‘It was never supposed to be easy winning grand slams,’ says Federer
Swiss great aiming to record an eighth Wimbledon title
Roger Federer talks to the media during previews for Wimbledon. Photograph: Jon Buckle
A decade after he won his first title at Wimbledon, grass-court king Roger Federer is on a mission to join Rafael Nadal in an exclusive club. Two weeks ago the Spaniard won an eighth French Open, becoming the first man ever to reach such a number at any of the slams.
The first of those came in 2003, when a 21-year-old Federer defeated Mark Philippoussis in straight sets. He was not beaten in SW19 until the 2008 final, before adding further titles in 2009 and 2012. He will hope to extend his record for singles grand slam titles to 18 in two weeks’ time.
As is tradition for the reigning champion, the 31-year-old will open proceedings on Centre Court tomorrow against Romania’s Victor Hanescu.
Federer said: “It’s been an unbelievable 10 years. I can’t believe it’s been this successful and this nice in the process. I’ve really enjoyed myself on tour. I’ve made many friends. I started a foundation. I’ve continued to be successful. I’ve played so many matches where I went through so many incredible moments. I’m forever grateful to this first Wimbledon title I was able to achieve here.
“It’s all happened a bit too fast for my liking, but I’m happy I’m still playing and continuing to give myself opportunities to be contending for the title here.
“And being back as well 10 years later as defending champion is quite unique at the same time, so I’m very excited.”
Great things were expected of Federer virtually as soon as he picked up a racket, but it was not always a smooth process.
The teenage Swiss had a fiery temper that held him back on court and in the 16 grand slam tournaments he played prior to his first Wimbledon title he lost in the first round six times.
At Wimbledon in 2002 he lost his opening match to Croatian Mario Ancic, and it was that memory that came to mind when he recalled his breakthrough Championships.
“Ten years ago I was incredibly scared to lose again in the first round. I lost in the first round of the French Open as well so I came in with a lot of pressure and having to prove myself. So every year that has gone by and every year I did well here, my nerves calmed down. I knew that actually grass is my best surface or one of my best surfaces.
“Today I know what it takes, which is a good thing. The excitement is the same. I’m still hungry and wanting to win and wanting to prove how good I can play. Then you want to relive those incredible moments you’ve had 10 years ago, nine years ago, eight years ago, where you have that honour to play on Centre Court either on opening day or on finals day. It’s really something that means the world to me.”
If Federer is to successfully defend his title, he will have to do it the hard way after a draw that was far from kind to the third seed.
Federer was the unlucky one of the top four who ended up with fifth seed Rafael Nadal in his quarter, meaning he could have to beat the Spaniard, Murray and world number one Novak Djokovic to get his hands on the trophy again.
There has been criticism of Nadal’s seeding but Federer says it is a fuss over nothing.“It was never supposed to be easy winning grand slams. I’m ready for the challenge. I like tough draws. I don’t shy away from them.”