The prominent achievement for any tennis player in his career is to win a Grand Slam. The professionals vie all year long to see their names in one of the four Grand Slam winners’ circle. But there is nothing that matches the glory and the aura of The Championships- Wimbledon. It is widely regarded as the most esteemed Grand Slam tournament in Tennis.
Started in 1877, this tournament is played on the grass courts of the famous All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, this is the 129th edition of the Championships. The winner collects 2000 ranking points along with the prestigious trophy, and his name up on the winners’ board.
128 players in the main draw look to decimate their opponents and win the holy grail of Tennis. This year, the championships offer prize money of £1,880,000 to the ultimate winner which is a 7% more than 2014.
THE TOP HALF
Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Marin Cilic are some of the big names that headline the top half. 1st seed Djokovic is currently enjoying a great season with five titles under his belt which include the Australian Open and all the Masters 1000 series except the Madrid open. The defending champion will have to get back on the saddle after his French Open performance where he suffered a stunning loss to Wawrinka in a final where most pundits were expecting him to join the Career Grand Slam winners club.
He will be facing one of the sternest challenges of his career in his bid to go one step ahead at Wimbledon and defend his title successfully. Fourth seeded Wawrinka is playing some of the best tennis of his career. He is one of the hot favorites alongside Djokovic in the top half to win the crown. The 2014 quarterfinalist suffered a loss to Kevin Anderson in two tie breaks at the Queen’s Club few days ago.
Wawrinka will need to find his real form on grass and if he does, his single handed backhand and nerves of steel can baffle his opponents and do the damage. Nishikori is another strong contender that can make a deep run at the greatest tennis tournament. The fifth seed was however hampered by a calf injury in the semifinals of the Gerry Weber Open which led to a mid match withdrawal against Andreas Seppi.
The Japanese No.1 and his camp have decided that he is physically fit to go at Wimbledon. He will be trying to better his performance from last year where he was defeated by Milos Raonic in the fourth round last year. Raonic, the 2014 semifinalist and the seventh seed withdrew from the French open due to injury and made a comeback at the Queens’ Club where he lost to Gilles Simon in three sets after winning the first. He will have to find his rhythm and game to repeat his performance from last year.
11th seed and last year’s semifinalist Grigor Dimitrov will try and draw inspiration from his previous Wimbledon performance. He failed to defend his Queens’ Club title after losing to Gilles Mueller in the second round. He too will be eager to find his form back and play the kind of tennis he is capable since there’s no stage better than Wimbledon to prove his flair. 9th seed Marin Cilic will also look to leave a lasting impression after being troubled by injuries and early round losses since his famous victory at last year’s US Open. His Wimbledon preparations took a hit when he lost to Victor Troicki in the 2nd round of the Queens’ Club. He won the first set in a tie break, and it was nothing but a whitewash for the Croat after that.
Other notable names in the top half include 14th seed Kevin Anderson, who beat Wawrinka and reached the finals at the Queens club, 17th seed John Isner, who reached the quarterfinals at the Queens’ club few days ago. The top half also features 21st seed Richard Gasquet the 2007 semifinalist, 2013 semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz and 27th seeded Bernard Tomic. These players will also be eager to perform well at a venue as exquisite as Wimbledon and threaten the top order. Young guns like the 2014 Quartefinaist Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Alexander Zverev and Lucas Pouille would like to use the big stage to make some big strides into carving a niche for themselves on the tennis tour.
2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt and Jarkko Nieminen play each other in the first round. Both the men are making an emotional final appearance at the championships as a player. The winner of this match could meet Djokovic in the 2nd round after he beats Phillip Kohlschreiber. A probable clash of Djokovic and Aussie Bernard Tomic is possible in the 3rd round and against an inspired Anderson in the 4th. Should Djokovic manage to make it through his draw to the Quarter finals, he will meet Nishikori who opens against Simone Bolleli. Nishkori, finds himself in a tough section where he might have to fend off he challenges posed by Isner and Cilic.
Wawrinka opens against Joao Sousa and is drawn to meet the young gun Dominic Thiem in the 3rd round. David Goffin is also a potential opponent for the Swiss along with Tommy Robredo. Raonic and Dimitrov might lock horns with each other in the 4th round and the winner is projected to meet Wawrinka in the last eight. Raonic begins his campaign against D.Gimeno-Traver and Dimitov against Federico Delbonis. Djokovic and Wawrinka are projected to meet in the semifinals if both of them stay unbeaten.
One will have to pick Nick Kyrgios as the dark horse given his penchant for the big stage and his run to the quarterfinals at the Championships, last year and the Australian Open this year. Given the standards set by the Big 4, Kyrgios will have to step it up another notch, even with his immense talent, to put himself in the mix for the race to the biggest title on the tennis calendar.
