Once again, Roger Federer fans are hoping for a Wimbledon showdown with Rafael Nadal after they’ve shared so many grand slams this year. After their epic 2008 showdown, it would be a long-awaited return.
Federer, 35, prevailed in their five-set battle in Australia to win a record-extending 18th slam, but sat out the claycourt season in which Nadal, 31, made his own history by winning a 10th French Open title — ‘La Decima’ — and 15th slam.
In 2008, Nadal was just 22. He survived two rain breaks and an enthralling Federer fightback to end the Swiss’s five-year reign as Wimbledon champion to finally triumph 6-4 6-4 6-7(5) 6-7(8) 9-7 after defeats in the 2006 and 2007 finals.
The match, at four hours and 48 minutes, is still the longest final in Wimbledon history. It was hailed by pundits, players and fans alike, with seven-time grand slam champion John McEnroe describing it as the greatest match he’d ever seen.
Roger Federer has committed to starting the 2018 season at the Hopman Cup, the international mixed-team tournament where he’ll team up again with Belinda Bencic for Switzerland.
The 35-year-old Federer has cut back on the number of tournaments he plays in order to prolong his career, and skipped the recent clay court season recently to concentrate on Wimbledon.
He played with Bencic at the last Hopman Cup, and it proved an ideal tune-up for the Australian Open, where he beat Rafael Nadal in the final to end a personal Grand Slam drought stretching back to Wimbledon in 2012.
“It was the perfect preparation because I was in a good mindset,” Federer said of the buildup to winning his 18th major title. “When I went to Melbourne, I could really look back on some great preparation, and I think that’s what also made me win the Australian Open.”
The French team of Kristina Mladenovic and Richard Gasquet beat Federer and Bencic to seal a spot in last year’s Hopman Cup final, then beat U.S. pair CoCo Vandeweghe and Jack Sock to win the title.
More than 6,000 people attended Federer’s first practice session last year in Perth, a crowd he described as “surreal.” The Switzerland-France match attracted a tournament record 13,917 fans.
Williams responded Monday via Twitter to comments McEnroe made during a weekend interview with NPR to promote his latest book.
Williams tells McEnroe, “I adore and respect you,” but asks him to “please please keep me out of your statements that are not factually based.”
McEnroe, a former player and now TV commentator, said Williams is the best women’s tennis player in history – “no question.” But when asked whether she was the sport’s best ever, regardless of gender, he made clear he didn’t think so.
He said he thought Williams could beat some men, “but if she had to just play the circuit – the men’s circuit – that would be an entirely different story.” He said if she tried to be part of the men’s tour, “she’d be like 700 in the world.”
In one of her tweets, Williams wrote: “I’ve never played anyone ranked ‘there’ nor do I have time.”
She added: “Respect me and my privacy as I’m trying to have a baby. Good day sir.”
Williams is taking a break from the tennis tour because she is pregnant. She plans to return to competition in 2018.
The American has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record in the Open era, which began in 1968.
McEnroe won seven major titles.
The Eastbourne International lost Petra Kvitova to injury and Dominika Cibulkova to a surprise defeat as the build-up to Wimbledon gathered pace on Monday.
Kvitova pulled out of the grass-court event on England’s south coast because of an abdominal injury, a day after winning the Aegon Classic in Birmingham for her first title since her playing hand was injured in a knife attack in December.
With Wimbledon starting next Monday, Kvitova has a week to recover if she is to go for a third singles title at the All England Club, after 2011 and ’14.
Cibulkova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 2016 and the fourth-seeded player at Eastbourne, was beaten by Heather Watson 7-5, 6-4.
Third-seeded Karolina Pliskova beat Alison Riske 6-4, 6-3 in a repeat of last year’s Nottingham Open final on grass, which Pliskova also won.
Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep, the top two seeded players, play second-round matches on Tuesday along with Agnieszka Radwanska and Caroline Wozniacki.
In the men’s draw, Donald Young followed up his run to the quarterfinals at Queen’s by beating Kyle Edmund 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 on Centre Court to reach the second round, where he will play fellow American Jared Donaldson.
There were also wins for Kevin Anderson, Robin Haase, Bernard Tomic and qualifier Vasek Pospisil, who beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-4 to set up a second-round match against top-seeded Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic has accepted a wild card into the main draw and will play a grass-court event between the French Open and Wimbledon for the first time since 2010. He is coming off a surprise straight-sets loss to Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.
“I was fortunate to have lots of matches and lots of success in the first part of the year over the years,” Djokovic said on Monday. “And because of the old schedule, we had a week less (before Wimbledon). That’s one of the reasons why I haven’t participated over the years in any lead-up events to Wimbledon.
“This year I knew I wanted to play one, but I thought Queen’s and Halle would be too early for me. I wanted to get some rest and get time to properly prepare. That’s the reason why I came to Eastbourne. And it’s a new place so from that point of view, it does give me that extra motivation to be here.”
Djokovic had Andre Agassi as a coach at the French Open after splitting with longtime coach Marian Vajda and two other team members – fitness coach Gebhard Phil Gritsch, and physiotherapist Miljan Amanovic – at the start of May.
With the relationship, not a long-term commitment, Agassi is not due to be at Eastbourne but will attend Wimbledon for as long as Djokovic stays in the tournament.
“For now, we’re going with the flow in a way,” Djokovic said. “Andre has a very busy life. He has a big family; he lives on the west coast of America, he’s got his foundation, his businesses – he has many, many things in his life that are consuming a lot of time.
“First of all, I appreciate all his consideration to work with me and to be with me, so we don’t have anything formal. We don’t have anything signed. It’s just as much as he can or he feels to be with me that I embrace that, I accept that, and I’m grateful for it.”