Tag Archives: wimbledon

My love for Andy Murray

Twice in my life has sport truly broken my heart. The first was on July 8th, 2012, watching Andy Murray lose to Roger Federer in his first Wimbledon final. The other was seeing him announce his plans to retire and breaking down in his press conference ahead of the Australian Open.

Being Scottish and a sports fan is hard. It could be one of the hardest things about being from Scotland. The constant defeat in football and an occasional glimmer of hope in rugby union. But generally, it’s not great. To quote Edinburgh author Irvine Welsh: “It’s shite being Scottish.”

But since the summer of 2005 we’ve had something to treasure as one of our own blasted onto the world tennis stage. Murray reached the third round of Wimbledon at the age of 18, easily dispatching 14th seed Radek Stepanek along the way, and we finally had someone to cheer on.

Tennis has always had a feeling of being a sport for the middle classes, but the boy from Dunblane’s emergence sought to change that.

Raised by his mother Judy, who was now a coach after her own brief playing career, he moved to Spain at the age of 15, determined even at that tender age to take his tennis education to the next level.

As Murray said “it was a big sacrifice to move away from your family,” but it was a risk that paid off, and he soon began to show he could compete against the likes of Roger Federer and his immediate contemporaries, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Between them, this formidable quartet has dominated the men’s game for more than a decade.

Tears then cheers

Early in his career, Murray was treated harshly by sections of the British media. Asked in an interview who he would be supporting in football’s upcoming European Championship in the absence (yet again) of Scotland, his tongue-in-cheek response was “anyone but England.”

Winning in New York was one thing – what the British sporting public really craved was its first Wimbledon men’s champion since Fred Perry in 1936

This endeared to him to those north of the border but seemed to generate real hatred from the south. Murray was seen as surly and miserable while also being prone to fits of temper on the court when matches weren’t going his way. There were allegations of an overbearing mother and frequent questions about his choice of coaching staff.

But that first day when sport broke my heart began to turn things around. Having lost in four sets to Federer, he broke down on the court while thanking the fans. Through his tears he promised “I’m getting closer” and the Centre Court crowd finally warmed to him.

Just a few weeks later, he would meet Federer again on the same court in the Olympic final, dismissing the Swiss legend in three sets to win gold.

Now on a roll, Murray clinched his first Grand Slam title at that year’s US Open, beating Djokovic in an epic final that lasted nearly five hours.

Winning in New York was one thing, though – what the British sporting public really craved was its first Wimbledon men’s champion since Fred Perry in 1936.

Endearing

That long-awaited triumph finally came in 2013 when Murray again reached the final, this time facing Djokovic. He performed flawlessly to win in straight sets, and once again the emotions on display in victory endeared him to his now-adoring British public.

He went on to win the Wimbledon title again in 2016, also defending his Olympic crown in Rio the same year. The naysayers might see his total of three Grand Slams as ultimately disappointing and point to all the finals – including five at the Australian Open – that he reached only to lose.

But Murray’s feats have to be placed in context, and he was competing in an era featuring three of the all-time greats of men’s tennis in Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

In total, he won 45 ATP titles and spent 41 weeks occupying the No.1 spot in the world rankings. Towards the end of 2016, he won 24 consecutive matches.

His victories will be remembered for a long time in the heart of tennis fans around the world, but it’s his work off the court which has really cemented his status in the sport and beyond.

Championing equality

In 2017, after he had ended his season early due to the hip injury which would ultimately end his career, he staged an exhibition match in Glasgow, playing against Federer, raising £70,000 for children’s charities.

He has been a huge supporter of equal rights, which has earned him praise from the icons of the women’s game such as Serena Williams and Billie-Jean King.

The Scot was once asked if he was he was a feminist; his response was “If being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then, yes.”

He was the first top male player to hire a female coach in Amelie Mauresmo. He discussed the reaction he received for this by bringing equality to the forefront of the discussion.

