Roger Federer in prime form to capitalise on rivals' slips

Roger Federer represents something of a paradox at Wimbledon in 2014.

No player since Ken Rosewall more than 40 years ago has won a major title this close to their 33rd birthday. Yet Federer, just six weeks away from turning 33, enters this year’s Championships in arguably his strongest form for years.

A combination of factors have established the Swiss superstar in such a healthy position. One is that his chief rivals - fellow “Big Four” members Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - all arrive with question marks surrounding their form, fitness and mentality.

Nadal, who has fallen early at Wimbledon for the past two years, talked openly at Roland Garros about his struggles to adjust to the lawns and the pressure the courts place on his ailing body, and then lost in the opening round in Halle.

Djokovic’s struggles at the sharp end of Grand Slams - he has lost five of his past six major finals - will not be helped by a recurrence of a wrist injury that prompted his withdrawal from a recent grass-court exhibition. Murray, yet to reach a final since returning from back surgery, is in unfamiliar territory, defending a Wimbledon title and with a new coach at the helm.

Federer, meanwhile, finds himself in a better place, both physically and mentally, than he was 12 months ago. Then, he slumped to a shock four-set defeat to then 116th-ranked Sergiy Stakhovsky in the second round, his earliest exit in 11 years.

“I feel I have a very good chance again this year. I hope to utilise my fitness, the amount of matches I've played this year. So I'm really coming in with a much better feeling than maybe in the last year,” he said.

“This year I feel all the options are there. Return, serve, serve and volley, come in, my backhand - everything is working to my liking. For that reason, I feel I'm a bit more relaxed mentally because I know it is there.”

In fact, almost everything has been there for Federer since the beginning of the season. After suffering through a disappointing 2013 marred by a chronic back injury, he declared himself healthy at the ATP World Tour Finals in November and since then has reasserted himself at the top of the game.

An 11th consecutive Australian Open semi-final appearance was followed by trips to the finals at Masters events in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo, with a title in Dubai thrown in for good measure. In the past three months alone he has vaulted from No.8 to No.4 in the rankings.

And his momentum certainly has not slowed. With the tour’s move to grass, Federer was immediately in his comfort zone, romping to his seventh title in Halle and adding a flourish to his Wimbledon preparations.

“Winning Halle I think helped me in the sense that I know that things are good on grass. I'm not coming in from a bad Halle, a bad Wimbledon last year, otherwise then I would have more question marks,” he explained.

“I think Halle was able to settle things a bit down for me.”

It’s generally a more settled Federer regardless, these days. He is enjoying “super exciting” times with the recent addition of twin boys to his family and spending quality time with them, and says he appreciates even more his opportunities to play his favourite event on the calendar at this stage of his storied career.

Poised to embark on his 16th Championships, his desire remains undiminished, 11 years after his first triumph at the All England Club. It is an intimidating thought for everyone else in the draw.

“I always enjoy coming back here,” he said. “It's a pleasure being healthy and really fit and eager to give it a go again.”

Date: 21st June 2014, Source: Wimbledon


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