Barry Cowan thinks Roger Federer can add to his bulging trophy cabinet at the lush lawns of Wimbledon.
Last Updated: 23/06/12 10:42am
I expect Roger Federer to win Wimbledon.
You can make a massive case for Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - if not many others - but the way Federer has picked his schedule and is winning his matches, makes me believe he can grasp a seventh SW19 title.
Grass is his best surface and Wimbledon - along with the hard courts of the US Open - represents his greatest chance of winning another Grand Slam.
On a slower court, the top players make Federer play too many balls and I don't think - and I'm pretty sure he doesn't either - that even if he plays his best tennis on clay, he will be able to defeat Djokovic and Nadal - especially at Roland Garros.
But, even though grass courts and the balls have slowed over the years, he still has the shots to thrive in South West London. Federer is hitting the ball harder and with more spin, while his serve and slice backhand are pivotal strokes.
With the shocking weather we have had in the lead up to the tournament and the fact it is likely to remain that way into the beginning of next week, the courts are not going to be baked hard; the balls will keep lower and that will aid Federer.
The Swiss is a better player now than he was five years ago, and will become world number one again if he wins at the All-England Club and matches Pete Sampras' title tally.
The only guys, I believe, that can realistically beat him are Djokovic and Nadal, and perhaps Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych if they play lights-out, aggressive tennis.
Murray is notoriously a very slow starter in Grand Slams and always gets better as the tournaments progress.
The Scot will play former world number three Nikolay Davydenko in the opening round, but that is a better draw than it looks on paper. Davydenko has never played great on grass and doesn't like moving on it. When they play on Tuesday the court will be lush and I think that will play into Murray's hands.
Beyond that his draw is tough and, going into Wimbledon, he is behind the other top guys. He played great tennis at the Australian Open but has not been near that level since, culminating in his three successive grass-court defeats at Queen's and the Boodles event.
You saw how much of an edge Nadal had in the French Open Final having beaten Djokovic on the clay in Rome and Monte Carlo. What you do before a Grand Slam does count and that is where I fear a little for Murray.
As for the other Wimbledon contenders, I don't see Juan Martin Del Potro doing too much; the hard courts suit him better.
The same could be said of the big-serving Canadian, Milos Raonic, but if he starts confidently and gets his movement sorted he will be a danger. I really like his attitude and he is one of those guys that could come through and surprise a few people.
Plus, if you're looking for a player who would have a great chance of winning the tournament if the top four were absent, I would tip 2010 runner-up, Berdych, simply because of what he has done on grass, the form he is in and his excellent mental state.
I will also be keeping my eye on two players at the opposite ends of the age spectrum.
Tommy Haas, 34, has had a brilliant return to the game and what an inspiration he is with the fact he still wants to compete after such a horrific list of injuries.
The German showed what he was capable off by beating Federer in the Halle Final last week. However, that was the best of three sets, and Wimbledon is best-of-five. Haas may struggle to drag his body through the full two weeks and he is not going to win it, but he is a dangerous outsider that the top players won't want to play.
Eighteen-year-old Briton, Oliver Golding, meanwhile, has a decent first-round draw against Igor Andreev; the Russian has got a big forehand but grass is not his best surface.
It will be a test for Golding to see how he copes under a little bit of pressure, as not only will he be playing in his home Grand Slam and looking to double his prize money, but there is also a large chunk of ranking points up for grabs.
The latter will be Oli's main concern; to get that ranking up so that next year he comes into Wimbledon ranked 250-300 in the world and not 480th.
Every day during the Wimbledon fortnight, Barry will be serving up his views. Check out his latest blog entry every morning on skysports.com