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Federer gunning for Wimbledon record
June 25, 2007 10:49 IST
World number one Roger Federer [Images] begins his pursuit of Bjorn Borg's record five successive Wimbledon titles on Monday, six years after wrecking Pete Sampras's dreams of achieving the feat.
The Swiss burst on to the scene in 2001 when he snapped Sampras's 31-match winning streak at the grass court Grand Slam in the fourth round. Now the world number one hopes nobody will ruin his bid to match the Swede.
"It's always fantastic to be able to break records or match them, especially when it comes to Bjorn Borg I'm always very excited, because I think he was one of the most wonderful players we ever had in the game," Federer said on the eve of his opening match against Russian Teimuraz Gabashvili.
"It's a very ironic story actually that I beat Sampras's record, when he was going for five. Two months later he [Borg] called me up and thanked me for breaking Sampras's streak, keeping his alive, and now I'm going for Borg's record.
"But I've heard he's happy if I would tie it up. He's coming for the final weekend. I hope I'll be there too."
Federer has been unbeaten on grass since a first-round defeat here by Mario Ancic in 2002. Keen to protect a 48-match winning streak on grass, he opted to skip his usual warm-up tournament in Halle after his defeat by Rafael Nadal [Images] in the French Open final.
Despite following up each victory at Halle by triumphing at Wimbledon, Federer did not think his change of plans would backfire on him.
"It was obviously a tough call because I've always played very well in Halle. If you're superstitious, you would think I have to play Halle again and everything. But I'm not that type of person," he said.
"I have to look after my health first. I felt my back and my groin, and I didn't want to take a chance. [The last two years] in the week leading up to Wimbledon, I was so tired I could hardly practise.
"I wanted to do it differently this time. Transition to grass is always very easy for me because it feels so natural. I am very confident looking ahead to the next two weeks."
As he begins his pursuit of an 11th Grand Slam trophy, only the foolhardy would bet against the 25-year-old picking up the Challenge Cup on July 8.
With no one coming close to toppling Federer on grass in recent years, the Swiss could be forgiven if he started to think he is indestructible on the slick surface.
"It's been so long that I lost that of course you start to feel particularly strong on it," he said. "But it is a very dangerous surface. You can be upset by almost anybody, any round. Many probably cannot win the tournament here, but can upset the best. That's the most dangerous part in the early rounds here."