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Federer marches on

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Originally published on 08/07/17 00:00

The 18-time Grand Slam champion is bidding to clinch a record eighth title at the All England Club, having taken the decision to skip the entire clay court season to arrive at SW19 fully fit and well-drilled for seven five-set matches on grass.

And the 35-year-old is not the only former champion finding form at just the right time. Last year’s winner Andy Murray is looking fitter with each passing match after starting The Championships with a hip injury; three-time former champ Novak Djokovic appears to have rediscovered his mojo with Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic in his corner; and Rafael Nadal has carried his irresistible game from the clay courts of south-west Paris to the grass of south-west London.

“I think it's great,” said Federer, who beat Mischa Zverev 7-6(3) 6-4 6-4 to book his spot in the last 16. “I'm not that surprised because I thought that everybody this week was going to find their form, especially speaking about Andy and Novak. So I thought they did it very well.

“With me, I hoped I was going to be there. Whereas with Rafa's confidence, I thought he was also going to be there.

“So I'm not that surprised, but it's great. It's obviously hard to make all second week for us, you know, when I'm not playing. So sometimes it's in your favour these statistics.”

It is a year since Wimbledon reeled at the sight of Federer falling heavily on his already injured knee on Centre Court during the semi-final defeat against Milos Raonic, prompting the Swiss to take six months off to fully rehabilitate ahead of 2017.

One of the most impressive factors in his resurgence this season, which began with victory at the Australian Open, has been the way Federer still skips across the surface with cat-like ease and deceptive pace, a critical factor in his success over the years, he insists.

“Those few metres behind and in front of the baseline are crucial,” said Federer, who faces Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round. “I feel like with the eye and with the quickness of the reaction of the body, understanding which balls can you attack is really important. I did that very well when I was younger – I was able to build on that by working on my fitness.

“My eyes have always been there for me to help me out in that regard – even more so where I tried to finish the points earlier today. I think that explosiveness is crucial for me to be successful.”

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