Bring on Wimbledon!
Just as the dust settles on Court Philippe Chatrier from an exhilarating French Open, all eyes now shift their focus to Centre Court, home of the Wimbledon Championships. Starting from Monday, June 27, 128 of the world’s most talented players will descend upon the championships with aspirations to hoist the glittering silver gilt cup on July 10.
The bookies’ favourite by a long shot at the beginning of this tournament has been Novak Djokovic. Djokovic has steamrolled all his opponents this year having captured not just the first two grand slams of the year (a feat accomplished for the first time since 1992), but having won Masters Series events in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.
Apart from his loss in Monte Carlo to Jiri Vesely, which seems an aberration, Djokovic looks supremely fit, healthy and locked in. It is his mental fortitude and toughness during the course of matches that transcend him to a stratosphere, unreachable to other players. Once dialled in, Djokovic is a handful who can aesthetically portray or precisely incise an opponent’s game with devastating adroitness. A win at Wimbledon will not only give him a 13th major title, it will allow him to become the first male player to win three consecutive Wimbledon titles since his rival Roger Federer achieved this feat in 2005. It would lay down another gauntlet for Djokovic in his quest to be dubbed as ‘the greatest of all time’.
Local boy Andy Murray will carry the burden of expectations once again for his country throughout the course of the two week event at Wimbledon. Arguably the second best player on the tour this year, behind Djokovic, Andy has been brilliant in patches. Although he did make unwanted history as he became the first male player ever to lose both the Australian and French Open finals in the same calendar year.
On paper he seems to be the only man to have the game and the stamina to last five sets and beat Novak Djokovic, however mental meltdowns during critical times and phases during the course of matches have led to his downfall in the not-too-distant past.
A win at Queens Club served as the perfect foil to target a second title at Wimbledon, however the most encouraging part about his this time around is not his game but his game manager, Ivan Lendl. After opting to mutually end their relationship in March 2014, Lendl and Murray seem to have struck a chord once again as Lendl will once again be seen in Murray’s box and will serve as a calming influence for him during crunch moments. To magnify his chances of success, Murray has avoided the likes of Milos Raonic and Roger Federer in his half of the draw while Stan Wawrinka’s game has never really excelled on grass. It will be a question of nerves for Murray if he manages to hold his own, he might unnerve Djokovic.
A perennial household name and a favourite wherever he goes, Roger Federer has endured the most uneventful and quietest year of his professional career since he became a pro in 1998. For the first time since 2001, he enters the Championships without a title in his bag and some serious eyebrow raising question marks over his agility, fitness and match practice. He has played the fewest number of matches (22), participated in the fewest number of tournaments (six), suffered the most number of defeats (six) and has the least number wins over fellow top ten players (one) throughout the year.
Although most of the blame can be shouldered on the freaky knee injury he suffered following the Australian Open, his three month time off from the tour seems to have caused rustiness to his game and fatherhood has crept up to Federer. During his preparations for Wimbledon, Federer opted to play at the Mercedes Cup and the Gerry Weber Open where his performances were mundane to say the least.
Although he lost having held a match point against Dominic Thiem in Stuttgart, he was simply overmatched physically by a 19-year-old Alexander Zverev in the Halle semi-finals – first defeat at the hands of a teenager since Cincinnati in 2006.
With the Olympic Games right around the corner, one gets the feeling that Federer is trying desperately to galvanise his failing physical body for one last crusade at winning the elusive Olympic Gold. It seems that if he can pull of this Houdini act, we might well see Federer grace the championships for the last time.
If you have spare time, and you are a sports nut, then Wimbledon is the tournament to watch as global icons of the tennis world will collide to magnify their grandeur and solidify their status as big name players. Let the championships begin!
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