Sunday 22 April 2018

Federer and Nadal set for Wimbledon showdown


Roger Federer. Photo: AP/PA Images
Roger Federer. Photo: AP/PA Images

Simon Briggs

This year's Wimbledon feels like a party whose host is indisposed. On paper it looks terrific. British fans can cheer a Top 10 seed in both singles for the first time since 1973. The only problem is that Andy Murray is walking with a limp and Johanna Konta is recovering from a heavy fall.

Still, that does not mean that the music has to be turned off and the wine put back in the cupboard. The rest of the world has come to play and the two old-timers, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, look ready to bust some vintage moves on the dance floor.

This great rivalry looks like being the story of the summer. We have already had two throwback slams in 2017. Federer despatched all-comers at the Australian Open - beating the Spaniard in the final - before Nadal re-established his reign at Roland Garros.

Now many tennis insiders are forecasting a fourth Federer-Nadal final here to recapture the glories of 2006, 2007 and 2008 - tow of which were won by the Swiss. The main obstacle, at this stage, would seem to be Nadal's wonky knees, which have prevented him from going beyond the fourth round since 2011.


However, he won the French Open without dropping a set and the last two times he did that he made it to the conclusion of Wimbledon four weeks later.

After lengthy absences from the tour in 2016, Federer and Nadal have returned with souped-up backhands, and are arguably playing the best tennis of their careers.

Neither should we discount Novak Djokovic. Having spiralled out of the French Open in a disorientated state, he seemed to rediscover his poise during last week's trip to the seaside. Posting soulful Instagram photos among the seagulls and crabs, the Serb romped to the Eastbourne title without dropping a set.

The 'Big Four' men are also the top four seeds for the first time since 2014, and that honorary d'Artagnan, Stan Wawrinka, stands just behind them at No 5.

The young pretenders are led by eighth seed Dominic Thiem and 10th seed Sascha Zverev. The charismatic Nick Kyrgios has an outside shot, although he claims to be no more than "60 to 65pc fit" after aggravating a hip injury.

While the absence of the pregnant Serena Williams might rob the women's draw of star wattage, it also makes the tournament more intriguing.

In her absence, the favourites are Petra Kvitova, who has played only two tournaments since suffering career-threatening wounds to her racket hand, and Karolina Pliskova, the 6ft 1in beanpole. (© Daily Telegraph, London.)

Wimbledon coverage on BBC1 1.45, BBC2 11.30

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