Ten years after Roger Federer made his Grand Slam breakthrough at Wimbledon, the 17-time major winner returns to the All England Club next week as defending champion, but with the clock ticking.
The Swiss put his growing army of critics firmly in their place in 2012 when, after back-to-back quarterfinal defeats, he captured his seventh Wimbledon title, equalling the record of Pete Sampras.
Federer, meanwhile, ended a 10-month title drought at the weekend when he won the Halle grasscourt tournament for the sixth time — it was his first piece of silverware since Cincinnati on the eve of the 2012 US Open.
That would have spiced up his confidence ahead of Wimbledon, but there are huge doubts over whether or not he can carry that spring in his elegant step onto the famous lawns of south-west London and be the first man to win Wimbledon eight times.
Age is a factor. Federer will be 32 in August while Sampras won the last of his Wimbledon titles as a 28-year-old in 2000.
An eighth victory for Federer next month would make him the second oldest champion at Wimbledon in the Open era, just behind Arthur Ashe who was six days short of his 32nd birthday when he triumphed in 1975.
Then there will be the all-important seedings which will be announced on Wednesday where two-time champion Rafael Nadal, fresh from a record-breaking eighth French Open victory, is likely to be seeded five.
That could see Federer facing his old rival as early as the quarterfinals while Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the runner-up last year, are potential semifinal opponents.
It’s a far cry from 2003 when Federer won his first Wimbledon, two years after beating his great hero Sampras in the fourth round and 12 months after a reality-checking first round howler against Mario Ancic.
Back then, his quarterfinal opponent was Sjeng Schalken while Andy Roddick, who he went on to beat in three finals, was overcome in the semifinals before a straight sets win over Mark Philippousis, ranked 48, in the title match. — AFP