Wimbledon 2006: Federer again the favorite at Wimbledon

It has become a Wimbledon tradition, like bad bounces, overnight queues and occasional sunshine. At 1 p.m. on the tournament's first day, Roger Federer walks onto the Centre Court lawn and begins defending his title.

Rarely has there been a better tennis match than Federer and grass. Many players find the slick, speedy surface onerous and capricious; for Federer, it's inviting and inspiring.

He has won three consecutive championships at Wimbledon, with each earning him the honor of playing the first Centre Court match the following year.

"It's very difficult to open the tournament in Wimbledon," Federer said. "It's maybe a privilege and an honor, but at the same time you can be the first guy out of the tournament. So it's a lot of pressure involved."

Yet Federer makes it look easy. He'll return to his favorite stage Monday, seeking to break the record of 41 consecutive grass-court victories he shares with Bjorn Borg.

More important, Federer will commence his chase for another Wimbledon title. He's the odds-on favorite with British bookmakers, other players and past champions.

"If he plays normal, nobody can beat him on grass," 2001 winner Goran Ivanisevic said.

"I could see him not playing his best and winning," three-time champion John McEnroe said. "That's how much better he is on this surface."

"Maybe Roger Federer is the only guy who can stop him," said James Blake, a title threat if the Swiss star somehow falters. "Because if he's playing well, I don't see any one of us stopping him. He needs to have a bad day, I think."

On grass, Federer is likely too good even for nemesis Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard sports a streak of his own 60 consecutive wins on clay, including a victory over Federer for his second successive French Open title two weeks ago, reports AP.

O.Ch.