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15 years after 1st Slam, Federer back to defend at Wimbledon

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LONDON (AP) — Go back 15 years, to the beginning of Wimbledon in June 2003, and take a glimpse at the place issues stood for Roger Federer.

He was once 21. He had but to succeed in No. 1 within the ATP ratings. Not most effective had the fellow by no means received a Grand Slam event, he’d by no means even been previous the quarterfinals at one. He was once coming off a first-round loss at the French Open a month previous, and every other at the All England Club a 12 months previous.

When all was once mentioned and executed two weeks later, Federer was once crying, cradling the champion’s gold trophy.

And now? When play starts at Wimbledon on Monday, with Federer last in on his 37th birthday, he’ll have the dignity of enjoying the primary fit at Centre Court because the protecting champion. He earned his file 8th name at the grass-court primary a 12 months in the past, and he ran his overall Grand Slam haul to a file 20 males’s singles trophies via successful the Australian Open in January.

“I don’t know how much longer it’s going to last,” Federer mentioned. “I have no idea.”

He was once talking about his personal luck. But he may as neatly were speaking in regards to the two-man supremacy exhibited via himself and his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal.

Nadal, 32, hadn’t even entered a significant event in 2003. These days, he trails most effective Federer within the all-time males’s Grand Slam standings, with 17 of his personal, together with No. 11 at the French Open simply this month.

Remarkably, particularly given all the communicate in contemporary years about their meant declines, Federer and Nadal have divvied up all the previous six primary titles, claiming a trio apiece.

It’s their longest such stretch since grabbing six consecutive majors in 2008-09, which integrated Nadal’s Nine-7 fifth-set victory over Federer within the 2008 Wimbledon ultimate, regarded as via many to be the best tennis fit ever. The duo’s very best run was once 11 Slams in a row from 2005-07, when Federer received 8 and Nadal the opposite 3.

“This is perfection. They are the best players in the world and are proving that even when your body is not as young as it was, when one still has the drive and is well prepared, nothing replaces talent and strong will,” mentioned French Open event director Guy Forget, a former top-five participant and captain of France’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup groups. “The young players are still lagging behind.”

Yes, these kinds of years later, Roger and Rafa are nonetheless main the best way.

One different indication: They have swapped the No. 1 rating a half-dozen instances in 2018, probably the most it is switched palms in one season since 1999. As of now, Nadal is No. 1, and Federer No. 2 — however simply slightly, with a 50-point hole between them. Because Wimbledon’s seeding machine takes under consideration the boys’s luck on grass, Federer is No. 1, and Nadal No. 2, within the draw.

This is the 5th time that they’re seeded 1-2, and primary since 2010. Each of the opposite 4 instances, one or the opposite accrued the name: Nadal in 2008 and 2010, Federer in 2006 and 2007.

“They won everything — both of them won everything, and not only once, but so many times,” mentioned Robin Soderling, who misplaced to Federer within the 2009 French Open ultimate (after frightening Nadal alongside the best way) and Nadal within the 2010 French Open ultimate (after frightening Federer alongside the best way). “But they are still hungry.”

They set up their schedules extra sparsely of their 30s: Federer skipped the clay-court circuit, whilst Nadal opted now not to play any grass-court tuneups earlier than arriving at the All England membership.

He’s a two-time champion and three-time runner-up at Wimbledon, however Nadal had some bother at where in recent years, failing to get previous the fourth around in any of his previous 5 appearances, with a quartet of losses to gamers ranked 100th or worse.

“Wimbledon has always been difficult for us,” mentioned Nadal’s uncle and previous trainer, Toni, “but I believe that he will have his chance if he is physically fit.”

It’s excellent well being that has stood in the best way of Novak Djokovic (elbow), Andy Murray (hip) and Stan Wawrinka (knee), who all are in more than a few levels of getting back from operations.

But listed here are Federer and Nadal, as excellent as ever.

Maybe even higher than ever?

“I don’t know. It’s hard to tell. It doesn’t really matter to me. I would hope that I’m a better player today, just because of the virtue of time that’s gone by and I’ve had time to practice and train and all that stuff,” Federer mentioned. “But it’s different times today than it was 10, 15 years ago.”

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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