London: Roger Federer insists he can still match Pete Sampras`s record of seven Wimbledon triumphs despite Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal having developed an iron grip on Grand Slam glory.
Federer is fighting time as well as the unwavering dominance of Djokovic, the defending champion, and Nadal, who have won nine of the last 10 majors between them and contested the last four Grand Slam finals.
World number three Federer, who celebrated the last of his record 16 Grand Slam crowns at the 2010 Australian Open, will be 31 in August.
Sampras was 28 when he won the seventh and last of his Wimbledon titles in 2000.
Adding to Federer`s headache is the knowledge that Djokovic is still only 25 while Nadal is 26.
It wasn`t long ago that Wimbledon represented Federer`s traditional bolt-hole, winning five successive championships between 2003 and 2007, then adding a sixth in 2009.
But even in his London safe haven, the shadow of Nadal has loomed large.
The Spaniard, who has just collected a record seventh French Open title, deposed Federer in a five-set epic in 2008, having been runner-up in the two previous years.
Federer`s last triumph in 2009 came when Nadal was sidelined with a knee injury.
In 2010, Tomas Berdych knocked him out in the quarter-finals while in 2011, the Swiss lost his first ever Grand Slam match from two sets to love up when he was bludgeoned to defeat in the last eight by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Two months later, Djokovic overcame the loss of the first two sets, and saved two match points, to beat Federer in the US Open semi-finals.
The Serb`s straight sets win over Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month only served to darken the Swiss player`s mood.
His Wimbledon chances weren`t helped by a loss in the Halle final to 34-year-old Tommy Haas.
But Federer, who faces Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos in the first round, believes only a fool would write him off.
"My confidence is very good. I`ve won many tournaments, so many matches the last year or so that I feel perfect in this regard," Federer said on the eve of his 14th Wimbledon appearance.
"I`m match fit and I`m match tough right now. That`s also key going into a Grand Slam. The hunger is big. I don`t think I need to elaborate too much on that."
Djokovic heads for Wimbledon with the burden of history now off his shoulders after his bid to become just the third man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once was shattered by Nadal in Paris.
"You`re living to play the final of a Grand Slam, and sometimes you win; sometimes you lose. I believe that there are still many years to come," said Djokovic who faces former world number one and French Open winner Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round.
Nadal, meanwhile, has played in five of the last six Wimbledon finals -- winning in 2008 and 2010 -- missing the 2009 tournament only because of injury.
After winning a record seventh French Open, the Spaniard suffered a shock Halle quarter-final exit to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
He also remains cautious on his Wimbledon chances.
"I`m very happy the way things have gone since the beginning of the season. But thinking about winning another title at Wimbledon is arrogant and crazy," Nadal said ahead of a Tuesday opener against Brazil`s Thomaz Bellucci.
"That`s something I cannot think about. I can just think about practice and how to keep preparing."
British hopes of a home champion -- the first since Fred Perry in 1936 -- once again reside with world number four Andy Murray whose build-up has been hampered by a back injury.
Murray, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon for the last three years, looked well below par in a second round loss to Nicolas Mahut at Queen`s last week.
There are also two sub-plots at Wimbledon this year.
Just three weeks after the tournament ends, the Olympic Games tennis event gets underway at the All England Club.
By that stage there could also be a change at the top of the rankings.
Djokovic needs to reach the final to ensure that he remains ahead of his rivals.
Federer can retake the number one spot for the first time in three years if he wins the title and Djokovic does not advance beyond the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Nadal, who lost the world number one ranking to Djokovic after the Wimbledon final last year, can reclaim top spot if he wins the title for a third time and the Serb does not go beyond the quarter-finals.
BDST: 1756HRS, June 24, 2012
Chanchal Ghosh, Newsroom Editor
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