Interview: Two-time doubles champion Peter McNamara previews Wimbledon

With Wimbledon now underway, Sports Mole caught up with two-time doubles champion Peter McNamara to preview the tournament.

The world's best tennis players will convene in London over the next fortnight to battle it out for some of the biggest prizes that the sport has to offer.

Someone who knows what it takes to be successful at SW19 is Australian Peter McNamara, who triumphed alongside Paul McNamee in 1980 and again in 1982 to claim the men's doubles title.

Sports Mole caught up with the 57-year-old to preview the tournament and gain his thoughts on who could challenge the top four and why he thinks Wimbledon is the biggest Grand Slam of them all.

Now that we know the men's draw, would it be fair to say that Novak Djokovic is the clear favourite to win his second Wimbledon title?
"If you look at the draw, it is very one-sided. You've got Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal on one side and Novak Djokovic and David Ferrer on the other. Obviously Djokovic is going to go into that feeling fairly confident that he will reach the semi-final and probably the final without having to beat too many of the top guys. This is the problem when you seed Nadal at number five. Okay, they have their rules, but as a player you would have been hoping that Nadal would have been seeded fourth."

Staying with Nadal, as someone who suffered with serious knee injuries during your career, how impressed have you been with his comeback this year? And how do you expect him to fare over the next couple of weeks?
"It's been amazing. When you think about it, he started around four months ago in South America not really knowing what was going to happen and he lost in the final to Horacio Zeballos, which by his terms is a pretty awful result. Then he came out and won the next three before going on to take the French Open.

"His confidence must be very high, but the grass brings a whole new level to it. It brings a lot more players who can hurt him. The knee [problem] is an ongoing thing and he will be putting a lot of pressure on it. The clay seems to suit him because he can slide to the ball, whereas on grass you're not sliding anywhere. It's a little bit harder believe it or not because you've got to get lower to the ball. It's going to be a tough ask for Rafa just to get to the final because he's got to beat two very good players in Federer and Murray. On paper you'd think that he would maybe beat one of them, but it's going to be very tough to win against both."

Rafael Nadal celebrates with the Wimbledon trophy.© PA Photos

What about the home boy Andy Murray? How much will winning the Olympics last year at Wimbledon help him this time around?
"It should [help him]. Confidence-wise on grass he is a much better player. The ball comes onto the racket and he moves so well. He's got this little sliced backhand and can serve and volley if he wants. He is obviously far more confident on the grass than clay and him not playing in the French Open is one of the smartest things that he could have done. Now he is going into Wimbledon winning at Queens, playing fairly well and hitting the ball quite confidently. He's got Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarters and Tommy Robredo in the last 16 - a couple of good players - but the draw is not so bad for him.

Completing the quartet is Roger Federer. He needs just one more title to become the most successful man ever at Wimbledon in terms of singles triumphs. Is time running out for him?
"No, definitely not. The way that he plays, he's got a few more years on grass. It doesn't affect him so much on grass because he gets a lot of free points with his serve, his forehand and the way that he hits the ball. People are going to look at the French and Tsonga beating him and pointing out his movement - that's not the Federer of the past. Will he win another title? Yes, he could, without question. If he is motivated, which he always is, he's the consummate professional. You can't say that he won't [win another Grand Slam]."

What are the chances of someone else breaking the top four's stranglehold at Wimbledon this year? After all, not since Leyton Hewitt in 2003 has someone outside of Federer, Djokovic or Nadal emerged victorious from SW19.
"You'd love to think so. What you need to happen is that in the top half someone causes an upset against Djokovic - someone definitely could against Ferrer. The top half of the draw would open up then, without question. I can't really see the same in the bottom half. Those three guys will get to the quarters and the semis. With Tsonga there as well it is a really rough section. The top half, though, you never know, as long as someone causes an upset. It will be difficult, especially early on because the courts play differently in the first week to what they do in the second week."

How about someone you know quite well, Grigor Dimitrov, whom you coached for a while? He is beginning to make a real impression on the game. What chance does he have of making an impact over the next fortnight?
"Grass is his best surface because he has got a big serve and can hit the ball flat. He's got a nice sized backhand and moves well. Whether he is physically and mentally strong enough aged 22 to get to a semi is questionable. He's definitely top 10 material and definitely a future semi-finalist at Wimbledon, maybe even a finalist. If he gets on a roll, he can do damage to anyone. Whether he can win match after match over five sets is another thing."

Grigor Dimitrov celebrates after defeating Janko Tipsrevic in the Monte Carlo Masters on April 16, 2013© AP Photos

Is he now the most likely to break into the top four?
"He's the next one. I can't see too many others [doing it]. They are just not knocking on the door. He's made a move this year and won a few matches. Beating Djokovic on clay in Barcelona is a great effort. He can play on all courts, although grass is his best opportunity. If he is confident, he can beat anyone on his day. He's certainly the next man who will break into the top five or six."

What about the player you are currently working with - Matthew Ebden? He has a tough opening round match against Kei Nishikori, doesn't he?
"Nishikori is ranked something like 12 or 13 in the world, but it is winnable for Matty. If he can beat him, it opens up the draw. I don't think grass is Kei's best surface, but he is a good all-round player. If Matty plays well, he's got a good chance. For me, it's a fairly good draw because as I say, if you can beat a seed like that, things could really open up for you."

How do you rate the state of men's Australian tennis overall at the moment? And do you expect anyone, maybe Bernard Tomic, to have a decent run at Wimbledon?
"We are having a bit of a bad period. We have Tomic and if you had seen him play a few years ago, you'd have said that he is the next guy to break into the top 10 without a question. He looked solid and beat the likes Djokovic in an exhibition match and won at Sydney. He seemed to be a complete player who was fit and healthy and all of a sudden since then he has hardly won a match.

"There is a lot of drama that surrounds him and a lot of drama that surrounds Australian tennis to be honest. There is no-one out there expect [Tomic]. We'd backed him to be the next big thing and unfortunately there is pressure coming from everywhere. Grass is probably his best surface, though. He's got a tough first round but if he can get through a couple, you never know. He got through to the quarters at either 18 or 19, which is tough to do at Wimbledon at that age."

Bernard Tomic in action in the second round of the Australian Open on January 17, 2013© AP Photos

Just a quick word on the women's draw - can anyone stop Serena Williams?
"After the way that she played at the French [Open], she's going to win it. She's impeccable. I shouldn't say that she is playing like a man but she really is. She has taken the women's game to a totally different level with the way that she has been playing. She hits the ball so hard, serves well and moves well. She doesn't have a weakness. Maybe she can beat herself some days, but we haven't seen that for a year and a half so I don't expect to see it during Wimbledon."

As someone who won at Wimbledon twice, how does it compare to other Grand Slams? Particularly for you, because unlike some players you also have a Slam in your own country.
"There is no comparison - Wimbledon is the number one Grand Slam in the world. If you win Wimbledon, you are the best. It doesn't matter what the US guys say, what the Australian guys say or what the French guys say - to win Wimbledon is the ultimate - you can ask any tennis player. It's something that is very, very special and that is why we all look forward to playing in it. It's going to be a great event and it gets bigger and better every year. It's the pinnacle of tennis."

So it was the best moment in your playing career?
"Absolutely. It stands out, even if was just the doubles. Getting to the quarters of the singles is good, but it's nothing like winning a title."

Stella Artois was the official beer supplier of the BNP Paribas Tennis Classic at The Hurlingham Club, an ideal setting for legends of tennis to battle it out at the prestigious event.

Andy Murray and Roger Federer
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