Wimbledon: Underdog status for Federer?
By Steven Wine
WIMBLEDON, England ó Bjorn Borg and Novak Djokovic say Roger Federer’s reign at Wimbledon is in jeopardy. Pete Sampras and Rafael Nadal say Federer remains the man to beat on grass.
“It’s maybe a time where some people talk a little bit too much,” Federer said before playing the first Centre Court match as he begins his pursuit of a sixth consecutive Wimbledon title.
That would equal the record established by William Renshaw, the champion in 1881-86. Since the early 1900s, Federer and Borg (1976-80) are the only men to win Wimbledon five times in a row. Federer’s 59-match winning streak on grass is the longest in the 40-year Open era.
Yet there has been plenty of debate the past two weeks regarding whether Federer is this year’s favorite. It seems everyone but old Willie Renshaw has weighed in on the subject.
Nobody disputes the 26-year-old Federer has struggled in recent months. For only the second time since early 2003, he has been beaten at two consecutive major tournaments. He has lost eight matches this year, only one less than in all of 2007. And he endured his most lopsided Grand Slam defeat in the French Open final two weeks ago, winning only four gqmes against Nadal.
Ranked No. 1 since February 2004, Federer blames his slow start this year on a winter bout with mononucleosis and says he feels fine now. He showed no signs of slippage when he moved to grass the week after the loss in Paris, winning in Germany without losing his serve, much less a set.
That was against a weak field, however, and tfailed to squelch speculation Federer will soon be an ex-champion.
“I got the question, ‘Can Roger win Wimbledon?”‘ said Andy Roddick, who lost to Federer in the 2004 and 2005 finals. “I found that to be one of the most ridiculous questions I’ve ever answered in my life.”
Tell it to Borg. After erroneously predicting Federer would give Nadal a tough test in the French Open final, Borg now says Nadal and Djokovic are more likely to win.