Wimbledon: The most prestigious tennis event in the world. The tournament that every tennis player dreams of winning during their career and today, tennis fever, strawberries and cream, and the luscious green grass of Wimbledon will grace our televisions for a fortnight once more.
But who, in two weeks’ time will be crowd king and queen of SW19?
Will Roger Federer eclipse Pete Sampras and claim a record eighth Wimbledon title, or could Andy Murray end a 77 year wait for Britain and claim the crown?
Can Serena Williams add a seventh grand slam singles title to her collection, or will Maria Sharapova get revenge after defeat at Roland Garros?
Here’s a look at the men and women to look out for over the next fortnight, and an insight to who could potentially be crowned champion.
Novak Djokovic: The world number one will be keen to make amends for his enthralling five set loss to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros and claim his second Wimbledon title.
The Serb is stronger on grass than he is on clay however, and many greats of the game, including John McEnroe and Chris Evert have backed him to win the championship this year.
The draw has also been kind to the six times grand slam champion, and Djokovic will avoid the other players who make up the so called ‘big four’ (Nadal, Federer and Murray) until the final, should he get there.
Rafael Nadal: With nine finals and seven tournament wins since his return from a lengthy injury earlier on in the season, Rafael Nadal is playing some of the best tennis he has ever played. But as a result of the injury, Nadal was seeded fifth for Wimbledon, and now faces the possible prospect of having to play Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic to win the title.
With that in mind, questions will arise over Nadal's fitness levels, and whether his knees that have plagued his career will be able to endure the later stages of the competition. Nadal opted to miss the grass court tournament in Halle last week, with doctors telling him to rest his knees after a lengthy clay court season.
Nadal will also have to overcome the demons of last year’s Wimbledon, when he was beaten in the second round by Lukas Rosol, in what was regarded as one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history. One thing is for sure though, Nadal is one of the toughest competitors to ever play the game, and is still very much a big favourite to win the title.
Roger Federer: Federer, for many, is regarded as the greatest player to ever live, and with seven titles already at the All England Club you wouldn’t write him off to make it an unprecedented eighth.
But the Swiss maestro isn’t the player he once was, with age seemingly beginning to take its toll on the 31-year-old.
Federer has only won one title this year, at the Gerry Webber Open in Halle where he defeated Mikael Youzhny in the final 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4. A poor performance at the French Open, where he lost in straight sets to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in straight sets have led many to believe that retirement isn’t far away for him, and with the prospect of facing Nadal as early as the quarter finals, it’s going to be difficult for him to surpass Pete Sampras and win his eight title here.
Andy Murray: The Scot looked in fine form on his return from injury last week, securing his third Queens title by defeating Marin Cilic in the final 5-7 7-5 6-3. The decision to miss the French Open and not further risk his back injury gave him more time to prepare for the grass court season, and this was evident throughout last week’s Queen’s victory.
Murray also looks to be a lot more mature since last year’s final defeat to Roger Federer, the 26-year-old who since then has won an Olympic Gold medal and the US open, as well as making the Australian Open final has now got a lot more experience in the bigger games.
Nonetheless there was evidence last week that Murray still needs to work on the mental side of his game, losing the first set to Marian Cilic in the final after being 4-1 up is something that he can’t afford to do against the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He will also have to carry the weight of a whole nation on his shoulders again, as Britain looks for its first winner since Fred Perry in 1936.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The Frenchman has been to the final before, but is yet to win a Grand Slam title. With the 28-year-old featuring in the tougher side of the draw, and with the possibility of facing Andy Murray in the quarter finals, it’s going to be very difficult for Tsonga to make the final here once again, let alone win it.
David Ferrer: Some experts believed Ferrer should be seeded below Nadal at Wimbledon, but the French Open finalist has earnt the right to be seeded so highly, and has been gifted with the (on paper) easier side of the draw. Ferrer struggles on grass though, and it would be some feet for him to win his first grand slam at Wimbledon.
Serena Williams: The five time Wimbledon champion is looking in fine form coming into this year’s Championships, winning her last five tournaments consecutively, including her second French Open title.
What stands out even more about her win at Roland Garros is that she only dropped one set on her least favourite surface, in the quarter finals to Svetlana Kuznetsova. The form that Serena has been in means she’s going into the championships as the clear favourite, and it’s hard to see who may be able to stop her claiming her seventeenth Grand Slam title.
Maria Sharapova: The former Wimbledon champion has already made a final and a semi-final of two slams that have already taken place this year, as well as winning two other titles this year, and she will be one of the favourites (behind Serena) to claim here second title here, since she won it at the age of 17 in 2004.
One person who will be standing in her way is the same person that defeated her in the French Open final just two weeks ago. Serena Williams has already beaten the Russian born Sharapova four times this year, and Williams has only dropped one set against her on those four occasions.
Victoria Azarenka: The Australian open winner and French Open semi-finalist has already beaten Serena once this year, and could pose a threat to her if they were to meet again at SW19. Despite this Azarenka has yet to reach her first Wimbledon singles final, and with the prospect of having to beat both Sharapova and Williams in order to claim her first title, it’s going to be a tough ask for the right-handed 23-year-old.
Men’s Winner – Novak Djokovic: With a relatively easier draw than the likes of Murray, Nadal and Federer, Djokovic could be a lot fresher by the final, and after coming within two games of beating the greatest clay court player ever on his least favourite surface, who’s to bet against him claiming his second Wimbledon title.
Men’s Runner-up – Rafael Nadal: Despite a tough draw for Nadal, with Federer not looking the player he once was, and with a 100% record against Murray on grass, I think Nadal will make the final. But after what will be two extremely tough previous rounds, and with the prospect of fatigue, especially in his knees, I think he will just be edged out on the day by Djokovic.
Women’s winner – Serena Williams: Williams is in unstoppable form at the moment and I can’t see any other result other than a Serena win in a fortnight’s time. Providing she doesn’t have a major lapse mentally of course.
Women’s Runner-up – Maria Sharapova: Another final seems likely between these two for their fourth meeting in a final this year alone. But Serena just seems too strong for Sharapova at the moment, and it could be a similar story to the one that recently happened in France.
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