LONDON • Rafael Nadal has warned his Wimbledon rivals that he will be a major threat to their title dreams if he can survive the treacherous first week at the All England Club.
The Spaniard is in London on a high after winning his 10th French Open crown without dropping a set. With 15 Grand Slam titles on his CV, his legacy as an all-time tennis great is secure, but in each of his last four appearances at Wimbledon, he has lost to a player ranked outside the top 100.
Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown have all embarrassed Nadal at the grass-court Grand Slam, where he has not been past the fourth round since 2011.
The 31-year-old starts his Wimbledon campaign against Australian world No. 137 John Millman tomorrow, and he believes if he can make it through the first three rounds while he gets used to the grass, he can make a strong run for the title.
"I am excited to be playing again here, in a tournament that I really love," Nadal said yesterday.
"This is a tournament that you can go out very early. But at the same time if I am able to go through at the beginning, I think I'll gain confidence. I'm playing well since the beginning of the season."
Although he is the world No. 2, the left-hander was relegated to fourth seed as Wimbledon chiefs took into consideration his poor record at the event in recent years.
The two-time Wimbledon champion missed last year's tournament with a wrist injury and, dogged by chronic knee problems, he has often struggled to deal with the low bounce on grass.
But Nadal is hopeful his body will stand up to the strain of the gruelling two-week tournament.
"I cannot tell you exactly what will happen because I experienced all the things. I had success without feeling myself in great shape," he said.
"I have experienced very negative moments, and I was not in great shape like last year in Roland Garros or like here in 2012.
"So there is always decisions that you have to take. On the decisions, you take risks. Sometimes goes well, sometimes not that well."
Nadal won his last Wimbledon title back in 2010 and he faces a tough challenge again this year, with Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka lying in the last four before a potential final showdown against Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic.
Asked if there was a chance the big four's stranglehold would be broken this year, Nadal said: "Maybe that changes this year. You never know."
Earlier, women's world No. 1 Angelique Kerber admitted that Serena Williams' absence from Wimbledon gives her a chance to make amends for last year's final misery.
Kerber was denied a first Wimbledon title by Williams 12 months ago as the American star beat the German in straight sets.
But Williams is not defending her title after taking the rest of the year off as she prepares to give birth to her first child.
"Of course it's different if Serena is not here. We will see. Everything is possible in two weeks," Kerber said.
"There are so many good players right now, so I will not put the pressure on my side."