Tennis royalty hands down tips to Britain's Next-Gen royals

LONDON (Reuters) - Almost a century has passed since Prince Albert – later crowned King George VI – turned up in his pristine white trousers and collared shirt to compete in the men’s doubles at Wimbledon.

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Now Roger Federer is playing his part in helping to further the prospects of a Next-Gen player from Britain’s royal family -- one who is likely to end up being known as King George VII.

At the age of five, Prince William’s son George is a long way off from joining the Next-Gen pack -- a term used for the best 21-and-under competitors on the men’s tour -- but he has been lucky enough to have a knockabout with arguably the greatest player to have ever swung a tennis racket.

So just how good is Prince George? Can he follow in the footsteps of his great-great-grandfather and one day compete on the manicured lawns of the All England Club?

“At that stage it’s all about just touch the ball, it’s already good,” 37-year-old Swiss Federer, who happens to be the Prince’s favorite player, said with a wry smile.

“He’s a cute boy. I love to see that they’re into tennis or into sports. His mum has always enjoyed her tennis,” he added of the Duchess of Cambridge who attended Wimbledon this week.

If Prince George someday competes at Wimbledon, he will at least be assured he can do no worse than his royal predecessor.

Prince Albert and his partner, wing commander Louis Greig, were beaten 6-1 6-3 6-2 by H Roper Barrett and AW Gore in the first round of the men’s doubles tournament in 1926.

Federer, who is chasing a 21st major title and ninth at the grasscourt major, is not the only competitor at Wimbledon with royal friends.

Eight-times champion Serena Williams was cheered on to victory in her second round match by Prince George’s aunt -- fellow American Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex.

So did Williams share Federer’s enthusiasm in having a knockabout with another royal offspring - her friend Meghan’s son Archie - once he is old enough to grip a racket?

“I don’t know. I’m actually working on Olympia’s game,” she said referring to her one-year-old daughter.

“Maybe she can give tips to him. She’ll be like his older sister,” Williams added with a smile.

Considering Serena is one of the Duchess of Sussex’s closest friends, has she been asked to be a godmother when Archie is christened on Saturday?

“No, I’m working on Saturday,” said Williams, who is due to play her third round match on day six of the championships.

Reporting by Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Ken Ferris