LONDON: Roger Federer insists he can still match Pete Sampras’s record of seven Wimbledon triumphs despite Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal having developed an iron grip on Grand Slam glory.
Federer is fighting time as well as the unwavering dominance of Djokovic, the defending champion, and Nadal, who have won nine of the last 10 majors between them and contested the last four Grand Slam finals.
World number three Federer, who celebrated the last of his record 16 Grand Slam crowns at the 2010 Australian Open, will be 31 in August.
Sampras was 28 when he won the seventh and last of his Wimbledon titles in 2000.
Adding to Federer’s headache is the knowledge that Djokovic is still only 25 while Nadal is 26.
It wasn’t long ago that Wimbledon represented Federer’s traditional bolt-hole, winning five successive championships between 2003 and 2007, then adding a sixth in 2009.
But even in his London safe haven, the shadow of Nadal has loomed large.
The Spaniard, who has just collected a record seventh French Open title, deposed Federer in a five-set epic in 2008, having been runner-up in the two previous years.
Federer’s last triumph in 2009 came when Nadal was sidelined with a knee injury.
In 2010, Tomas Berdych knocked him out in the quarter-finals while in 2011, the Swiss lost his first ever Grand Slam match from two sets to love up when he was bludgeoned to defeat in the last eight by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Two months later, Djokovic overcame the loss of the first two sets, and saved two match points, to beat Federer in the US Open semi-finals.
The Serb’s straight sets win over Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month only served to darken the Swiss player’s mood.
His Wimbledon chances weren’t helped by a loss in the Halle final to 34-year-old Tommy Haas.