ROGER FEDERER insists he hasn't been fretting about when or – perhaps more to the point – if he will win a 17th Grand Slam championship.
“I don't go through days thinking, like, ‘My God, I haven't won a Grand Slam in so long',” Federer said. “It hasn't been that long, to be honest.” It’s only long by his remarkable standards; his record-extending 16th major trophy came at the Australian Open in January 2010. That nearly 18- month drought could end at Wimbledon, where Federer already has won six titles, one behind Willie Renshaw (who played in the 1800s) and Pete Sampras. “It doesn't come in phases; I'm always hungry,” Federer said. “And that's a good thing.”
Serena Williams' bid for what would be her fifth title at the All England Club, and 14 th overall at major tournaments, also was still in play with week two of the grass-court Grand Slam set to begin today. “I'm still alive, and it feels good,” said Williams, who could become the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1991- 93 to win Wimbledon three years in a row. “You know, I'm hoping to be around – and planning to be around – a lot longer.” As the 125th edition of the tournament heads into the fourth round, all of the principal players are still around, as are the story lines that drew the most interest at the start, from the Williams sisters' comebacks to the dominance of the leading men. After yesterday's traditional day of rest, action was to resume with all 16 men's and women's fourth-round matches.
Two stood out in particular: Top-seeded Rafael Nadal against No24 Juan Martin del Potro, and No23 Venus Williams against No32 Tsvetana Pironkova in a reprise of last year’s quarter-final won by the Bulgarian. The Williams sisters have combined to win nine of the past 11 Wimbledon singles titles, and while Serena has played only five matches in the past 11 months, and Venus missed about five months with a hip injury, both are clearly capable of producing top-level tennis. Also in the picture are top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, hoping for her first Grand Slam title, and 2004 Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. “There's no doubt you have to improve with the second week coming. That's always the toughest part,” said Sharapova, who's won three major titles but none since 2008. “That's where you hope you raise your level.”
The top four men – Nadal, No2 Novak Djokovic, No3 Federer and No4 Andy Murray – filled out the semi-finals at the French Open, and no one would be too surprised if they did that again at Wimbledon. They lost a total of three sets during week one. Djokovic and Murray are two-time semi-finalists at Wimbledon, but neither has been to the final.
Murray hopes to give Britain its first male champion at the All England Club – at any Grand Slam tournament actually – since 1936. Djokovic, whose 43-match winning streak ended with a loss to Federer in the French Open semi-finals, faces No19 Michael Llodra, at 31 the oldest man left and finally in the fourth round on his 11th appearance at Wimbledon. Murray meets No17 Richard Gasquet, while the last American man in the field, No10 Mardy Fish, plays last year’s runner-up Tomas Berdych.