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Wimbledon 2014: Men's singles preview

Andy Murray has his sights set on the world number one ranking. (Image: Creative Commons)
Roar Guru
17th June, 2014
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2144 Reads

The year’s third Grand Slam tournament, and most prestigious of all, Wimbledon is now just one week away.

Given what has happened so far in men’s tennis this season, anyone could leave the All England Club with this year’s trophy.

The big guns of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, as well as Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka, will be expected to contend for the title.

Their recent dominance of the Grand Slam stage will be expected to be challenged by the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, who won his first grass court title at Queen’s last week, as well as former finalist Tomas Berdych, Spain’s David Ferrer, marathon man John Isner and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic.

Let’s take a look at the major contenders.

Rafael Nadal
Current world ranking: 1

Wimbledon history
Best result: Won (2008, 2010)
Last year’s result: First round

Titles so far this year
Doha, Rio, Madrid, French Open.

Grand Slam results so far in 2014
Australian Open: Runner-up
French Open: Won

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If Rafael Nadal is to win a third Wimbledon crown this year, he must overturn a recent poor record on grass. The Spaniard has not saluted on grass since defeating Thomaz Bellucci in the first round of Wimbledon in 2012. Since then, he has suffered shock defeats to unheralded opponents Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, and Dustin Brown.

The defeat to the Jamaican-turned-German Brown at Halle last week was Nadal’s first match since winning a record ninth French Open title the previous week. Many have argued that he should not have played so soon after triumphing yet again at Roland Garros.

The King of Clay heads to London lacking match practice, and if he is to win a 15th Grand Slam title he must solve his recent grass court woes. He is set to be seeded second behind Novak Djokovic, as Wimbledon do not strictly follow the ATP rankings when they determine their seedings.

But will it affect his chances of saluting for a third time at the All England Club?

The verdict: A big call, but he will end his grass court woes and win a third title at Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic
Current world ranking: 2

Wimbledon history
Best result: Won (2011)
Last year’s result: runner-up

Titles so far this year
Indian Wells, Miami, Rome.

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Grand Slam results so far in 2014
Australian Open: Quarter-finals
French Open: Runner-up

After falling short yet again in his quest to complete his Grand Slam set, Novak Djokovic will hope to move on from French Open disappointment by triumphing for a second time at the All England Club.

This year the Serb has won Masters 1000 events at Indian Wells, Miami and Rome, the latter two of which were won by defeating Rafael Nadal in the final.

Again Djokovic, who is set to become a father later this year, has chosen not to play a lead-up grass court event before Wimbledon, where despite his current world ranking of number two, he will be seeded first on the basis of his current good record at Wimbledon in comparison to Nadal.

Champion in 2011, he lost his title defence to Roger Federer twelve months later, and last year was on the wrong end of history as Andy Murray became the first British male winner at the All England Club in 77 years.

Djokovic’s chances of reclaiming the world number one ranking, which he would have done had he won a maiden French Open title earlier this month, are slim. The Serb is defending 1,200 rankings points from last year and the only way he can gain fresh rankings points is by winning the title and hoping that Rafael Nadal loses before the semi-finals.

Nadal is only ahead of Djokovic in the rankings by only 190 points, but he can earn fresh rankings points this year, having lost in the first round twelve months ago.

The verdict: Expect Djokovic to make another deep run at the All England Club this year, possibly as far as the final.

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Roger Federer
Current world ranking: 4

Wimbledon history
Best result: Won (2003-7, 2009, 2012)
Last year’s result: Second round

Titles so far this year
Dubai, Halle

Grand Slam results so far in 2014
Australian Open: Semi-finals
French Open: Fourth round

After a disappointing fourth-round exit at the French Open to Ernests Gulbis, Federer has wasted little time in adjusting to his favourite part of the season, the grass court swing.

The holder of a record 17 Grand Slam titles successfully retained his title in Halle last week to not only win his second title for the year, but also boost his chances of winning a record eighth Wimbledon title.

The All England Club is where he won his maiden Grand Slam title, at the expense of Mark Philippoussis, 11 years ago, and it was that title which started arguably the most dominant era in men’s tennis.

However, Federer is in decline according to his recent Grand Slam results: a second round loss at Wimbledon last year, and fourth round exits at last year’s US Open and this year’s French Open on either side of a run to the semi-finals at this year’s Australian Open.

