Mats Wilander launches staunch defence of 'greatest' Roger Federer

Take four tennis sages -- esteemed coaches and former champions among them -- and ask them to address the Roger Federer topic that just won't go away: Is this Wimbledon the great Swiss player's last big opportunity to win an 18th major?

He came so close last summer, taking Djokovic to five sets in the final. On Wednesday he plays Frenchman Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals, with his prospects for another shot looking good.

ESPN pulled together the views of Mats Wilander, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, Goran Ivanisevic, the coach who tasted glory at Wimbledon, Federer's former coach Paul Annacone and the coach of many stars, Nick Bollettieri, on what the future holds for one of the greats of the game.

Wilander, for one, was pulling no punches. "I don't give a s--- whether Federer wins another Grand Slam. I don't care. And no one should care. People should stop caring about this, as Federer doesn't care," the former world No.1 said.

"He's playing for fun. Last year at Wimbledon he lost in the final to Djokovic and he was laughing afterwards, if you can remember that? If you love Federer, stop talking about this, because the more you talk about it, the more focus there is on what he can't do. No, he's the greatest player of all time and let's leave it at that. If he wins, great, and if he doesn't, great."

Federer could gather an eighth Wimbledon title this summer, the possibility of which is another discussion point around the All England Club, but Wilander debunked the the myth that stats and the prospect of adding to his portfolio of major titles are his primary driving forces.

"Federer has already won 17," Wilander said. "The more we keep talking about it, the less important the 17 are going to seem, because the conversation is going to be about why he can't win the next Grand Slam.

"When are we going to stop talking like this? When was the last one? In 2012 here at Wimbledon? OK, so forget it. Federer is a man who wants to enjoy life and tennis and to be as good as he can at everything he does -- whether that's being a husband, a father or a tennis player.

"Edberg's free, so there you go, he hires him. Federer wants to become a better tennis player. It's so narrow-minded to only focus on whether he can win another slam. Who cares? It's stupid, so small-minded and disrespectful of Federer the player and also disrespectful of the whole tennis community who are in it for the love of the game. The fact he's still playing at 33, and he's the second seed at Wimbledon, think about that and celebrate."

Despite Wilander's impassioned request for this debate to end, around the All England Club it remains a vibrant topic, and is combined with speculation about whether Federer can become the first man in history to win Wimbledon eight times (for the moment he is tied with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw on seven).

Ivanisevic, one of the great characters of the game, was less irritated that the discussion has refused to go away, but no less certain of his view. "Whenever Roger steps on the court, that means he is ready. And if he is ready, he is capable of winning a Grand Slam. Until he stops playing tennis, until that very moment, he is going to be ready to win Grand Slams. He is here, he is ready and he is going to give it a shot," said the Croatian.

Like Ivanisevic, Bollettieri is of the opinion that Federer will be competitive for a long while yet. "With Roger's attitude and his style of play, no one should be saying that this is his last chance here at Wimbledon. The way he is playing now -- moving in a lot more and playing closer to the net, and with the racket he changed last year, and with Edberg as his coach -- I certainly don't think Roger sees this as his last chance. Every time he steps on the court, he feels he can be a winner," Bollettieri told ESPN.

"His game is so well-suited to playing on grass because his coach Edberg has made a big impact getting him to come to the net. And of course grass is a surface on which if you have a good slice, and have a good serve, and you're comfortable at the net, you're going to do well on it.

"Edberg was always very comfortable at the net, and Roger is now as well. That relationship seems to be working out well so far."

When Federer won his last major, with a victory over Andy Murray here three years ago, the man in his corner was Annacone, who enthused about Federer's ability to win this tournament. "On grass courts, there are not a lot of guys who are going to want to play Roger," the coach said.

"He's ranked second in the world, and he's still having some great results and winning lots of tournaments, so there's no reason he can't do it at the other Slams. But this is his best surface, and probably his best opportunity to win another Slam."

Just don't tell Wilander that.