Federer sets sights on more Wimbledon glory

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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The most prestigious tournament in tennis will get underway next week when Wimbledon swings into action, with Roger Federer looking to make some Open Era history with a sixth straight title at the famed All England Club.

Last year, Federer equaled the great Bjorn Borg with a fifth straight championship on the hallowed lawns, and a victory this year would give the remarkable Swiss a new Open-Era record. The only other man to capture six straight Wimbledons was William Renshaw, from 1881-86.

That's only 122 years ago!

Federer hasn't lost on his beloved grass in six years, when Croat Mario Ancic upended the Basel native in the opening round at the Big W. Combined with his appearances at the Gerry Weber Open, a Wimbledon tune-up in Halle, Federer has won 59 straight on the green stuff.

Roger Federer got the best of Rafael Nadal in the last two Wimbledon finals.
Between Federer on grass and Nadal on clay, you're talking about two of the greatest players ever on those particular surfaces.

And speaking of Nadal, it's quite possible that Federer could meet the mighty Spaniard in another Wimbledon finale, as the two have squared off in the last two title tilts at SW19. Federer won both of those meetings, but Nadal pushed the Swiss somethin' fierce last year, as Federer needed all five sets to prevail once again.

And it was only two weeks ago when Nadal embarrassed Federer in the French Open final, as the Swiss limped away a 6-1, 6-3, 6-0 lopsided loser at Roland Garros. It marked the third year in a row that the muscular Spaniard handled the elegant Swiss in the RG finale.

Nadal is a head-shaking 11-6 lifetime against Federer, but the Swiss is 2-0 when they face off on grass (the last two Wimby finals). Nadal's gotten fat against the Fed on clay, where the Mallorcan is a laughable 9-1 all-time versus the world No. 1.

The four-time French Open titlist Nadal is 3-0 versus the 12-time Grand Slam champion Federer this season, but all three meetings have come in finals on Nadal's preferred surface...dirt.

Federer is fresh off his fifth title in Halle, while Nadal is coming off his first-ever grass court championship, in London. Nadal beat American grass- court specialist Andy Roddick in the semis at The Queen's Club and then handled Australian Open champion and U.S. Open runner-up Novak Djokovic in the finale at the Artois Championships last week. The two-time Wimbledon runner-up Roddick was the reigning Queen's Club champ at the time and is a four-time winner there.

By winning in London, Nadal became the first Spaniard in 35 years to capture a title on grass. The last Spanish man to title on grass was Andres Gimeno, in Eastbourne, way back in 1972.
Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe played in the greatest Wimbledon final of all-time 28 years ago.

Trivia Time: Who did Federer beat in the final to capture his first Wimbledon title in 2003?

Not to be left out, the women will also play at the All England Club, where four-time winner Venus Williams will be among the favorites. The former world No. 1 Williams beat upstart Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in last year's finale to record her sixth career major title.

Venus' other Wimby titles came in 2000, 2001 and 2005 and she was the runner- up to her younger sister Serena in 2002 and 2003.

The eight-time major titlist Serena will also be on hand to challenge at the Big W, where she captured those back-to-back championships in '02 and '03 and was the runner-up to Maria Sharapova in 2004.

A Williams sister has accounted for six of the last eight titles here and at least one of the sisters has appeared in the final in seven out of the last eight editions of the tournament.

And when you're talking about true favorites at Wimbledon, you also have to look at top-ranked French Open winner Ana Ivanovic and the former Wimbledon champ Sharapova, the current No. 3 and former No. 1 player in the world.

Ivanovic has performed in three of the last five major finals, going 1-2, while Sharapova is this year's Aussie Open champ, including a victory over Ivanovic in the finale in Melbourne. The three-time major champion Sharapova claimed her lone Wimbledon title in '04 by stunning Serena in the final.

