high on confidence and also battling the inner demons that the presence of the Spaniard triggers in the mind of the cool Swiss.
The Wimbledon fortnight would reveal to Federer and his fans whether grass is now greener on the other side.
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