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Nadal wants Wimbledon glory to cap return to the top

Rafael Nadal is determined to cap his return to the top of the world by regaining the Wimbledon title he was forced to surrender without a fight.

sports Updated: Jun 20, 2010 13:08 IST

Rafael Nadal is determined to cap his return to the top of the world by regaining the Wimbledon title he was forced to surrender without a fight.

Nadal is back at Wimbledon for the first time since his epic victory over Roger Federer in the 2008 final after missing last year's tournament due to tendinitis in both knees.

Many pundits feared the Spaniard would never be the same dominant force again due to the wear and tear to his knees.

But Nadal will walk into the All England Club on Monday as the world number one and the most likely threat to defending champion Federer after a magnificent clay-court campaign.

He reeled off 24 successive victories and claimed titles at Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid and the French Open before finally losing to Feliciano Lopez at Queen's.

That defeat could largely be attributed to fatigue and Nadal is convinced he is in the perfect form and mood to claim a second title at the grass court grand slam.

"It is a very important personal satisfaction to be in London," Nadal said. "Four months ago everybody said they didn't know if I was going to be able to get back to the top.

"The last six months of the 2009 season weren't easy; a lot of injuries and problems. But I worked hard to be back and I did, winning in Monte Carlo, Rome, Madrid, and after in Roland Garros."

In contrast, Federer arrives at Wimbledon with uncertainty surrounding his form after an unusually poor run of recent results.

The 28-year-old started the year in assertive fashion as he crushed Andy Murray in the final of the Australian Open, but he has failed to win any of his seven tournaments since that triumph in Melbourne.

It is the lacklustre manner of defeats to the likes of Albert Montanes, Ernests Gulbis and Tomas Berdych -- players he would have brushed aside in the past -- that has raised questions about Federer's appetite for success after so many years at the top.

The six-time Wimbledon champion looked distracted and irritable during a four-set defeat to Robin Soderling in the French Open quarter-finals and then allowed a one-set lead to slip away against Lleyton Hewitt in the Halle final on Sunday.

That defeat was especially significant as Federer had not lost at Halle since 2002 and it was only the second loss he had suffered in 78 matches on grass since 2003 -- his other being that Wimbledon final against Nadal.

Yet Federer insists he is comfortable with the way he is playing and expects nothing less than another winning performance at Wimbledon.

"I'm happy with the way I'm playing," Federer said. "It was a good tournament for me at Halle. I've got to ensure I draw the right conclusions for Wimbledon. That loss (to Hewitt) doesn't worry me in any way."

Federer isn't the only star player going into Wimbledon with something to prove.

World number three Novak Djokovic is struggling for consistency, while Murray, the world number four, has yet to recover from his mauling by Federer in Australia and looked a long way from his best when Mardy Fish ended his reign as Queen's champion in the third round.

Murray, who reached the Wimbledon semi-finals last year before losing to Andy Roddick, is Britain's only hope of ending the long wait for a home winner at the All England Club.

The Scot is hopeful his run to the last four 12 months ago will prove invaluable as he tries to go one better this time.

"Last year was the first year I had a legitimate chance of winning the tournament, so it was good to have had that experience," Murray said.

Roddick also has unfinished business after his agonising 16-14 final set defeat to Federer in last year's final, but he insists he doesn't need to use that loss as motivation.

"Last year is last year. It has zero to do with this year, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I'm not going to close my eyes and think about it -- that's not going to make me hit a better forehand."

First Published: Jun 20, 2010 13:06 IST