WIMBLEDON, England — Walking the Wimbledon grounds Sunday, wearing a stylish white jacket with gold trim, his collar turned up for protection from a biting wind, the tournament's six-time champion looked like the same old Roger Federer.
True, there have been signs of slippage. Federer lost at the French Open in the quarterfinals, his earliest Grand Slam exit in six years. He dropped to No. 2 in the rankings behind Rafael Nadal. Then at a Wimbledon warmup event came Federer's second grasscourt defeat since 2003.
But the All England Club tends to bring out the best in Federer. He has reached a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals, losing only one, to Nadal in 2008. Last year Federer regained the title, beating Andy Roddick 16-14 in the fifth set of a final that ranked with the sport's greatest matches.
And so when Federer steps onto Centre Court lawn for his opening-round match today against Alejandro Falla, he'll again be the man to beat. Tournament organizers acknowledged as much by giving Federer the top seed.
He'll try to join Pete Sampras and the 19th century's Willie Renshaw as the only men to win the singles title seven times.
"Obviously my game's made for grass," Federer, 29, said. "I definitely think every time I play, I'll have a chance to win here, there's no doubt. We all know how hard it is to win Grand Slam titles. But I think the experience I have on this surface can pull me through many matches maybe I would be struggling with."
Also made for grass are women's favorites Serena and Venus Williams, who are seeded 1-2 and have combined to win eight of the past 10 Wimbledon championships. Serena has tweaked her preparation in anticipation of a visit Thursday to Wimbledon by Queen Elizabeth II.
"I've been working on my curtsy," Serena said. "It's a little extreme, so I'm going to have to tone it down. I was practicing it this morning."