“I didn’t realise that Amelie would find herself up against such criticism and prejudice. The staggering thing was that she was slated every time I lost, which is something my former coaches never ever experienced. It wasn’t right.”

As soon as Murray confirmed his impending retirement in Australia, tributes poured in from his colleagues and rivals.

King tweeted: “You are a champion and off the court…Your voice for equality will inspire future generations.”

Heather Watson, his doubles partner at the Olympics in Rio, said: “I know all of us girls in the locker room are in awe and so grateful for how you always fight our corner! Thank you so much for that. You inspire me in so many ways.”

Nadal, his rival all the from childhood, tweeted: “Congrats @andy_murray for all your achievements all these years. It was great to play against you all these years. Good luck with everything!”

Unity

The talented but wayward Nick Kyrgios was quietly mentored by Murray, who saw past his bad boy antics on court, and the Aussie paid heartfelt tribute on Instagram.

‘In tennis, it is not the opponent you fear, it is failure itself, knowing how near you were but just out of reach’ – Sir Andy Murray.

“You will always be someone that impacted the sport in so many different ways.  You took me under your wing as soon as I got on tour and to this day you have been someone I literally just look forward to seeing… I just want you to know that today isn’t only a sad day for you and your team, it’s a sad day for the sport and everyone you’ve had an impact on.”

Murray may feel disheartened as he has watched Federer, Nadal and Djokovic all come back from serious injury lay-offs and return their peak levels. Who knows how many Slam titles he would have won in a time less blessed with amazing talents in the men’s game?

We will never know, but what I will never forget is sitting in a park in Scotland in 2013 watching his final against Djokovic – I used up my whole data plan on my phone in one sitting. The cheers at our work summer party and the unity that you brought to Scotland – and the rest of the UK.

Another memory I’ll have is from a Wimbledon Championships video in which top players are asked how they like to eat strawberries. Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic, Maria Sharapova and Federer all replied “with cream,” but the Scotsman’s bone-dry sense of humour ran through his response of “with my fingers.”

We’ll miss him…

Feature image courtesy of Carine06 via Flickr Creative Commons under licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

How Twitter is leading the digital sports broadcasting revolution

When Twitter was launched in 2006, its founders surely never imagined that the platform would end up broadcasting live sport.

However, set up as a social media service, Twitter, in recent years, has made huge moves in the sports industry, signing deals to show live events including tennis from Wimbledon, golf from the PGA Tour and football from the MLS.

On the surface, all of their partnerships have worked extremely well, which has led many to believe that we are now in the midst of a move away from traditional broadcasting to social media platforms in terms of watching sport. But, is it really true?

Shift from television

“It’s possible that there has been a shift from traditional broadcasting in the sense of watching sport on a television,” says Elizabeth Stranges, sports partnerships manager at Twitter UK. “But fans are still consuming sport via broadcaster’s digital channels, as well as on social media, where available.

“Sport remains to be one of the few viewing experiences that thrives in its real-time nature and that unique format lends itself well to continued support from fans while the event is live, regardless of the channel it is streamed or broadcast on.”

As television ratings for live sport decline, one thing, for sure, is that sporting authorities are beginning to anticipate the potential weight digital outlets could hold in the commercial future of their sports.

And, with 319 million monthly users, many of whom are sports fans, and a platform which makes it easy to network with others, it’s not hard to see why Twitter is currently being preferred as sport’s primary digital broadcasting network.

“I think sporting authorities have recognised that Twitter is the perfect companion to their content,” says Stranges. “The largest topic of conversation on Twitter in the UK in 2016 was sport; bear in mind this was also the year of Brexit and Trump’s election.

“So, it’s hard to ignore that Twitter provides them with one of the best ways to reach their fans, grow their audience and join the conversation around their brands.”

World Cup coverage

With the 2018 World Cup in Russia around the corner, social media companies will be all looking to showcase the power and potential of their platforms. And Twitter is no exception.

