DEFENDING men’s singles champion Roger Federer begins his quest to win a record eighth Wimbledon title today and believes that Britain’s Andy Murray poses the greatest threat to breaking his dominance at SW19.
Federer, 31, came from a set down to beat Murray in last year’s final to leave the Scot in tears and move level with Pete Sampras’s all-time record of seven victories at the All England Club.
But, 12 months on, Murray has secured his first Grand Slam, with victory at September’s US Open, and Federer sees the 26-year-old as a genuine contender for this year’s title.
“To me Andy sort of stands out a little bit over the others,” said Federer, who plays Romania’s Victor Hanescu today.
“He seems like the most natural on this surface. Murray played great last year throughout Wimbledon and the Olympics, and now again at Queen’s.
“I would think he has less pressure now [after winning first grand slam]. Once you win your first one you can enjoy it a bit more and you feel like the hard work’s paying off.
“I achieved a lifetime dream winning a grand slam. You feel invincible, but then you have to prove it time and time again. Every player reacts differently, but I think it takes pressure away.”
Murray is set to appear on centre court today, against world No95 Benjamin Becker, following Maria Sharapova’s match against Kristina Mladenovic of France.
Sharapova has been caught up in a war of words with reigning women’s singles champion Serena Williams, after comments the world No1 made in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, interpreted as referring to the Russian 2004 champion, labelling her interview technique “boring” and questioning her choice of boyfriend.
Sharapova hit back, suggesting Williams should discuss the rumoured relationship with her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, rather than someone else’s private life. Though Williams did not specifically name Sharapova in the magazine interview, the 31-year-old yesterday revealed she had apologised to her Russian rival.
“I feel like Maria was inadvertently brought into a situation she should have never been brought into,” she said. “I’m the first person to reach out to people if I feel that something may have hurt them. I have the most respect for Maria on and off court. That’s another reason I wanted to say sorry.”