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Federer still eyes record 7th title
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 06 - 2012

LONDON – Roger Federer insists he can still match Pete Sampras's record of seven Wimbledon triumphs despite Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal having developed an iron grip on Grand Slam glory.
Federer is fighting time as well as the unwavering dominance of Djokovic, the defending champion, and Nadal, who have won nine of the last 10 majors between them and contested the last four Grand Slam finals.
World No. 3 Federer, who celebrated the last of his record 16 Grand Slam crowns at the 2010 Australian Open, will be 31 in August.
Sampras was 28 when he won the seventh and last of his Wimbledon titles in 2000.
Adding to Federer's headache is the knowledge that Djokovic is still only 25 while Nadal is 26.
It wasn't long ago that Wimbledon represented Federer's traditional bolt-hole, winning five successive championships between 2003 and 2007, then adding a sixth in 2009.
But even in his London safe haven, the shadow of Nadal has loomed large.
The Spaniard, who has just collected a record seventh French Open title, deposed Federer in a five-set epic in 2008, having been runner-up in the two previous years.
Federer's last triumph in 2009 came when Nadal was sidelined with a knee injury.
In 2010, Tomas Berdych knocked him out in the quarterfinals while in 2011, the Swiss lost his first ever Grand Slam match from two sets to love up when he was bludgeoned to defeat in the last eight by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Two months later, Djokovic overcame the loss of the first two sets, and saved two match points, to beat Federer in the US Open semifinals. The Serb's straight sets win over Federer in the semifinals at Roland Garros earlier this month only served to darken the Swiss player's mood.
His Wimbledon chances weren't helped by a loss in the Halle final to 34-year-old Tommy Haas.
But Federer, who faces Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos in the first round, believes only a fool would write him off.
“My confidence is very good. I've won many tournaments, so many matches the last year or so that I feel perfect in this regard,” Federer said on the eve of his 14th Wimbledon appearance.
“I'm match fit and I'm match tough right now. That's also key going into a Grand Slam. The hunger is big. I don't think I need to elaborate too much on that.”
Djokovic heads for Wimbledon with the burden of history now off his shoulders after his bid to become just the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once was shattered by Nadal in Paris.
Nadal, meanwhile, has played in five of the last six Wimbledon finals – winning in 2008 and 2010 – missing the 2009 tournament only because of injury.
After winning a record seventh French Open, the Spaniard suffered a shock Halle quarterfinal exit to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
British hopes of a home champion – the first since Fred Perry in 1936 – once again reside with world No. 4 Andy Murray whose build-up has been hampered by a back injury.
Maria Sharapova admits winning Wimbledon just weeks after securing her first French Open title would be the crowning glory of her career.
Sharapova captivated the All England Club as a 17-year-old who came from nowhere to beat Serena Williams in the final eight years ago and the Russian is convinced she is finally back in the right form and condition to emulate that astonishing triumph.
The Russian's victory over Sara Errani in the Roland Garros final earlier this month was a cathartic moment for the 25-year-old, who had gone four years without winning a major as she struggled with the aftermath of serious shoulder surgery.
Her gruelling journey back to Grand Slam glory, and the world number one ranking she now holds for the first time since 2008, is a testament to Sharapova's fierce competitive instincts, but she has never been one to rest on her laurels. “I don't know if words can really describe the feeling of winning a Grand Slam,” Sharapova said on the eve of the tournament.
Sharapova was beaten in the final by Petra Kvitova last year and her bid for revenge could be aided by the relatively poor form of several of the top seed's main rivals.
Kvitova arrives in London desperately hoping to rediscover the winning feeling she savoured 12 months ago.
Since defeating Sharapova, the 22-year-old has struggled to live up to her new billing as a major force in the women's game.
She has no titles on the WTA Tour this year and suffered semi-final defeats against Sharapova in the Australian and French Opens.
One of the most fascinating sub-plots of the tournament will be the form of Serena Williams, who could meet Sharapova in a re-match of the 2004 final.
Losing to France's Virginie Razzano in the French Open first round last month ranked as the worst Grand Slam result of Williams' illustrious career.
If the 30-year-old American, who has 13 majors to her name – including four at Wimbledon – is in the right frame of mind, there is every chance she could bounce back quickly.
Prior to her Paris nightmare, Williams had been in good form, winning 17 successive claycourt matches and she is usually even more dominant at Wimbledon.
“Whether I had won in Paris or lost like I did in the first round, I am always extremely motivated. If anything, I think losing makes me even more motivated,” Serena said.
World No. 2 Victoria Azarenka could be a serious threat if she can recapture the form that saw her win the Australian Open and three other titles in the first four months of the year.
But Australia's Sam Stosur has endured a slump since her maiden Grand Slam triumph.
Meanwhile, two giants of the women's game – Venus Williams and Clijsters – will be unseeded at Wimbledon for the first time in more than a decade after struggles with illness and injury respectively. — Agencies

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