Indeed, earlier this year, in yet another huge coup, the digital media company announced that it has signed a partnership with Fox Sports to broadcast the sports channel’s coverage of the World Cup. Undoubtedly, it sounds good, but how will it work?

“We’re very excited about the partnerships with Fox Sports,” says Stranges. “They’ll produce a daily 30-minute show on all 27 match days during the tournament, to be live-streamed exclusively on Twitter and available to logged-in and logged-out US users via @FOXSports and @FOXSoccer.

“Rachel Bonnetta will host from Moscow’s Red Square, and the show will include match previews, recaps, Twitter reactions and original segments produced by Fox Sports’ team in Moscow.

“Fox Sports will also provide “near-live video highlights” from every match to Twitter, including every goal scored, as well as videos from question-and-answer sessions with talent, interviews with players and coaches and press conferences.

“Looking at the upcoming World Cup as a topical benchmark, back in 2014, there were an incredible 672 million Tweets sent across the month-long tournament.

“And in fact, back in November we shared that there were already 50K Tweets sent purely about the draw alone at the back end of 2017. So, the momentum on Twitter is continuing.”

Competition

Indeed, the momentum is certainly in Twitter’s favour at the moment considering it has also recently signed a three-year deal with Major League Soccer to broadcast live matches, highlights and features.

However, at the same time, with the likes of Facebook, Google and Amazon, who already own the UK broadcasting rights to ATP tennis from 2019, all looking to expand their own sports broadcasting portfolio, Twitter could be forgiven for feeling anxious about the rising competition from other digital media outlets.

“It has been, and will continue to be, interesting to watch how various platforms will evolve in this space,” says Stranges. “But I think Twitter has a unique positioning when it comes to sport.

“People come to Twitter to see and talk about What’s Happening and rarely is that more relevant than with live sporting events given the real time nature of the conversation.”

Future

The broadcasting deals Twitter have been able to pull off and successfully implement within their platform over the last two to three years should send a shiver down the spines of the big television broadcasters as it suggests that TV may no longer be king in terms of watching sport.

Clearly, the ability to view sport and interact with others at the same time online is something which appeals to the younger generations and Twitter have shrewdly used that to their advantage.

Whether, Twitter will seek to be the host broadcaster of sporting events down the line remains to be seen, however, it’s evident that sport has now become hugely significant to the brand and its future.

“Sport partnerships are very important to Twitter,” concludes Stranges. “And we’re excited to continue working with our partners on new and innovative initiatives in the coming years.”

Feature image courtesy of Digital Sport

How Transport for London keeps the capital’s sports fans moving

When it comes to sport, London is a special city. Indeed, each year it hosts hundreds of football, cricket and rugby matches, as well as Wimbledon, athletics events and the odd Rugby World Cup or Olympics.

With each of these events attracting thousands of fans from all over the country and the world, Transport for London (TfL) is primarily responsible for transferring the masses to and from numerous sporting locations.

But, with the potential for chaos and disruption, how does the travel authority prepare to make sure everything always runs smoothly?

TfL’s tactical plans

“There are an awful lot of sporting events in London,” says Stuart Reid, programme director for travel demand management at TfL. “We have 12 league football teams in the capital and they bring their own challenges. You also have cricket matches and the once a year events like Wimbledon and the London Marathon.

“What’s good about stadium events compared to ones on the road like marathons is that we know roughly how many fans will be attending. And then we primarily work with the promoters and police to try to establish where most people will be arriving from. It’s a multi-agency approach.

“We find the more we accommodate an event, the more successful travel becomes and the more the sporting traveller knows what to expect. That makes things a whole lot easier.”

“There are operational plans that we can enact,” says Nick Owen, head of control centre operations at TfL.

“But it does take a lot of thinking. London Underground and bus services are extended if they need to be. And roads will be closed. All, of course, depending on how many people are expected to be travelling and the event.