Ana Ivanovic is the top-ranked woman and fresh off her first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.
Another contender among the ladies is world No. 2 Jelena Jankovic, who is still seeking that elusive first trek into a Grand Slam final. Jankovic succumbed to her fellow Serb Ivanovic in the French Open semis a couple of weeks ago in a bout that decided who was going to be the new women's No. 1.

Trivia Answer: Aussie Mark Philippoussis gave way to Federer in the '03 men's Wimbledon final.

Back over on the men's side, Federer and Nadal can expect challenges from Djokovic and Roddick. The Djoker has competed in two of the last three major finals, while the former top-ranked Roddick has posted a solid 27-7 lifetime record at the Big W and is always a threat on any fast surface. Roddick's massive serve could possibly land him in a third Wimby final in five years, but you figure he'll have to get past at least one of the "Big Three," Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, to do so.

Djokovic, meanwhile, will probably need to beat Nadal at some point. The talented Serb is a dismal 3-9 lifetime against the relentless Spaniard, including an 0-4 mark at the majors. Nadal bested Djokovic in last year's Wimbledon semis.

Roddick, meanwhile, will need to avoid Federer, who's 15-2 all-time versus the American slugger, including a 3-0 record on Wimbledon grass.

By the way, Federer is a brilliant 38-4 all-time at Wimbledon, including a torrid 35-match winning streak. Borg holds the men's Open Era record by capturing 41 straight matches at the venerable AEC, from 1976-81. Borg's incredible streak was snapped by American great John McEnroe in the 1981 finale, just one year after the two Hall-of-Famers played in arguably the most compelling match in tennis history, a five-set epic won by the cool Swede.

Federer will seek a 12th trip into a Grand Slam final in his last 13 tries. He landed in a record 10 straight major finals before falling to Djokovic in the Aussie Open semis back in January.

Who else can contend on the men's side, you say? Well, there's David Nalbandian, the notorious Federer nemesis who reached a Wimbledon final back in 2002, and some other potential newsmakers could be 2007 semifinalist Richard Gasquet, British crowd favorite Andy Murray, rocket-launching Croat Ivo Karlovic, and former champ Lleyton Hewitt. Karlovic could serve his way deep into the draw, while Hewitt, who has been slipping of late, is 28-8 lifetime at Wimbledon, including four trips into at least the quarters and a big title back in 2002.

Maria Sharapova captured the Wimbledon title in 2004.
Meanwhile, there are some other top-10 men that have no shot on the storied grass, including meadow-hating Russian Nikolay Davydenko, speedy Spaniard David Ferrer and non-clutch American James Blake. Just trust me, you won't see any of these guys on the final day unless they're up in the stands.

Some other challengers among the women could be perennial Grand Slam contender Svetlana Kuznetsova and surging Russian Dinara Safina, the recent Roland Garros runner-up to Ivanovic who has been very hot of late. Kuznetsova was last year's U.S. Open runner-up and is a former champ at the U.S. Open.

Lindsay Davenport is expected to be on hand, but I wouldn't expect much from the 32-year-old mom. Davenport is a three-time Grand Slam champ, including a Wimbledon victory back in 1999, but hasn't been a factor at the majors in some time and pulled out of an event in Eastbourne just this week due to a right knee injury. The once-top-ranked Davenport also reached Wimbledon finals in 2000 and 2005.

Let's predict some winners.

At this point, I guess I wouldn't be that surprised if Nadal finally snuck past Federer at the Big W, but I'm still gonna have to pick Roger until someone actually beats him there. On the ladies' side, I like Sharapova to secure a second title in five years.

Notes: The Brits haven't celebrated a Wimbledon winner since Virginia Wade back in 1977, while the last man to claim his host Slam event was Fred Perry, way back in 1936...Next year, an all-new roof over the famed Centre Court will guarantee at least some tennis action on those frequent rainy days in London.

Ace or double fault? Send your comments to Scott Riley at sriley@sportsnetwork.com.
Scott Riley
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