It’s that time of the year in the sporting calendar when tennis enthusiasts around the world get glued for two weeks to the events in one corner of south-west London for high drama and also high-quality tennis.
Yes, the third Grand Slam tennis tournament of the year, Wimbledon, gets under way on Monday.
The immaculate lush green courts, the grandeur and the strict traditional white dress-code, not to forget the ‘strawberries and cream’, bring an aura of its own to this unique tennis event, considered to be the most prestigious Grand Slam. Even the name has its uniqueness; it’s not Australian, French or US Open, it’s Wimbledon, and quite rightly so.
Looking into the form of the top players, both in Men’s and Women’s Singles, this year’s tournament is considered to be very open and unpredictable. There are many players among the top seeds who could feel they would be able to lift the coveted trophy this year.
Andy Murray, the top seed and defending champion in Men’s Singles, had a disastrous year since climbing to the top of the rankings last year. Although he reached the semi-final in the French Open, to be defeated by Stan Wawrinka, Murray suffered a loss at the hands of Jordan Thompson in the first round at Queen’s and is nursing a hip injury. However, if he can survive the first week at Wimbledon, he is expected to feature in the last four. But before that, he is expected to meet either Nick Kyrgios or Lucas Pouille, both very formidable opponents. The two-time Wimbledon champion then has to overcome Stan Wawrinka in the last eight.
Although Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has slumped to 4th in the world rankings, he has been seeded No. 2 at Wimbledon. The winner of 2011, 2014 and 2015, has seen a decline in his form and has a tough draw. He will have a strong fight against the Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the third round and then meet Feliciano Lopez, this year’s Queens Champion. Lopez has improved his performance on grass and has records of victories over Wawrinka, Tomas Berdych, Marin Cilic and Grigor Dimitrov. Djokovic will try to improve on his rankings and also show the tennis world that he is not yet a spent force. To reach the last four, Djokovic will then have to beat Dominic Thiem to advance to the semis. Thiem, however, has two other strong contenders in his part of the draw – Tomas Berdych and Richard Gasquet.
The talk of the town is obviously Roger Federer, who is now ranked 5th in the world and seeded 3rd at Wimbledon. But the Swiss holds the record of winning the most titles at Wimbledon with Pete Sampras and will be attempting to go one better by bagging the eighth Wimbledon title. Federer’s prospects have improved with a surge in his form in 2017. He won his 18th major title at the Australian Open this year and looks to have a comparatively easy draw where is expected to meet Dimitrov and then take on last year’s runner-up Milos Raonic in the quarter final. Raonic has not been faring well recently with his form and fitness and was defeated in the first round at Queens.
That leaves us with Rafael Nadal in the top four. Nadal clinched his 10th French Open title and also won Wimbledon titles twice before. Ranked No. 2 in the world, the Wimbledon seeding system pits him as No. 4 seed. Although considered a clay-court master, the Spaniard’s form this year could easily send him into the last eight. There are a number of contenders who could face Nadal in the quarter final, most notably Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic, and looking into the form on grass, Cilic is likely to be Nadal’s opponent.
The Women’s Singles title seems to be for the taking with defending champion Serena Williams unable to participate because of her pregnancy, Maria Sharapova suffering an injury despite her return to competitive tennis, and world number one Angelique Kerber’s loss of form.
The top four seeds are Kerber (Germany), Simona Halep (Romania), Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) and Elina Svitolina (Ukraine). There are a number of other strong contenders for the title including Johanna Konta, Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko, Garbine Muguruza and Victoria Azarenka.
The British star Konta has improved remarkably recently and has beaten Kerber and Ostapenko recently but is now nursing a back injury. No British woman tennis player has won the Wimbledon title since 1977 when Virginia Wade collected the Venus Rosewater Dish from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in her 25th Anniversary year of accession to the throne.
Twenty-year-old Latvian Ostapenko stunned the world by bagging the French Open this year beating Halep in the final. She had been a junior Wimbledon title and now must show her mettle on grass.
One player to take a keen interest in is the 25-year old Pliskova who has improved her game tremendously this year. Although she has yet to prove her record on grass, Pliskova’s achievements in the last 12 months has been phenomenal and many consider her to be a very strong contender.
Halep also lost in the final at Wimbledon last year and would desperately try to put her name on one major title. Two-time winner Kvitova was out of action for six months following a knife-attack by a burglar in December, but made a winning comeback winning the Birmingham title just a few days ago. One should not discard her chances at all.
It is therefore very difficult to predict who would be the Women’s Singles Champion in 2017; many though are predicting a Kvitova and Pliskova final – a battle of the Czechs.
As regards the Men’s Singles title, no player outside the top four seeds has won the title since Goran Ivanisevic’s shock win in 2001, and to add to that, only on three occasions, a player outside the top four has played in a final. If statistics are anything to go by, one would like to see a Roger-Nadal Final.
A very eventful fortnight is in store for tennis aficionados and the weather forecast seems to be favourable which will make this magnificent event that much more enjoyable.
Tennis buffs, fasten your seat belts for the Wimbledon take off.