“For example, with an event like Wimbledon we start planning for the following year’s tournament the day after it finishes. We would have a debrief on what’s gone well and what hasn’t gone well, and then we would plan how to improve our approach and services the next time.

“The key for us is to have as much notice and prior knowledge of the event so we can tailor the works on the network, whether that be above or below the ground.”

Twickenham scrum

With most fixtures scheduled in the summer and the season starting in August, preparing for football games is a rather simple and repetitive task with the help of clubs and police.

However, it’s the one-off events like the Olympics in 2012, which really stretch TfL’s resources.

These require the highest amount of planning and cooperation. As Reid and Owen point out, hosting the recent Rugby World Cup in 2015, demanded years of preparation.

“The opening ceremony at Twickenham was the first full capacity event there in the evening,” says Owen. “Fans were flocking to the stadium, but there was the added pressure of the normal Friday rush hour and people trying to come out of London, so that all had to be navigated.

“It’s quite a contrast. With football, for example, the fixtures are released in June and we can cope with that relatively easily. But the Rugby World Cup takes many months, if not, years of planning.”

“The Rugby World Cup used existing stadiums, but matches were played in locations they wouldn’t normally be, all at different times, so we had an overlay on our networks, “says Reid.

“At Twickenham the stadium operation was revved up. Parking around the stadium was reduced so we had to lay on shuttle buses to the station. That meant the A road next to Twickenham had to be shut, which wouldn’t happen for normal rugby matches. That’s where all the different planning comes in.”

Bigger stadia

With football clubs in the capital all gradually expanding their stadium capacities, the pressure on underground, overground and bus services continues to increase.

Indeed, just in the last 12 years, Arsenal and West Ham have moved to bigger grounds, withTottenham Hotspur and Chelsea planning to follow. So are TfL worried as thousands more fans descend on their services?

“It’s not as big a problem as you would think,” says Reid. “It may seem like a cliché at this point but ultimately it comes down to preparation.

“The clubs help out with stewarding. When Arsenal are playing, we have more staff on the ground at Highbury & Islington station. And at Wembley Park the same when England are playing.

“With White Hart Lane’s expansion, undoubtedly there will be significant rise in demand for services in that location, and it’s something we are working with the club and other agencies on how best to deal with it. It’s taking time but we’re planning for it.”

Benefits to London

Even though hosting sporting events takes meticulous planning and puts a strain on resources, it would be easy to forget that sports fans using transport services only make up a tiny percentage of the total number of users each year.

Hence, as TfL is keen to point out, the priority is always to keep the rest of the city moving and protect the everyday traveller from any inconvenience events can cause.

“Thirty million journeys are made on a typical day in London,” says Reid. “Therefore, it’s important to remember that the number of people you have to manage going about their normal day outstrips the number of people going to a sporting event.

“We’re constantly thinking about how we can keep traffic moving. How we can keep buses running amid a road event. You’ve got to make sure, the rest of the public are least affected as possible and can go wherever they need to go.”

Speaking to Reid and Owen their modesty is commendable. However, it’s clear that sporting occasions couldn’t run as efficiently as they do in the capital, if it wasn’t for the work TfL puts in behind the scenes.

Every year, London’s booming population is making it harder and harder to maintain a good service, but, admirably, those at TfL still recognise the advantages of London hosting sports events and are committed to helping them run smoothly.

“There’s a challenge we face every day,” concludes Owen. “Increased travel demand due to the growing population. That’s why TfL is  investing heavily so we can deal with these pressures. But I don’t think it’s getting harder to accommodate sporting events.

“We absolutely understand the benefits of those events to the economy, to the local councils. The World Athletics Championship, for example, contributed £107 million to the London economy. That just shows how important they are to this city.

“That’s why me and Stuart and the rest of the team spend so much time trying to accommodate these events. They are a part of what makes London a global city.”

Images courtesy of TfL

New tech, please: How Wimbledon is upping its digital game

Wimbledon is synonymous with tradition. The lush green grass of its courts, players wearing all-white, strawberries and cream.