THE BOTTOM HALF
The bottom half of the draw is peppered with a lot of strong players, the strongest being the three of the ‘BIG FOUR’ of the sport namely, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal. These men share 10 Wimbledon titles among them.
Nobody knows the Wimbledon manuscript better than Federer. The 2014 finalist is a 7 time champion here. His last major came here in 2012 and the Swiss looks in good shape to capture his 18th Grand Slam over the coming fortnight. The 2nd seed looks in fine form on his beloved grass after winning an 8th title on his happy hunting ground Halle and a 15th Grass court title overall. He is surely carrying a lot of confidence from that victory as he attempts to win a record 8th crown here.
3rd seed and local favorite Andy Murray is on a roll and is one of the hot favorites, along with Federer in the bottom half to win the title. The 2013 champion is eager to carry on his scintillating performance to SW19 and win his 2nd Wimbledon in three years. He recently won his 4th Queens Cub crown which added a big boost to his preparations for the major that is counted above all else.
Surprisingly this is just the first time in a decade when Rafa Nadal doesn’t walk the Wimbledon gates as a French Open champion. He has suffered a massive downfall in the rankings after being trumped by Djokovic in a straight sets demolition at the French Open Quarterfinals. The Spaniard is seeded 10th. He won his first grass court title since 2010 in Stuttgart about 2 weeks ago.
It has been a case of one step forward and two backward for Nadal, as he then lost to Alexander Dolgoplov in the first round of Queens’ Club. The 2008 and 2010 champion will be hoping to halt his downward slide and turn his fortunes in the next two weeks. He hasn’t reached the Quarter finals here since the 2011 final. He will want to put the last 3 pre mature Wimbledon losses on the back of his mind and hope to find his form and play the best he can.
Tomas Berdych and Jo Wilfried Tsonga are other big names seeded 6th and 13th respectively, in the bottom half of the draw. The 2010 finalist, big hitting Berdych will want to make his way through the top and stay upbeat about his chances of winning his maiden Grand Slam. Ferrer who was drawn to meet Nadal in the round of 16 has withdrawn at the eleventh hour and will be replaced by lucky loser Luca Vanni who will open against local boy James Ward. The 2011 and 2013 semifinalist Tsonga will hope to continue his great performance at majors after making the French open semifinal. He opens against the Luxembourgian Gilles Mueller.
The bottom half also features a string of other good quality players like Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils, Feliciano Lopez and Halle finalist Andreas Seppi. Alexander Dolgopolov. Ivo Karlovic, 2014 doubles’ winner Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil and young gun Borna Coric can’t be counted out as well when it comes to challenging the top guns.
The bottom half is flooded with mouth watering clashes with the most exciting one being the consummate collision between Murray and Nadal if both the men make it through to their respective quarterfinals. Nadal, who opens against Thomaz Bellucci, will not be facing any top 10 players in the round of 16 as Ferrer has withdrawn. He might also have to cross ways with Dustin Brown who toppled him in last year’s Halle opener. Murray opens against Mikhail Kukushkin. He might have to play either Karlovic or Tsonga in 4th round in order to successfully defend his 2014 Quarterfinalist status. He could also play the young rising star Borna Coric, who beat him this year at the Dubai open.
Another high quality Quarterfinal between Federer and Berdych is in prospect should they make through. Berdych overpowered Federer in their 2010 Quarterfinal meeting, but this year it looks less likely to happen. Federer opens against Damir Dzumhur and might face back to back Americans- Sam Querry and Jack Sock in the 2nd and the 3rd round respectively. Should he make it through, he will face Feliciano Lopez then.
Berdych Opens against Jeremy Chardy and might face Nicolas Mahut in the 2nd round. A potential meeting with his fellow Czech Lukas Rosol is possible in the 3rd round. Rosol caused stir back in 2012 by defeating Nadal in 2012 but the Spaniard exacted revenge last year. Berdych might face Simon in the 4th round before his probable clash with Federer. If all of it goes according to the draw, a semifinal clash between Federer and Murray should make for a great final weekend.
It is time to welcome the fortnight of meticulously maintained lawns, straight lines, and players in pure white, strawberries and cream along with an endless list of subtle traditions. Tennis players from around the globe gather to grace the pristine grass at SW19 and to give all that they have got at a place where everyday is like living a dream and every match played is an honor itself. The play gets underway on Monday.
-Vishakha Khandelwal [Vishakha is a Tennis Analyst for Sportz Cosmos. You can reach her at the gmail id : sportzcosmos]