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It was his second-round exit here last year, against the unheralded Sergiy Stakhovsky, which ended his run of 36 consecutive Grand Slam quarter-finals and ten consecutive at the All England Club.

But if there is a tournament where the Swiss can prove all his critics wrong, it’s right here. Wimbledon is probably the only Grand Slam where Federer can be considered a chance, and probably his last shot on the big stage given he turns 33 in August.

The verdict: Wimbledon always brings out the best in Federer and again you can expect him to make a good, deep run this year.

Andy Murray
Current world ranking: 5

Wimbledon history
Best result: Won (2013)
Last year’s result: Won (2013)

Titles so far this year
None

Grand Slam results so far in 2014
Australian Open: Quarter-finals
French Open: Semi-finals

This season has so far proven a tough one for Andy Murray, who has gone almost twelve months without winning a title since saluting at the All England Club on July 7 last year.

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The 27-year-old Scot terminated his season early last year after failing to defend his title at the US Open, where he went down to Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.

Since then, he has failed to reach a final, and has gone 0-4 against his fellow ‘Big Four’ rivals in Federer (at the Australian Open), Djokovic (in Miami) and Nadal (at Rome and at the French Open).

Murray appeared to have turned a corner when he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros earlier this month, only to be embarrassed by Nadal, winning only six games.

His transition to grass hasn’t been smooth either, failing to defend his title at Queen’s after losing to Czech veteran Radek Stepanek in the third round. This leaves in doubt his chances of successfully defending his Wimbledon title in 2014.

As far as rankings are concerned, Murray is in a dangerous situation. As he is the defending champion, and with Roger Federer 265 rankings points ahead of him in the world rankings, the Scot cannot earn any new points. Even if he wins again this year, he will remain fifth in the rankings. Should he become the first defending champion since Lleyton Hewitt in 2003 to lose his opening match, he could drop to as low as 12th.

Playing at home should bring out the best in Murray, but can he successfully retain the title he fought so hard to win last year?

The verdict: Despite an early exit at Queen’s, Murray should bounce back here, but I can only see him reaching as far as the quarter-finals.

Stanislas Wawrinka
Current world ranking: 3

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Wimbledon history
Best result: Fourth round (2008, 2009)
Last year’s result: First round

Titles so far this year
Chennai, Australian Open, Monte Carlo

Grand Slam results so far in 2014
Australian Open: Won
French Open: First round

After shocking the tennis world by upending an injured Rafael Nadal to win the Australian Open in January, Stanislas Wawrinka’s form has ranged from inconsistent to downright disappointing.

Poor results in Madrid and Rome, where he lost in the second and third rounds respectively, culminated in him becoming the first reigning Australian Open champion since Petr Korda in 1998 to lose his opener at Roland Garros.

Wawrinka has clearly lost the momentum he gained from winning in Melbourne five months ago, and if his recent poor record at Wimbledon is anything to go by, don’t expect him to fare well at the All England Club.

Last year he was very unlucky to have drawn former champion Lleyton Hewitt in the first round – and not surprisingly Wawrinka went out in straight sets. The previous year, he lost to Jurgen Melzer in what would be the Austrian’s only Grand Slam match win that year.

The Swiss has never reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, his best result being a pair of fourth rounds in 2008 and 2009.

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The verdict: Given Wawrinka’s inconsistent form this year, you just have to expect to unexpected from the new Swiss number one.

Other contenders
Former Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, the ever improving Grigor Dimitrov, Spanish bull David Ferrer and big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic will be the other names to watch out for at Wimbledon.

Berdych has had a solid season so far, reaching the semi-finals at the Australian Open and the quarters at the French, and also won in Rotterdam earlier this year to end a 16-month title spell.

A finalist in 2010, Berdych will hope to emulate his run from four years ago, where after defeating Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in succession, he found Rafael Nadal way above his league in a straight-sets loss.

Grigor Dimitrov put a disappointing first round exit at Roland Garros behind him to win at Queen’s, thus becoming the first man to achieve the trifecta of having won titles on hard court, clay and grass this season.

Milos Raonic, fresh off a maiden Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris earlier this month, will also be expected to feature deep in the tournament, as should David Ferrer, two times a quarter-finalist here.

Former semi-finalists Juan Martin del Potro (wrist) and Tommy Haas (shoulder) are the only two notable absentees.