Originally located in Worple Road, before moving to its current site in Church Road in 1922, the All England Club hosted its first tennis tournament in 1877, when Spencer Gore won 12 guineas for defeating William Marshall in the final.

Today, when the men’s and women’s champion now receive £2.2m prize money, Wimbledon continues to uphold its tradition, history and values and remains at the pinnacle of the game.

However, how does the All England Club manage to maintain its grandeur against the test of time? Put simply, the answer is: by continuously striving to be a leader in innovation.

Tradition and innovation

Centre Court at Wimbledon
Centre Court at Wimbledon

“Tradition and innovation are two pillars at the core of what the Wimbledon brand stands for,” says Alexandra Willis, head of digital, communications and content at SW19.

“Getting the balance right between the two is something that you see all over the grounds.

“If you take the Centre Court’s retractable roof for example. An amazing piece of engineering innovation but done in a very seamless way so that it’s understated.

“With the whole digital strategy, we’ve tried to follow the same ethos – celebrating Wimbledon’s traditions and preserving those traditions through the use of innovations.”

Website and social media

With tennis now a global sport, there are millions of fans all over the world who are unable to visit the grounds in person during the Championships. Therefore, Wimbledon and their partners IBM endeavour every summer to make them feel a part of the event using advanced technology.

For instance, during this year’s tournament, for the first time ever, mixed reality 360-degree view was used on the practice courts via the mobile app. Willis believes that development was the perfect example of how Wimbledon makes sure it doesn’t fall behind in appealing to all its fans far and wide.

The famous men’s singles trophy

“There are three core pillars to our development for each Championships,” says Willis. “One is a new platform. Two is incremental improvements. Three is an innovation test.

“Mixed reality is something that has been talked about a lot in sport. The idea of being able to bring people to a place they’ve never been to before.

“Truly experiencing it and immersed in what it’s like. I think we will see it again.

“Overall, the ability to leverage technology to better tell the story of different places around the grounds is definitely something we’re focused on.

With hundreds of million website views during the Championships, three million Twitter followers, four million Facebook likes and a three-year running deal with Snapchat, the appeal of the internet and social media is distinctly something which Wimbledon not only uses to its advantage but are keen to keep developing on into the future.

“It’s huge,” says Willis about social media. “One of the things that’s really important for the Wimbledon brand is its global reach.

“Yes, it’s a British event, held very proudly in Britain. However, it’s very important that we try to service our fanbase all around the world.

“Technology allows you to message different audience groups. This year we launched content in Spanish on Facebook. We’ve been doing that in China, Korea and India as well.

“Next year we are rebuilding wimbledon.com and we are hoping that fans will be able to track and monitor their favourite players. That will be a big step.”

BBC

After the Championships ended in July, the All England Club revealed that from next year, the newly-formed Wimbledon Broadcasting Services would take over from the BBC and control all cameras on the grounds.

It was a surprising move considering that the BBC have been the primary domestic broadcaster of Wimbledon for over 90 years and are currently celebrating the anniversary with a special exhibition at the Wimbledon Museum.

A vintage BBC camera on display in the Wimbledon Museum

“The reason for that decision was to enable us to deliver the best possible coverage of Wimbledon all over the grounds in pace with the change in technology in broadcast and to be able to deliver that to a truly global audience,” says Willis.

“The BBC have been, and will continue to be an excellent partner, and it’s no reflection as to how they covered Wimbledon.

“But we hope this will take some of the pressure of them in terms of introducing technology innovations such as 4K (television coverage in higher resolution).

“We celebrated 90 years with the BBC this year; 80 years of television; 50 years of colour TV. What’s so impressive about the BBC is the way they are also striving for innovation and change and to broaden their audience.

“The way we’ve collaborated together through social media has been great and will continue into the future. We can’t speak more highly of them.”

