(CNN) -- Forecasting the winner of the men's singles title at Wimbledon used to be a simple affair. Write down Roger Federer.
The Swiss maestro won five straight from 2003 but in 2008 the force was with his arch-rival Rafael Nadal as he toppled a tearful Federer in a five-set final classic.
Nadal was injured in 2009 and the natural order was restored but not before Federer had to fight tooth and nail to subdue Andy Roddick in another nailbiting marathon.
But now Nadal is back to his imposing best after a dominant clay court season, topped by his fifth French Open title.
Federer told CNN that he was not surprised that his arch-rival had got his career back on track despite being written off in some quarters, but hinted that he would get the upper hand on faster surfaces at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.
"It was a huge disappointment to see that he was not playing here last year as a defending champion," he said.
"That was a big blow for the tournament. But then again, you know, I never thought Rafa was completely gone.
"Someone in the media suggested that he's not the same anymore, but you know, the surfaces speed up as sort of the season goes on.
"Here from Wimbledon until the US Open, until the end of the season. It's all on hard court or on grass and this is not Rafa's favorite surface."
Federer was left smarting by his exit to Robin Soderling in the defense of the French Open title and his confidence would not have been improved by a loss in the final in Halle to his old adversary Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, but he told CNN that he was not concerned.
"I really felt that I played great in Halle, but I lost against a very good player and here I am a day before the championships feeling really good about my chances again."
Despite Nadal reclaiming the world number one ranking, the Spaniard will not be top seed at Wimbledon, the honor being bestowed on Federer because of his better record on grass, but he is taking it in his stride.
"Always being here in this unbelievable place is very special, no? Last year wasn't easy for me. Couldn't play this tournament, but I'm back and a year late to try my best another time and that's what I'm going to try," he told CNN.
So who will prevail in their personal battle for supremacy ? Or will another player, like Roddick, Novak Djokovic, Britain's Andy Murray or even the never- say-die Hewitt, gatecrash the party ?
Certainly Roddick will be bidding to to go one better than his heroic effort last year when he won a record number of games in the final against Federer, but still lost.
The American made an early exit at Queen's Club to dangerous floater Dudi Sela but his record at Wimbledon is consistent and his big service is made for grass.
He beat Murray in the semifinals to end British hopes of a first men's singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936 but the Scot will be back again to shoulder the burden of home expectation.
Murray played superbly to reach his second grand slam final at this year's Austaralian Open, but lost to Federer in straight sets and has enjoyed little success since, crashing out to Mardy Fish in his Queen's Club title defense.
Djokovic has also flattered to deceive in grand slams since winning the Australian Open title in 2008, but the third seed, who also exited early at Queen's will have a point to prove on the grass.
With Juan Martin del Potro injured and Nikolay Davydenko just coming back from injury, it may fall to Soderling, seeded sixth, to challenge the established order with his strong serve and thumping groundstrokes.
But it is difficult to look past a Federer/Nadal showdown so fasten your seatbelts for another rollercoaster ride in the final on Sunday July 4.
Certainly, Federer has few doubts a re-match of their 2008 classic is on the cards.
"It's nice to see him back playing so well and I'm excited hopefully to be playing him again soon," he told CNN.
Federer opens his title defense in the first match on centre court on Monday against Alejandro Falla of Colombia.