Wimbledon is still 24 hours away but Roger Federer has already got one up on Andy Murray. It was on Monday last week that Murray walked on to a London stage to model his Wimbledon outfit, a retro design inspired by Fred Perry, Britain's last men's singles winner here 73 years ago.
If the Murray sweater looked like a response to the cardigan Federer wore here last year, the Swiss revealed yesterday that he has taken the fashion game to another level. The champion of tennis style will march on to Centre Court for his first match tomorrow in a military-style jacket. According to the Nike publicity machine, it will be "a more contemporary look this year, whilst still retaining the stylistic cues which make him stand out from the other players".
Federer never looks anything other than the king of cool, but as the former world No 1 looked ahead to the start of Wimbledon he sounded more self-assured than ever.
A weight has been lifted from his shoulders with his victory a fortnight ago at the French Open, which completed his set of Grand Slam titles and put him level with Pete Sampras's all-time record total of 14 – even if the emotional drain had forced the Swiss to pull out of his Wimbledon warm-up event at Halle last week.
"I was mentally drained because I felt like I had to play four finals at the end of Paris because of the pressure," Federer said. "There was such relief and happiness once it was all over that for me it was almost impossible to change it all around again and start a tournament from scratch again two days after."
Federer won the title here two years ago without playing a competitive match in the build-up and does not expect his lack of match practice to be a problem this time. "I feel good," he said. "I feel like I'm playing very well at the moment. It didn't take me much time to get used to the conditions on grass. It never really does. It was good to take a week off, to get away from it all and enjoy the time at home and recover. I feel like I'm ready to go here."
The Swiss said that Rafael Nadal's withdrawal through injury was "obviously very disappointing for the tournament and also for myself". Federer added: "He's my main rival. We've had some wonderful matches over the years, and especially the one here last year was the one that obviously stands out."
Nadal's withdrawal means that Murray is now seeded to meet Federer in the final. Although Federer beat him in their only Grand Slam meeting at last year's US Open final, Murray has won the last four matches between the pair and appears increasingly to have got under the former world No 1's skin.
After losing to Murray in Dubai 18 months ago, Federer said he was surprised at how little Murray's game had changed in the three years since their first match and felt that the Scot would have to become more aggressive in his play.
Although he lavished praise on Murray yesterday – "He's a very gifted player, has a wonderful feel and he's a great tactician" – and said he had always expected him to become a great player, there was a sting in the tail. "He's finally proved it, because it took him some time," Federer went on. "That was the disappointing part, I thought that it took him longer than I expected.
"So I was wrong with my prediction, because I expected him to do better a few years ago. But everything is coming together for him now and he's been rock solid for over a year now, almost two years. So, he's there where he belongs."