With the tournament itself running for only two weeks every summer, you would be forgiven for thinking that Wimbledon spends most of its time in lockdown.

Determination

However, contrary to common belief, plans, across the board, are constantly being drawn up to improve the brand.

Indeed, the ongoing three-year construction of a new retractable roof on Court One epitomises this spectacularly.

It’s clearly at the forefront in the minds of everybody who works at the Club to leave no stone unturned and that’s what keeps Wimbledon ahead of the curve.

“It’s at the heart of the Club that there is always something you can improve,” Willis adds.

“Whether that’s fixing a squeaky chair or bettering an app, there’s always something more we feel we can do and that’s what makes Wimbledon special.”

Feature image courtesy of wimbledon.com

At last – sport has a spring in its step

Spring is about to give a much-needed boost to the sporting calendar.

Apart from the occasional big event, such as the Australian Open and the Super Bowl, the period between November and March offers pretty thin pickings for armchair sports fans.

Even rugby union’s Six Nations competition is now a long, drawn-out affair, meaning there really are some weekends when we should go outside and take a walk because there is simply nothing worth watching on TV.

But come the end of March, and things start looking up.

Formula 1 is revving up for its new campaign, beginning with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 26th, following swiftly by the first major of the golf season, the Masters at Augusta (April 6-9th).

Football

The 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign is reignited towards the end of the month. England boss Gareth Southgate has gone back to the future by selecting 34-year-old Jermaine Defoe.

The Sunderland striker’s last international match was in November 2013, but he’ll be hoping to feature against Lithuania at Wembley on March 27th.

With Leicester’s Jamie Vardy not finding last season’s form, and Tottenham’s Harry Kane injured, goal threats from midfield inclujding Raheem Sterling, Jesse Lingard and Delle Alli will be key for the Three Lions.

Domestically, if Chelsea continue in their current form, we will not have to wait until May to know who will be crowned the Premier League Champions this season.

Brighton and Newcastle look to have the Championship’s automatic promotion spots sewn up, but they’ve both suffered wobbles in recent weeks and can’t take their eye of the pursuing pack.

Rugby union

With the Six Nations having drawn to its conclusion, the attention of rugby union fans switches to this summer’s eagerly awaited British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand.

It begins in early June, with three Tests against the mighty All Blacks scheduled for June 24th, July 1st and 8th.

The Lions are again being coached by Warren Gatland, who led them to a 2-1 series win in Australia four years ago.

But the Kiwi will know that the best British and Irish talents have their work cut out against the 2011 and 2015 World Cup winners.

Tennis

Maybe it’s just me, but watching Andy Murray trying to win at Wimbledon was more compelling than seeing him actually take the title in 2013, then again last year.

Nonetheless, the British sporting summer will reach its peak in July as the Scot goes for his third men’s singles crown in SW19.

He’d be a popular winner again, but perhaps not as acclaimed as Roger Federer, who’ll be going for his eighth title at the age of 35, having won the Australian Open in January.

Coincidentally, Serena Williams, also 35, will also be chasing an eighth ladies singles crown, having also won in Melbourne.

Athletics

West Ham’s current home will return to it’s original use when the London Stadium hosts the Anniversary Games in July, followed by the World Athletics and ParaAthletics Championships in August.

The Worlds will offer British athletics fans their final chance to see quadruple Olympic champion Sir Mo Farah competing on the track before his switch to road racing.

He’ll be hoping the controversy over claims that his coach Alberto Salazar has at least infringed the spirit of anti-doping rules won’t spoil his track farewell in London.

Another all-time great hanging up his spikes after the Worlds is Usain Bolt; the Jamaican will be aiming to go out with yet more sprint golds to add to his astounding collection.

 

Formula 1

The real reason why March properly kicks off the sporting year is those five lights going out in Melbourne to start the new Formula 1 season.

New cars, new drivers and even new rules are waiting for us on the 26th of March. Last year we said goodbye to the German Grand Prix, Jenson Button and Manor racing who folded.

