Walking the Wimbledon grounds Sunday, wearing a stylish white jacket with gold trim, his collar turned up for protection from a biting wind, the event's six-time champion looked like the same old Roger Federer.
True, there have been signs of slippage this month. Federer lost at the French Open in the quarterfinals, his earliest Grand Slam exit in six years. Then he dropped to No. 2 in the rankings behind nemesis Rafael Nadal. Then, at a Wimbledon warm-up event, came Federer's second grass-court defeat since 2003, extending his drought of nearly five months without a title.
But the All England Club tends to bring out the best in Federer, which is awfully good. He has reached a record seven consecutive Wimbledon finals, losing only one of them - 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 an immaculate Centre Court lawn for his opening-round match today against Alejandro Falla of Colombia, he'll again be the man to beat. Tournament organizers acknowledged as much by giving Federer the top seeding even though he's ranked second.
He'll try to join Pete Sampras and Willie Renshaw as the only men to win seven singles titles.
"Obviously my game's made for grass," Federer 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, who hasn't been to Wimbledon since 1977.
"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."
And then there's Nadal, who withdrew shortly before last year's tournament because of knee tendinitis. A match Tuesday against wild card Kei Nishikori of Japan will be Nadal's first at Wimbledon since he beat Federer in their 2008 final.