When Rafael Nadal was asked about his favourite Wimbledon memory, he smiled and said: “For me it’s easy, 2008.”
The four-hour-and-48-minute battle between Nadal and Roger Federer that defined the 2008 Championships is in fact many people’s favourite memory of Wimbledon.
And Nadal, coming off a dominating clay court season, is in a strong position to recreate that success and face another exciting meet-up with Federer.
However, it’s been six years since Nadal made it past the fourth round and with him opting to skip the grass court warm up at Queen’s, it’s difficult to tell how his game is looking.
He said: “I know it’s always difficult. I am excited to be playing here, in a tournament that I really love.
“But at the same time I tell you, it’s a tournament that you can go out very early in.”
This is something Nadal knows all too well with a wrist injury plaguing his last few years. It also means he can relate to Andy Murray’s recent struggle with hip injury.
“I cannot tell you exactly because I experienced all the things,” he said on Murray’s hopes this year.
“I had success without myself being in great shape myself. I experienced very negative moments when I was trying to play and I was not in great shape.”
He added: “On the decisions, you take risks. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn’t go that well.”
One thing that has been a certainty at The Championships over the last 15 years, however, is the dominance of the big four – Nadal, Murray, Federer and Novak Djokovic – with one of them taking the title each year.
But a host of top 10 players are hoping 2017 is the year to break this trend, and the one with perhaps the best shot is Stan Wawrinka.
“I think it’s going to be a really interesting Wimbledon, that’s for sure,” Wawrinka said.
Despite his first-round loss at Queen’s, the level he has been playing at is on par with his route to winning the US Open last year.
But the question remains if this is enough to beat the big guns – and coming out from a convincing loss against Nadal in the Roland Garros final, this remains to be seen.
Another of the more persistent challenges Wawrinka faces is stepping out from the shadow of his fellow countryman and inspiration, Federer.
“He’s doing something amazing,” Wawrinka said.
“We can talk more about Roger if you want but I’m a bit tired.
“It’s been 10 years you ask me questions about Roger.”
With both Wawrinka and Nadal in with a chance to take the number one spot alongside the trophy from Murray, it is certainly shaping up to be an interesting few weeks.
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