Roger Federer is the defending champion, has won Wimbledon seven times and is widely regarded as the greatest player in history, but as he prepares to open his 15th All England Club campaign against Victor Hanescu on Centre Court this afternoon the 31-year-old Swiss does not see himself as the favourite. Federer said here yesterday that he regards Andy Murray as "the favourite for every tournament he goes into around the world".
Federer admitted that he had thought even before last year's Wimbledon that Murray's time had come. "I was able to fight that off," Federer said. "But I think Murray played great last year throughout Wimbledon and the Olympics, and now again at Queen's."
Although the bookmakers consider this to be Murray's best chance – he is as short as 3-1 compared with 10-1 last year – the Scot is second favourite behind Novak Djokovic, followed by Rafael Nadal and Federer.
Federer, nevertheless, expects Murray to provide his greatest challenge. "For me he seems the most natural on this surface," Federer said. "The other guys – Rafa and Novak – are Wimbledon champions and [David] Ferrer is in the top four and also very good on grass, but to me Andy stands out a little bit over the others."
The Swiss said his only surprise had been that it took Murray until last year's US Open to win his first Grand Slam. "I thought Andy was going to win a big one anyway at some point," Federer said. "He's too good to keep losing semis and finals. He's put himself too often in that position time and time again.
"His game's very good for all surfaces. He's physically superb. He plays well. He's got crowd support here. He loves the US Open, Australia. He's grown up on clay, as well. Everything seems very natural for him. He doesn't only give himself one or two chances throughout the year to win Grand Slams, but multiple ones."
He added: "In previous years, and after the time I beat him in the Australian Open final, he went on a bit of a disappointing run. That wasn't the case after Wimbledon last year. He actually got much stronger. That's why he's increased his chances now, by winning big tournaments. He did so at the Olympics, the US Open."
Federer thinks Murray will be under less pressure this year. The Swiss recalled how winning his own maiden Wimbledon title 10 years ago had lifted a weight off his shoulders. "I felt great," he recalled. "I felt like: 'Here we go. This is a great time in my life.' I achieved a lifetime dream winning a Grand Slam, winning the World Tour Finals, reaching No 1. For some reason you feel invincible, but then again you clearly have to prove it time and time again.
"How did it work for me? I won the Australian Open and then I lost early at the French, but then was able to win Wimbledon again. After that, I was able to play super consistent for a long period of time. But then again, every player reacts differently. I would think it takes pressure away. Once you win your first one, you can enjoy it a bit more and you feel like the hard work's paying off. You feel like you're doing the right things. If you keep doing that, more often than not you should come out as a winner in the matches."
If Federer is to win the title he might have to beat Nadal in the quarter-finals, Murray in the semi-finals and Djokovic in the final. Federer drew the short straw in Friday's draw when Nadal, the No 5 seed, was lined up to meet the Swiss in the last eight. However, Federer insisted: "The quarter-finals are still a long way away. It was never supposed to be easy winning Grand Slams. I'm ready for the challenge. I like tough draws. I don't shy away from them. Anyway, there's no control over it.
"I have a very difficult draw with Rafa being in my quarter. My focus is on the first round. If you want to win the tournament here, you have to beat the best anyway. That's what I'm here for."