On grass, seeds of content
WIMBLEDON, England — Walking the Wimbledon grounds yesterday, wearing a stylish white jacket with gold trim, his collar turned up for protection from a biting wind, the tournament’s six-time champion looked like the same old Roger Federer.
True, there have been signs of slippage this month. Federer lost at the French Open in the quarterfinals, his earliest Grand Slam exit in six years. Then he dropped to No. 2 in the world rankings behind nemesis Rafael Nadal.
Then, at a Wimbledon warm-up event, came Federer’s second grass-court defeat since 2003, extending his drought of nearly five months without a title.
But the All England Club tends to bring out the best in Federer, which is awfully good. He has reached a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals, losing only one of them — to Nadal in 2008.
Last year Federer regained the title, beating Andy Roddick, 16-14, in the fifth set of a final that ranked with the sport’s greatest matches.
And so when Federer steps onto an immaculate Centre Court lawn for his opening-round match today against Alejandro Falla, he’ll again be the man to beat. Tournament organizers acknowledged as much by giving Federer the top seed even though he’s ranked second.
He’ll try to join Pete Sampras and Willie Renshaw as the only men to win the singles title seven times.
“Obviously my game’s made for grass,’’ Federer said. “I definitely think every time I play, I’ll have a chance to win here, there’s no doubt.’’
Also made for grass are women’s favorites Serena and Venus Williams, who are seeded 1-2 and have combined to win eight of the past 10 Wimbledon championships. Serena, who earned her third title by beating her sister in last year’s final, has tweaked her tournament preparation in anticipation of a visit Thursday to Wimbledon by Queen Elizabeth II.
“I’ve been working on my curtsy,’’ Serena said. “It’s a little extreme, so I’m going to have to tone it down. I was practicing it this morning.’’
The queen hasn’t been to Wimbledon since 1977. Also returning after absences will be Grand Slam champions Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, each seeking their first Wimbledon title. Henin hasn’t played at Wimbledon since 2007, Clijsters since 2006.
And then there’s Nadal, who withdrew shortly before last year’s tournament because of knee tendinitis. A match tomorrow against wild card Kei Nishikori will be Nadal’s first at Wimbledon since he beat Federer in their memorable 2008 final.
Nadal is coming off his fifth French Open title and an unbeaten but grueling clay-court season. He celebrated with a brief break a week ago back home in Mallorca.
“I went for a party with the friends,’’ the Spaniard said. “I played golf. I go to the beach. So I had a perfect Sunday. I need it.’’