After a captivating first week in Wimbledon, with success stories, shocking results, near shocks and upsets, the Men’s and Women’s Singles events have been whittled down to the last 16. A Federer-Nadal final is still on the cards. Women’s Singles is still more difficult to predict with so many contenders.
Looking into the Men’s Singles, it is the story of the Big Four and the Rest. Ever since Lleyton Hewitt won the crown in 2002, the title has been shared between Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray and 2017 looks like going the same way. It is true there are a number of challengers to bring the old guard down but they have to wait a bit longer. It was sad to see Nick Kyrgios and Stan Wawrinka bow out in the first round; in fairness, Wawrinka was nursing a knee injury. Two success stories do stand out in the Men’s Singles. Sam Querrey of USA overcame the French Jo-Wilfred Tsonga in a thrilling five-setter to set up a possible quarter final against top seed Andy Murray. Unseeded Adrian Mannarino stunned compatriot 15th seed Gael Monfils in another five-set epic after being 2-1 sets down. Mannarino faces Novak Djokovic in the fourth round. Another top 10 seed to fall was Kei Nishikori of Japan being beaten by 18th seed Spanish Roberto Batista-Agut who has shown vast improvement on grass court.
Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal had easy rides in the first week, with only Murray dropping a set. There were doubts about Murray’s fitness having suffered a hip injury, but his performance has clearly dispelled any doubt and as commentators having been saying – injury, what injury? Roger Federer after winning the Australian Open took time off from the clay-court season and seems to return to grass with new vigour and dynamism and seems to set his sight on a record 8th Wimbledon title. It is said that grass is the weakest court as far as Nadal is concerned, but this is a player who won Wimbledon twice and the way he has been playing has won adulation from tennis commentators. What is more refreshing to see is that, apart from his fast movement on the baseline, Nadal is becoming more adventurous and also rushing to the net to finish off rallies. Novak Djokovic has been having a very lean period since last year’s US Open, but with Andre Agassi joining his coaching team, he has been able to overcome his failures and seems to be determined advance further in Wimbledon.
Waiting to challenge the Big Four, among others, are the Croat Marin Clilic, the Canadian Milos Raonic, The Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, the Czech Tomas Berdych and the Austrian Dominic Thiem. All of them have shown that they are there to take over from the Big Four. Cilic is likely to face Nadal in the quarters. Thiem or Berdych will definitely prove to be tough opponent for Djokovic; so is Raonic against Federer in the last eight if the former can overcome Alexander Zverev. It still looks like Murray vsNadal and Federer vs Djokovic in the semis.
The prospect of an all Czech Pliskova-Kvitova final in Women’s Singles has gone out of the window with both suffering shock defeats in the second round. Karolina Pliskova, seeded sixth, went down to unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) after winning the first set in an epic encounter lasting more than 2 hours. Petra Kvitova bowed out to the American Madison Brengle. Kvitova was many people’s favourite but she appeared to be physically unwell and had to be examined by doctors during the final set.
The event is still unpredictable with many of the last 16 contenders capable of lifting the title and grab history. However, there is only one past Wimbledon title holder in the fray- Venus Williams, 37, seeded 10th and winner of 5 titles. She will have a tough opponent in 19-yerar old Croat Ana Konjuh. She will then be pitted in the quarter final against the surprise winner of French Open JelenaOstapenko(Latvia) and fourth seed ElinaSvitlona (Ukraine), both of whom had easy sails in the first week. British No. 1 Johanna Konta has reached the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time. Seeded sixth, she is now the bookies’ favourite to win the title. Konta is likely to have an easy ride against the French Caroline Garcia, but will have a tough fight in her last-eight match against either unseeded Victoria Azarenko (Belarus) or the No.2 seed and this year’s French Open finalist, Simona Halep (Rumania). Special mention must be made of the unbelievable advance of Azarenko. A two-time Grand Slam title holder, she gave birth to her son in December, and returned to top class tennis within a matter of months. In an epic 3rd round match against Britain’s Heather Watson, Azarenko lost the first set 3-6, but she has been moving very well in the court and her wonderful pass shots bought her victory in the next two sets 6-1 and 6-4; quite astonishing. She is not to be written off so easily.
World No. 1 and top seed, Angelique Kerberhad, a real scare against the Amerian Shelby Rogers in the third, lost the opening set 6-4, and had to fight for tie-break in the second and then win the decider 6-4 to avoid a great upset. She has a tough fight on her hands in the next round against Garbine Muguruza (Spain) a former Grand Slam winner. Also through to the last-16 are Svetlana Kuznetsova (Russia) and Agnieska Radwanska (Poland), their encounter will be very exciting with so much experience of Grand Slam tennis between them. Caroline Wazniacki (Denmark) is also in the fray and is likely to reach the last eight where she is likely to Slovakia’s Rybarikova, the conquerer of Pliskova. Grass seems to be suited to her style of play.
The Women’s Singles title is there for the taking and it will surely be an intriguing second week for the fight to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.
Another pulsating week of tennis is in prospect in London SW19 – Hold on to your seats, I shall definitely not move from mine.