Ageless Federer targets ninth Wimbledon title
ROGER Federer is already the most prolific and oldest winner of the Wimbledon men's singles title but when he saunters into the All England Club on Monday he will do so as favourite to lift the trophy for a ninth time.
The seemingly ageless Swiss, who turn 37 in August, has planned his year around defending the title he claimed last year by beating Croatia's Marin Cilic.
If anything, Federer's 2017 Wimbledon fortnight was the most impressive of his career as he swept through the draw without losing a set for the first time - ending a five-year wait to nudge ahead of Pete Sampras on the all-time list. Nothing that has happened in the past 12 months suggests Federer's hunger is diminished with victory at this year's Australian Open taking his grand slam title haul to 20.
He skipped the clay-court season that was against dominated by his great rival Rafael Nadal, who last month won the French Open for an 11th time to move to within three of Federer's record grand slam tally.
Federer returned to the grass courts in Germany, winning in Stuttgart before reaching the Halle final this month, where he was surprisingly lost to Borna Coric.
While the Croat's victory offers some encouragement for the rest of the field, Federer hasn't dwelled on it.
After all, he lost to veteran German Tommy Haas in the build-up to last year's Wimbledon but was untouchable once he arrived in his favourite English country garden.
"Federer is the favourite, he is playing at least as well as he was last year," former world No. 1 Mats Wilander said.
"Yes he has lost a few three-set matches this year but Wimbledon is completely different."
Friday's draw handed Federer a comfortable looking route into the second week but while Wilander says the Swiss will again be the man to beat, he believes there's enough threats to make this year's tournament the most intriguing for years.
"It's not like Nadal at the French Open," Wilander said.
"I would back the field over Federer, just."
Second seed Nadal, who won the first of his two Wimbledon titles in an epic final against Federer 10 years ago, has not been beyond the fourth round since 2011 but arrives full of vim and vigour and could thrive in the predicted hot conditions.
Third seed Cilic saw his final hopes wrecked last year by a painful blister but he won the Queen's club title last week and according to Wilander is a player even Federer fears.
Three-times champion Novak Djokovic appears to have rediscovered his 'human brickwall' capabilities but twice champion Andy Murray is only a handful of matches into a comeback from a hip injury that needed surgery in January.
Of the new generation Alexander Zverev is seeded fourth but it is Australian Nick Kyrgios who looks the most likely to make an impression on the Wimbledon lawns.