Roger Federer returns during the final of the Gerry Weber Open ATP tournament… (Christian Weische / EPA )
Never accuse Roger Federer of being shy.
He hasn't been past the quarterfinals of Wimbledon (or any grass-court tournament) in the last two years and he's 30 years old. The last 30-year-old to win a major title was Andre Agassi at the 2003 Australian Open and we all know about the years when Agassi sort of went away from tennis, an offshoot of which was giving his body a chance to rest.
Federer has never gone away and, in fact, is arriving at Wimbledon 2012, which begins Monday, with the serious goal of winning a seventh men's singles title, something only Pete Sampras has done at the All England Club in the modern era.
And when Federer came to his first 2012 Wimbledon news conference Saturday morning, streamed on video, he was wearing a long-sleeved cream sweater with a popped collar. The sweater had purple trim (a Wimbledon color) and a green (another Wimbledon color) "RF" insignia on the right arm.
There was no question about what the "RF" stands for.
Other than Sampras, only Willie Renshaw, a player from the 1880s who often got a bye directly to the final as defending champion, has won seven Wimbledon men's titles, and Federer would very much like to become the third.
"Over a two-, three-week period, a lot of things can go wrong for you or go right for you and if you come through, it's a beautiful feeling," Federer said. "I am dreaming of the title. There is no denying that."
There's also no denying that the last nine major trophies have been held by either Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal, who have played each other in the last four Grand Slam finals and are seeded 1-2 at Wimbledon. Federer may have 16 major titles, more than anyone else, but it's been almost 21/2 years since he last won one, at the 2010 Australian Open.
"I don't feel like I have to work on anything specific because I feel everything is working in my game," Federer said. "Physically I have no lingering injuries. I'm in a good spot right now."
It was a much more subdued Serena Williams who met with the press Saturday. Like Federer, Williams is 30, and like Federer it's been a while since she last won a major, here at Wimbledon in 2010. What followed was a series of injuries and illnesses and two stunning losses — to Sam Stosur in the final of the 2011 U.S. Open and last month in the first round of the French Open to Virginie Razzano. It was the first time Williams lost in the first round of a major, in 47 appearances.
Williams, who has won Wimbledon four times, said that loss in Paris made her neither more nor less confident.
"Whether I won in Paris or lost like I did in the first round, I am always extremely motivated," she said. "If anything, you know, I think losing makes me more motivated."
Maria Sharapova, who upset Williams at Wimbledon to win her first major in 2004, brought her career full circle last month by winning her first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam — winning each of the four majors at least once. She's seeded No. 1 at Wimbledon and is the true favorite this year. She and Williams wouldn't meet until the final, a matchup anticipated by many tennis fans.
Sharapova tried to dampen the anticipation by saying of the French and Wimbledon, "I think it's the toughest back-to-back."
The transition from the slow clay surface of Roland Garros to the grass courts of the All England Club, with just two weeks in between the tournaments, is "the toughest turnaround" in Grand Slam tennis, Sharapova said. Especially, she added, for a player "coming off a French Open win or final."
"But I'm certainly happy with what I achieved," Sharapova said. "But that doesn't make me less eager to want to achieve more. Obviously when I was coming to the French for the last three years, it's been the one I hadn't won, so that was the story line. Maybe there will be a new story line now. It would be a nice change."
Williams, in 2002, is the last woman to win the French and Wimbledon back-to-back, and Sharapova says she has a chance to do it. "Of course," she said.
For the first time, ESPN will telecast the entire tournament in the U.S. The good news for West Coast viewers is that all matches will be shown live, a change from past years when NBC would tape delay late-second-week matches to preserve its morning show. The downside is that ESPN is a basic cable outlet, so there is no over-the-air coverage of the event anymore.