This year, we say hello to Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren, Lance Stroll at Williams and myriad technical rule changes.

The arrival of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes has fans rubbing their hands with excitement.

The Finn has already confirmed his talents at Williams, but how will he measure up against new team-mate and triple F1 champion Lewis Hamilton – surely the best driver of the current era?

Bottas’s predecessor Nico Rosberg took the drivers crown last season but promptly retired, not wishing to face another year of battling Hamilton for the title.

Roger Federer

Record eighth Wimbledon win still on for Federer

Not so long ago, the phrase ‘shock grand slam victory’ would never have been used in connection with Roger Federer.

The sublime talents of the Swiss star saw him amass 17 titles at the big four tennis tournaments – Wimbledon and the Australian, French and US Opens.

But he hadn’t won one since Wimbledon 2012 and, at the age of 35, retirement looked more likely than another slam triumph.

But surprise exits for Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic in Melbourne last month helped both Federer and old rival Rafael Nadal reach the final.

Federer beat the Spaniard 6–4, 3–6, 6–1, 3–6, 6–3 to make it slam No.18 – four ahead of Nadal and Pete Sampras.

But was his win simply an unexpected bonus? A lucky last hurrah for possibly the greatest player the men’s game has ever seen?

Underdog

You would be forgiven for thinking that his triumph at the Australian Open will be his last. Surely Federer’s physical abilities are only declining whilst the competition remains as fierce as ever?

“Fast surfaces suit older players, with shorter rallies and more emphasis on serving consistently well – one of Federer’s best attributes”

He could, though, be a dark horse at this year’s Wimbledon, where a record eighth singles title at the famous tournament beckons.

Federer may need a bit of luck again, but he has show that on faster surfaces he is still a formidable foe.

He definitely won’t be the bookies’ favourite in SW19, but that is something that could play into his hands.

Weirdly, the Swiss suits the role of the underdog. An understated player, he has always gone about his business in a quiet, unspectacular but smoothly efficient manner, with an incredible ability to come back from the brink.

Less predictable

Athough Djokovic and Murray are still expected to dominate this year, they faltered in the early rounds in Australia on the new Plexicushion surface, which returned court speeds to that of the early 2000s.

And while Federer not have the legs he used to, he showed he still has intelligence which has made him so deadly across the 19-year span of his career.

Fast surfaces suit older players, with shorter rallies and more emphasis on serving consistently well – one of Federer’s best attributes.

As Wimbledon’s grass courts get harder and more worn as the tournament progresses, they play faster, and the ‘Fed Express’ can still thrive on the green stuff.

Grass is also less predictable, and losses of concentration see upsets and giant-killings happen every year. The hugely experienced Swiss is still seemingly less susceptible to these – and is also capable of throwing a few surprises into his game.

Early exit

What’s fairly certain is that, ahead of Wimbledon, Federer won’t add another French Open crown to his sole victory at Roland Garros in 2009.

“Will the 2017 Australian Open be his last-ever grand slam? I wouldn’t bet on it…”

The clay courts in Paris are much slower and take away the advantage of a good serve, benefitting instead those who can slug it out in long rallies from the baseline.

An early exit there is likely for Federer, as it’s his least-favourite surface, but this will give him more time to prepare for Wimbledon.

Meanwhile, Djokovic, Murray and the rejuvenated Nadal, 30 – who has won a record nine French titles – are expected to go further, and potentially have to slog their way through several long, gruelling contests.

Adding to his grand slam tally is still going to be a big ask for Federer. He turns 36 in August, but is fresh after sitting out the second half of 2016 with the first serious injury of his career.

At 35, he certainly cannot match the speed of Murray or the power of Djokovic. But his speed of thought and grace under pressure mean he is still a threat.

Will the 2017 Australian Open be his last-ever grand slam? I wouldn’t bet on it…

Image @brendamaiy