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“The hunger is obviously big,” Federer said.

His mastery of faster surfaces such as the grass at Wimbledon and the hard courts at the U.S. Open makes it tough to rule him out, even if he’s approaching his 31st birthday on Aug. 8.

Asked to size up his prospects for adding to his Grand Slam total, Federer said, “I think the upcoming two,” referring to Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, “those will be my best chances to win.”

While players such as Berdych or Tsonga or Roddick or del Potro have shown they can compete with the best on their best days _ and No. 4 Andy Murray, a three-time major finalist, gets plenty of home-crowd support because he represents Britain _ the expectation is that Djokovic, Nadal or Federer will extend their hard-to-believe rule at Grand Slam tournaments.

“Murray is obviously the other guy. He would be the other guy that would have the next best chance,” said seven-time major champion John McEnroe, who’ll be calling matches for ESPN as it takes over from NBC as the main Wimbledon TV channel in the United States.

Murray, for his part, dismisses questions about being burdened by all the attention he gets these two weeks _ and all the hopes the locals have.

“Doesn’t add any extra pressure. I think in all sports, playing at home is viewed as being a huge advantage, whereas for some reason when it comes to Wimbledon, everyone thinks it’s a bad thing,” he said. “I haven’t really found it that way. When I’ve played here, I’ve enjoyed the challenge, I’ve enjoyed playing in front of a passionate crowd, and it’s helped me.”

He also refuses to dwell on what might be considered the bad fortune of playing tennis at the same time as the top three.

For some perspective, consider what’s been going on in golf: When Webb Simpson won the U.S. Open last weekend, he was the ninth consecutive first-time major champion in that sport; he also was the 15th man to win one of the past 15 majors. That sort of parity does exist in tennis, too, but only in the women’s game, where six players divided up the most recent six Grand Slam titles, capped by Maria Sharapova’s triumph at the French Open.

That return to the top _ and to No. 1 in the WTA rankings _ makes her a popular pick to do well at Wimbledon, too. She did, after all, make her breakthrough at the grass-court tournament by winning it at age 17 in 2004.

There also are cases to be made for four-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams, who is sure to be intent on making up for a first-round loss at Roland Garros; defending champion Petra Kvitova; recent No. 1 Victoria Azarenka, a semifinalist a year ago; 2007 runner-up Marion Bartoli; former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, probably the best player without a Grand Slam title; and even Venus Williams, who might be slowed by an autoimmune disease but still knows how to get the most out of her big serve and powerful groundstrokes at a tournament she’s won five times.

It’s much easier to come up with a lengthy list of contenders for the women’s title than it is for the men’s.

Why has tennis’ top trio won major after major?

“Because they are too good,” Tsonga said. “That’s it. They’re just too good.”


Story Continues →