Tennis

Federer says 'Big Four' will be tough to beat at Wimbledon

Federer warns that the '30-something' luminaries will be 'tough to beat'

Roger Federer has warned that he and the rest of the big four of men's tennis were going to be as tough to beat as ever at Wimbledon this year, as they seek to continue their astonishing monopoly of the event.

In the last 14 editions, one of either Federer, a seven-time champion, double winners Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray, or triple victor Novak Djokovic has lifted the men's singles title at the All England Club.

While reporters quizzed Federer on Saturday about who in the game's young brigade could become the first man outside that quartet to win since Lleyton Hewitt in 2002, the Swiss felt it would be best to keep faith with the usual suspects.

Federer's rivals have had mixed preparations for Wimbledon.

Murray harboured hip trouble after an early exit at Queen's, Nadal decided to skip grasscourt warm-ups to rest his body after winning the French Open while Djokovic burst into life earlier on Saturday by winning the Eastbourne title.

Federer, 35, warned that the four 30-something luminaries would again be "tough to beat".

Murray and Djokovic are both 30, while Nadal is 31.

"If he's anything close to 100 per cent physically, I consider Murray one of the big favourites to win the tournament. It's that simple," said Federer.

"It's the same for Novak and Rafa. It's very even when we put it on the line. Everybody has his own little story right now.

"Queen's for Andy (where he was knocked out early) doesn't matter so much because I feel like he's one of the best players in the first week at Wimbledon, so I don't worry too much for him there. He can play himself into shape for week two.

"Novak is just coming back from winning Eastbourne now.

"Rafa is coming in red hot from the clay. So I see it positive for them rather than negative in some shape, which I'm sure people will try to see that way.

"But I see that they are going to be tough to beat here."

Federer himself seemed to have recaptured a touch of his fantastic early-season spark which saw him down Nadal in an epic Australian Open five-set final, as he lifted his favourite pre-Wimbledon grasscourt title in Halle.

YOUNG GUNS CAN GO DEEP

Yet the third-seeded Swiss has been too long in this business to insist that this year's championship is going to be a four-horse race.

"Yeah, it's been very dominant by a few players at Wimbledon. That's surprising. It's like that - but it can change tomorrow very quickly."

It is not just the younger guns such as Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem who Federer says "are in a good spot right now where they can go very deep".

"Then, I do believe the favourites are the other players. I include the likes of (Marin) Cilic into that, Stan (Wawrinka), guys who have done it before," added the Swiss.

Nobody, of course, has done it before as often as the 18-time Grand Slam champion Federer, who admitted it "hurt" to miss out on competing on the sapping clay of the French Open when he knew he was fit and raring to go.

"No compromise really. I gave myself the best chance for the grass, so I would never look back and have regrets once I came here," he said.

"Even though I was happy on the clay for a couple days, I just felt like anything other than winning there feels like I'm not giving myself the best chance at Wimbledon." - REUTERS

TennisWimbledonRoger Federer