Seven Wimbledons? Dream on, Fed

17 June 2011 - 03:49 By Dave James, Sapa-AFP

Defending champion Rafael Nadal is poised to end Roger Federer's lingering dream of a seventh Wimbledon title and nip ahead in the race to be crowned the greatest player of all time.

World No1 Nadal took his grand slam title tally to 10 with a sixth French Open win two weeks ago - his fourth final win in Paris over Federer - and is now only six grand slams behind the great Swiss.

The Spaniard will be chasing his third Wimbledon trophy, a feat that could sink for good Federer's hopes of a seventh title to match the record of Pete Sampras.

Crucially, time is on Nadal's side. He is almost five years younger than Federer who, at 29, will be acutely aware that Sampras's seventh and last Wimbledon triumph in 2000 came two months before he reached the same age.

But Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion and runner-up in 2006 and 2007, is not prepared to write off his great rival, whom he has faced 25 times, just yet.

"When you talk about these statistics, when you try and make these comparisons, really it's not very interesting to me," said Nadal, who will head to Wimbledon with his batteries recharged following an early defeat at Queens.

"I'm very happy with what I have, with who I am. I'm not the best player in the history of tennis. I think I'm amongst the best. That's true. That's enough for me."

Federer, now without a grand slam title since his 16th at the 2010 Australian Open, was stunned by the Czech Republic's Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year.

It was his earliest exit at the All England Club since his first-round defeat by Mario Ancic in 2002.

But he has been buoyed by his run to the French Open final, ending Novak Djokovic's 43-match winning streak.

Wimbledon is his second home. "This is where it all started for me back in 2003; or even with beating Pete Sampras earlier in 2001. So that's why I always really enjoy coming back," said Federer.

"To win Wimbledon is always, for me, the No1 goal of the season."

Djokovic, the Australian Open winner who is poised to depose Nadal as world No1, has yet to make a Wimbledon final, losing in the 2010 semifinal to Berdych in straight sets and to Nadal, also in the last four, in 2007.

But the world No2 Serb, who skipped the traditional Wimbledon warm-up at Queen's Club because of tendinitis, has been tipped to finally succeed at the All England Club by Andre Agassi.

"I think he will be even better there and hungrier for success," said 1992 champion Agassi.

Djokovic goes into Wimbledon insisting that the end of his winning streak will not be a burden.

"It was the best five months of my life, my tennis career," said the Serb. "It had to end somewhere. I knew it was coming."