Father Federer sets his sights on seventh heaven

The house where he is staying during Wimbledon is bigger than before – there is a separate room for Charlene Riva and Myla Rose, the 11-month-old twins – but in most other respects little has changed since Roger Federer last played at the All England Club. As defending champion he will open proceedings on Centre Court tomorrow and, as usual, he will start as favourite.

Although Federer has not won a title since the Australian Open, he should at least have less on his mind than he did last year, when his wife, Mirka, was eight months' pregnant. After leaving the All England Club the six-time champion spent half of the next five weeks in hospital with his wife and, eventually, their two children. But he was on the practice court within four days of their birth, had won a Masters Series title in Cincinnati within a month and reached a Grand Slam final within two.

On his return to the All England Club last week Federer said he felt fatherhood had actually improved his game. "I played such great tennis in Cincinnati and also at the US Open that right away I knew that actually it had only helped me to play better tennis and maybe to relax a bit," he said. "Maybe I put a bit too much pressure on myself [in the past], always trying to prove myself.

"Then winning the Australian Open was massive for me, proving to me that I could win a Grand Slam on hard courts again, even when guys like Rafa [Nadal], [Andy] Murray, [Novak] Djokovic, [Nikolay] Davydenko and [Juan Martin] Del Potro were playing such great tennis on that surface.

"I've struggled since, but I think that's more because I haven't played enough. [After Australia] I didn't play until Indian Wells and Miami and when I was in the US I only played four matches in one month. It's been a slow season for me, but I feel that now I'm really picking up my game again."

Nevertheless, Federer goes into Wimbledon having seen his run of 23 consecutive appearances in Grand Slam semi-finals end at the French Open. He has also just lost for a second time on grass in 77 matches. The Swiss was beaten in Halle last weekend by Lleyton Hewitt, the only current player who has won more matches on grass.

Victory at Wimbledon last year took Federer past Pete Sampras's record of 14 Grand Slam titles. Winning again in a fortnight's time would see him match the American's haul of seven Wimbledon crowns, but Federer says chasing records is not what motivates him.

"What I want to experience again is lifting the trophy," he said. "I want to feel the atmosphere, the great crowds here. If No 7 comes along that's great, but I don't need to be on the same level with Pete. Beating every record Pete set is not my goal. He's a good friend. It's not the ultimate drive for me."

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