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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 22 July 2018

Roger Federer backs himself and Rafael Nadal as 'the big favourites' for Wimbledon

Swiss world No 2 is bidding for a ninth title at the All England Club, while former champion Murray remains unsure of his participation

Roger Federer may have lost in the Halle Open final but it has not dented his confidence of success at Wimbledon. Leon Kuegeler / Reuters
Roger Federer may have lost in the Halle Open final but it has not dented his confidence of success at Wimbledon. Leon Kuegeler / Reuters

Roger Federer has dismissed his surprise defeat in the Halle Open final and insisted he remains "one of the favourites at Wimbledon" as the Swiss world No 2 bids for a ninth title at the All England Club.

Federer, 36, under took his typical preparations for Wimbledon, competing at - and winning - the Stuttgart Open, before heading to Halle where he was attempting to win the tournament for a 10th time.

However, the Swiss was surprisingly defeated in the final by Croatia's Borna Coric, who prior to the Halle Open had only won two matches on grass his entire career.

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The defeat in Halle, which ended Federer's 20-match win streak on grass, would have given hope to his Wimbledon rivals, but the 20-time grand slam champion believes he is still the man to beat ahead of his title defence.

"I'm really going to love going to Wimbledon but being the defending champion always creates pressure," said Federer, who like last year missed the entire European clay court swing in favour of being fit and prepared for Wimbledon.

"Regardless of whether I won or lost in Halle I will be one of the favourites at Wimbledon."

Federer won his first Wimbledon title in 2003. Since that time he has added seven more, with world No 1 Rafael Nadal winning twice, Novak Djokovic three times and Andy Murray taking two titles.

Hardly surprising then that Federer cannot see any great upheaval anytime soon, even backing Nadal - and his notoriously unreliable knees on a grass court - to go deep in the tournament following the Spaniard's record-extending 11th French Open title.

"I think Rafa is one of the big favourites," said Federer, who famously lost the 2008 final to Nadal in what is widely regarded as one of the finest grand slam finals of all time.

"When Rafa is healthy, anything is possible for him."

Nadal's grand slam count now stands at 17, just three behind Federer with whom he has split the last six majors.

After winning Roland Garros, Nadal hinted he may skip Wimbledon and also sat out Queen's. But the 32-year-old Spaniard has been practicing on grass in Mallorca and is cautiously optimistic.

"I had to spend time adapting physically and in my tennis to the surface," Nadal said. "I will certainly arrive at Wimbledon with less preparation, but I'm going with confidence high because I played very well through the whole clay court season."

Djokovic, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 champion, retired with an elbow injury in the quarter-finals in 2017, and like Nadal, had hinted he may sit out Wimbledon after losing to world No 72 Marco Cecchinato in the French Open quarter-finals.

But the rejuvenated 12-time major winner shook off the self-doubt and made the Queen's final at the weekend, losing to Marin Cilic despite having had a match point.

Djokovic is at least back in the top 20 unlike 2013 and 2016 Wimbledon champion Murray who is ranked No 156.

Former world No 1 Murray suffered a hip injury in a five-set loss to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals in 2017 and underwent surgery in January.

Murray, 31, only returned at Queen's, losing a tough three-setter to Nick Kyrgios in his opener.

On Monday, however, he eased past Stan Wawrinka in straight sets in Eastbourne, although he remains non-committal over his plans for Wimbledon.

"I'll decide when I'm ready. I'm not putting any pressure on myself to make that decision after one match here or two matches, because I don't need to," said Murray, who will face current British No 1 Kyle Edmund in the second round of Eastbourne on Wednesday.

"I'm coming back from a very serious injury which is not easy. My health and my body are number one priority, and I will make that decision when I'm ready.

"If I feel like I'm in good enough shape, I'll do it. And if I don't, then obviously I won't play. But the last two matches that I have played have been positive in many respects."