Wimbledon champion Roger Federer admitted last night he is hoping to stay away from Tim Henman in this year's competition.

Just five days before starting his defence of his title at SW19, Federer said: ''Tim is definitely a threat and I really hope he's not too close to me in the draw.

''I really respect his game, which is excellent for grass, and the home crowd really get behind him.

''He's definitely got the tools to win Wimbledon for sure.

''Obviously Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin will all be the big contenders.

''Hewitt and Roddick, with their big-hitting games, definitely have the best chance to do well on grass but I'd be quite surprised if Nadal won Wimbledon this time round.

''There's nothing wrong with his game. He beat me in the French of course but I saw his game in Halle, where he lost to a tough opponent who kept coming into the net and he struggled a bit.

''Here at Wimbledon, where it's slightly slower, he could certainly be a threat, though I'd rather give Tim the edge to do much better than Nadal.''

Federer was bullish about his own prospects of winning his third Wimbledon crown in a row.

He added: ''I am very confident, I feel good and I was slightly surprised that, despite a short preparation on grass, that I came though and won the singles and the doubles in Halle, so I've had a lot of play on grass already, which gave me great self-belief.

''It's important for me to get going early and not have too many scares in the early round.

''Playing at Wimbledon is really going back to the roots of tennis - the whole set-up is still basically a club and I love being a member.

''Winning the junior singles and doubles in 1998 and all the emotions I've had in seven years on centre court - you don't forget those moments.''

Federer was speaking at Hampton Court Palace, where he was trying his hand at Real Tennis, the royal and ancient forerunner of his own, more glitzy and celebrated sport.

Although it was a promotional appearance for his Swiss watch sponsor Maurice Lacroix, Federer was happy to swap his state-of-the-art lawn tennis racquet for a heavy, asymmetric wooden version.

He impressed the crowd with his performance and added: ''It was good fun - it goes back such a long way but for me it felt great on the court.''