The year’s most prestigious tennis event has begun and the action has shifted from clay surface to grass. Wimbledon offers us plenty to look forward to in terms of passion, zeal, fervour and intensity. The All England Club has seen different contenders battling for the glory over the last few years.
With the likes of Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, who have dominated the event in the past, Wimbledon fraternity looks for a new hero to embark on its authority. The last four years have produced four different winners in the men’s category.
Just weeks after the French Open, the third slam of the year promises another showdown of high intensive action. 2013 champion Andy Murray will look to defend his title, which saw him finally getting a weight off his back as he became the first home male Wimbledon winner in 77 years. He is seeded number three, behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
Murray enters the tournament as a potential title candidate as the nation is expecting its home boy to successfully defend the honour. Murray knows the weight of expectations and it is the only surface where the Scot has looked like a force to reckon with. It is important for him to set the ball rolling and make a mark here.
The Scot was relieved last year after showing the world he doesn’t lie in the shadow of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Murray has been a prime force on grass and reached the finals at the Wimbledon in the last two years. This time too, he will be expected to stand tall on his familiar territory. Under the guidance of former World champion, Amelie Mauresmo, Murray will look to perform in a big manner and handle the pressure of the entire nation successfully.
Murray lost to Rafael Nadal in straight sets at the French Open in the semis earlier this year, and he wouldn’t want a similar result in front of the home crowd. Nadal tamed him in Paris and Murray needs to improve his play at the baseline. It has been a year that hasn’t favoured him so far. Murray needs the magic he had in 2013 and the self-belief to defend his prestigious title.
Murray’s biggest rivals will be there to stop him and let’s have a look at the big three who have a fair shot.
Novak Djokovic: The Serb is the hottest property who can prevent Murray, as he will look to break the final jinx and seal his first Grand Slam honour this year. Having last lost before the quarter -finals in 2009, Djokovic is least likely of the top four to suffer a shock exit. But his record of five straight slam finals losses, will bring suggestions he is unable to perform at the business end of slams. A 21st straight quarter-final looks a certainty with very little to trouble the World No. 2. Djoker hasn’t won a Slam in over a year and he would be desperate to win his second Wimbledon title after losing to Murray in the finals last year.
Roger Federer: The Swiss legend won his last Grand Slam in 2012 here at the Wimbledon. Since then, he has failed to perform on a consistent basis and stats show he hasn’t gone on to even make it to the finals after that. Federer is keen to win his 18th major and the London event is the best opportunity for him to do that. He has looked good in 2014 and last week’s title in Halle will give him a major boost as he looks forward to see his earlier prime self. Not winning an eighth Wimbledon title would be devastating for Federer. Getting his serve-and-volley back on track will be the key and he will look to put behind his French Open woes to seal the deal.
Rafael Nadal: The Spaniard is fresh from winning his 14th Grand Slam and eighth in Paris overall. This time it’s a change of surface and Nadal is still a strong contender for his rivals. The only problem in Nadal’s way is his back injury and it will be interesting to see how he can overcome that to reign supreme in London. He deserves credit for adapting his game to work around the injury, but the fact that it hasn`t fully healed since the start of the year is worrisome. First serve holds the key for every player here and Nadal would know that to go further, he needs his serve to click on a regular basis.
The others: Australian Open winner Stansislas Wawrinka has risen to a new height in recent times but his performances including the first round loss at Roland Garros hasn’t been noteworthy. The Swiss hasn’t done well in London and it is a major task for him to show the world that he deserves to be a part of the `big four` of modern tennis.
Also there are the likes of David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo Wilfred Tsonga, John Isner and Bernard Tomic, who are all expected to do well and cause some element of surprise. But their major worry has been not breaking the code at the latter stages. Several new entrants in the main zone and recent good performers like Ernest Gulbis and Kei Nishikori will be big challenges too.
Even though the local crowd was delighted to witness a local hero in Murray last year, they would now want him to make it two in a row.