Wimbledon, the granddaddy of Grand Slams, is set to commence on Monday, June 29. The grass has been cut, the strawberries have been picked, the whites have been pressed, the champagne is bubbling: Wimbledon is ready to begin! The grass court season has had several upgrades this year but it is finally time to get down to the one everyone is after. As usual, there is plenty of drama and intrigue this year. Here’s a look at some of the players who could be lifting the cherished trophies.
When predicting the men’s champion at Wimbledon, there is no other place to start than the Big Four: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray. Between them, they have won the last twelve titles. Wimbledon is the only tournament where the other players have failed to break through the toughest quartet ever to rule tennis. In the last ten years, only two players (Andy Roddick and Tomas Berdych) have even managed to make it to the final, only to lose to one of the Big Four.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia): Djokovic is coming off a very disappointing Roland Garros final. He was expected to finally win his first title there, but he was blown off the court by Stan Wawrinka. It will be interesting to see how he bounces back after losing in Paris, which may have been the best chance he will ever have of winning a calendar Grand Slam. He has advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the last 24 Majors, so it will be a complete shocker if he doesn’t get that far again. He is the defending champion and will be going for his third Wimbledon title, and ninth Grand Slam overall. Djokovic is projected to face Nishikori in the quarterfinal, and then his nemesis Wawrinka in the semifinal.
Roger Federer (Switzerland): Federer has his pre-Wimbledon routine perfected. He just won his eighth Halle title and will now be going for his eighth Wimbledon. A title here would break his tie with Pete Sampras, making Federer the undisputed grass court king of all time. He has not won a Major since the 2012 Wimbledon, and he has advanced to a Major final only once in the last 11. He came so close last year in a five-set loss to Djokovic in the final. Does he have it in him to fight through seven best-of-five set matches during the next two weeks? Federer is expected to face Berdych in the quarterfinal, and then Murray in the semifinal.
Andy Murray (Great Britain): Since his Wimbledon triumph two years ago, Murray has struggled. He finally underwent back surgery in the fall of 2013, and has since been slowly climbing back to his former level. After finishing as runner-up at the Australian Open in January, he won two clay court tournaments (including the Madrid Masters), advanced to the semifinals of the French Open, and just won a fourth time at Queen’s Club in London. A lot of experts are picking the newlywed Murray to lift his second Wimbledon trophy. There’s only one problem: Novak Djokovic, who has won their last eight encounters. But the feeling is that if Murray is to win again, Wimbledon will be the place. The Scot will have to get through Nadal or David Ferrer in the quarterfinal, and then Federer before getting to the final.
Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland): Wawrinka is flying high after his incredible performance at Roland Garros. However, grass is not a surface he craves and his quarterfinal showing from last year was his best result. But if Stan the Man gets into a groove, no one can stop him. An early round loss or a deep run — it’s anyone’s guess. One thing we can be sure of: Wawrinka won’t be wearing his boxer shorts this time. Wawrinka is slated to play Milos Raonic in the quarterfinal, and then a possible rematch with Djokovic in the semifinal.
Rafael Nadal (Spain): Yes, he’s fallen to No. 10 in the rankings and hasn’t advanced past the fourth round since 2011. But you can never overlook a 14-time Grand Slam champion, even if he has been struggling this year. A third Wimbledon title for the Spaniard would be quite a story. If he can make it to the quarterfinal, he could be dangerous. He will play David Ferrer in the fourth round, and if he gets through that, Murray should be waiting for him in the quarterfinal.
The best of the rest: Kei Nishikori, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic, David Ferrer, Marin Cilic, and Grigor Dimitrov. Of these, only Cilic has been able to break through the Big Four to win a Major. Nishikori has had injury issues and is still looking for the next big win. Berdych can beat all under him, yet none above him. Raonic got bumped up a spot over Ferrer in the seedings but he has been troubled as well. After missing the French Open with a foot injury, he is still struggling to find his form. Ferrer is not at his best on this surface, so getting to the quarterfinals would be pretty surprising. Cilic has struggled to regain his form and has made the quarterfinals here only once (last year) so not much is expected. Dimitrov has had a season to forget. He has struggled up to this point, with no titles and a 19-12 win-loss record. Now would be a good time to get back into the later stages of a tournament.
As for the women, the list of candidates is shorter. There are young and exciting players coming up but they are still struggling to make that breakthrough.
Serena Williams (United States): It’s all about Serena Williams now. She has won the last three Majors, and will be going for her sixth Wimbledon and 21st Major to complete her “Serena Slam”. I’m sure she would like a win here to erase those bizarre images of her stumbling around court last year.
Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic): Kvitova is the defending champion and No. 2 seed this time. Last year, she kind of went under radar until she finally blew Eugenie Bouchard off the court in the final for her second Wimbledon title. Kvitova is a very hard-to-predict player, but if she gets into the groove on grass, her favorite surface, two weeks from now, she could be lifting her third Wimbledon dish.
Simona Halep (Romania): There was a lot of buzz around Halep before the clay season started, but that has fizzled out with her poor results. No one is talking about Halep winning the title here so it would be a huge surprise. She could be facing Kvitova in the semifinal, but she could be gone before then.
Maria Sharapova (Russia): It’s been 11 years since we saw Sharapova come out of nowhere to shock Serena in the Wimbledon final to win her first Major. Since then she has added four more Majors and loads of other tournaments but she has one problem: she can’t beat Serena. They are slated to face off in the semifinal, but it’s very difficult to imagine an upset. But one thing Sharapova does not lack is determination, so you can bet she is going to give it everything she has. If she makes it that far, that is.
The best of the rest: Some of the women who could pop up in the semifinal or final would include Caroline Wozniacki, Lucie Safarova, and Ana Ivanovic. Wozniacki is still searching for her first Grand Slam title since making the U.S. Open final way back in 2009. She has played decently this year but has struggled at times. If Serena or Kvitova are upset, she could surprise us, but grass is not Wozniacki’s best surface. Safarova had a fantastic French Open, finishing as runner up in the singles and winning the doubles title with Bethanie Mattek-Sands. It will be interesting to see if she can follow it up. Ivanovic is in year seven of looking for a second Grand Slam. She made it to the semifinals of Roland Garros, so we’ll see if she can build on that.
Get ready for some great tennis, sleepless nights, and matches that will last a lifetime!
Djokovic – Nishikori
Wawrinka – Raonic
Murray – Ferrer
Federer – Berdych
Williams – Ivanovic
Sharapova – Safarova
Halep – Wozniacki
Kvitova – Makarova
Cover Photo (Creative Commons License): yvettemn