Why Roger Federer will win his ninth Wimbledon title despite the rise of Sascha Zverev and the young generation

People wonder how much longer the Federer express can keep on rolling but Wimbledon fires him up like nowhere else, writes legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri 

Nick Bollettieri
Sunday 01 July 2018 15:12
Wimbledon 2018: Five contenders to win

I know we’re in the middle of a glorious British summer, but for tennis fans this must feel like Christmas. The last couple of years have seen some of the game’s biggest names either struggling to find their form or sitting it out on the sidelines, but at Wimbledon over the next fortnight we should be seeing all the world’s best players competing on the biggest stage of all.

Holy mackerel, what a show this could be! Santa Claus is bringing us so many early gifts that he might struggle to bring them all down the chimney. I’ve been coaching for more than 60 years and have worked with some of the world’s best but I’ve rarely been as excited as I am about what we’re going to see over the next two weeks.

We’ll have Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – fitness permitting – aiming to reform the Big Four alongside Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, plus a whole posse of young guns trying to bring down the old guard. Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are back and will be aiming to prove they still have what it takes and the likes of Petra Kvitova and Garbine Muguruza will be hungry to build on their past Wimbledon successes.

In the women’s game I find it impossible to pick a winner – and I’ll tell you more about that in my next column – but on the men’s side I just have to go with Federer. I know he’s another year older, but so am I – and I’m still doing very nicely thank you. I reckon the great man loves his tennis as much as I do.

People wonder how much longer the Federer express can keep on rolling, but you have to remember that Wimbledon fires him up like nowhere else. Can he still win seven best-of-five-sets matches in a fortnight? Holy cow, I sometimes think he could still win if he had to play 10 sets every day!

Roger Federer talking to the media before the tournament

The way Federer has played in 2018 suggests to me that he can still come out on top. He won the Australian Open again – that’s three titles in the four Grand Slams he’s played since he came back from a six-month break at the start of last year – and the way he’s played on grass over the last couple of weeks tells me that skipping the French Open for the second spring in a row was a good move.

However, it’s not going to be a case of just turning up and picking up the trophy. Man, he’ll have to work for it, because there are so many good young players around at the moment. Sascha Zverev is world No 3 for a reason, Nick Kyrgios has great talent and Borna Coric’s victory over Federer in the final at Halle last weekend will have been a reminder to the champ that there are no easy matches these days. Federer will have to be shooting from both hips from day one.

Can Nadal do it? I imagine that the greatest clay-court player in history would happily trade one of his 11 French Open titles for a third Wimbledon trophy, but I think the challenge of backing up what he does at Roland Garros is proving harder for him every year. He hasn’t gone beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon for seven years and that tells its own story.

What about Djokovic and Murray? Djokovic is starting to come alive again after all his injury worries of the last two years. He’s moving well again and it seems to me that some of his flamboyance has returned, but he’s yet to prove that he is back at his very best.

Murray has only just started down the recovery road, but his comeback has been encouraging considering that he didn’t compete for the best part of a year because of his hip injury. He needs to prove to himself that he can still mix it with the very best. He hasn’t got anything to prove to anybody else, but I think it would do wonders for his own confidence if he could win some matches over the next fortnight.

Andy Murray is on the comeback trail

Playing on his home turf has always brought the best out of Murray and might do the same for Kyle Edmund. I’ve been very impressed by the young man’s progress this year. He’s already reached one Grand Slam semi-final and he’s clearly on an upward curve.

Marin Cilic’s confidence will be sky-high after winning at Queen’s Club last weekend and I wouldn’t rule out Juan Martin del Potro. With a huge serve like his you could never count him out on grass. He also has great mental strength, but I do wonder whether the big man has it in him to last the whole fortnight. I would give him more of a chance of winning on a hard court than on grass.

As usual, one of the biggest factors will be the playing surface. Most players spend the majority of the year playing on hard courts and find grass really tough. The surface can be slippery and the balls bounce very low and sometimes unpredictably. There are sure to be some major shocks in the first few days.

It’s going to be a fabulous fortnight and I’m proud to be part of The Independent’s team again. Every day over the next two weeks I’ll be writing about what’s happening at Wimbledon as well passing on some tips for your own game and telling you some of the things I’ve learned over the years from the great players I’ve worked with at the IMG Academy I founded in Florida. Watch this space, baby!

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