I'm back to my best, Federer tells Wimbledon rivals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/f/federer295.jpg' class='caption'> Roger Federer has warned his rivals for the Wimbledon title that he is back to his best just in time for the business end of the tournament.

Updated: June 26, 2010 06:41 IST
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London :

Roger Federer has warned his rivals for the Wimbledon title that he is back to his best just in time for the business end of the tournament.

Federer had dropped three sets during unusually sloppy displays against unheralded pair Alejandro Falla and Ilija Bozoljac in the first two rounds at the All England Club.

But the defending champion was back in the groove on Centre Court as he gave a sublime display to beat France's Arnaud Clement 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 and set up a clash with Austrian 16th seed Jurgen Melzer.

By his own high standards 2010 has been a disappointing year for Federer, who has failed to win any of his seven tournaments since beating Andy Murray in the Australian Open final in January.

Federer's run of 23 successive Grand Slam semi-final appearances was snapped at the French Open and he even lost for just the second time in 78 matches on grass when Lleyton Hewitt beat him in the final at Halle earlier this month.

But Federer's previous struggles look like just a temporary blip and the likes of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray will be well aware he is starting to hit his stride.

"This felt much better," Federer said. "Right off the bat I got the early break and it was the same thing in the second set.

"From then on, it was a race to the finish line. So it was a good and solid match for me, clean, hardly any errors, good on the offensive.

"I'm very happy with my game right now."

Federer's next challenge comes from a familar face as he locks horns with Melzer, a regular practice partner and long-time friend.

"We know each other very well, back from the juniors. We played doubles back at the Orange Bowl probably like in '97 or '96," Federer added.

"It's funny because I've practiced with him and chat with him every day in the locker rooms but he's one of the guys I never faced.

"It's an interesting matchup and kind of cool we finally get a chance to play each other, especially here at Wimbledon, which I think is one of his best surfaces.

After a tricky first week at his favourite Grand Slam, Federer is finally starting to regain his aura of invincibility.

While he would have loved to make a faster start to the tournament, the six-time champion believes the quality of the men's tour makes it hard for anyone to get an easy ride at a grand slam these days.

"This year it seems like there have been tough matches for everyone. And tough matches don't mean that there's a decline in form by the big players," he said.

"You always have to respect the guy who put in a great effort and a good match. There's many guys that did that against top guys.

"But it's good for the tournament that the top guys are still going."

Aside from his progress to the second week of the tournament, the highlight for Federer was having lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday during her first visit to Wimbledon since 1977.

"I just enjoyed sitting right next to her at lunch really and getting a chance to know what kind of a person she is, because you hear a lot obviously about people of her status," he said.

"It was nice. She was very friendly, very relaxed. You could tell she's done this a million times, you know.

"She made everybody feel very special at the table. It's one of those things you'll never forget." 

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