Amidst the agony of a premature World Cup exit, British fans have been comforted somewhat by the fact that in a sea of football, Wimbledon has crept up.
On Tuesday, June 24 (AEST), the greatest tennis tournament on Earth returns, and this year it promises to be as competitive and intriguing as ever. The man defending the title is none other than Andy Murray, the Scot who broke the Wimbledon hoodoo last summer by becoming the first Brit to win at the All-England club since Fred Perry in 1936.
Murray has admitted to having nerves this year, and indicated that he is not sure how he’ll cope with the pressure of being the defending champion. If we take his last Grand Slam into account, the Scot’s in pretty good shape. He made an unlikely semifinal in the French Open before being blown away by eventual winner Rafael Nadal, but since the clay courts are not really the Brit’s forte, it’s likely he has rediscovered some of the steel that’s been lacking in his 2014 games so far.
Murray’s first taste of the grass court season ended in disappointment after he suffered the ignominy of a third round exit against 15th seed and veteran, Radek Stepanek. This shock exit has raised more questions than it answered, and it remains to be seen what sort of shape Murray is in ahead of Wimbledon.
Murray is of course under the tutelage of temporary (for now) coach Amelie Mauresmo, and it will be interesting to monitor whether or not the former World number one has had an effect on the Murray game. The Scot is the third seed at this year’s tournament, and it’s fair to say that the draw has favoured him. With Stanislas Wawrinka, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all in the bottom half of the draw, Murray will be odds on to reach the semi-finals, where he will face last year’s final opponent, Novak Djokovic.
Murray’s got himself a great first round draw too, and it seems unlikely that 23-year-old David Goffin will cause him too many problems. This should help the Scot get his eye in. The question for Murray fans is whether the Wimbledon champion has sufficiently recovered his game to truly compete at SW19. Only time will tell.
Novak Djokovic – the man Murray may well meet in the semi-finals – will almost certainly be looking for retribution after his straight-sets loss to his rival last year, but Djokovic will also have a further ulterior motive for proving himself at this year’s Wimbledon. After a fantastic clay court season for the Serb, many were tipping Djokovic to usurp Nadal and win the French Open – the tournament that has eluded him in his career thus far.
Unfortunately for the Serb, Nadal was just too good, and this will no doubt have dented Djokovic’s pride. The only way to recover is to get back on the horse, and that’s what Djokovic will be hoping to do at Wimbledon. As with Murray, Djokovic has enjoyed a favourable draw and will be strongly fancied to reach the semifinals for a potential showdown with the Scot. On the evidence of 2014, he’d be the favourite for that clash too.
Over in the other side of the draw, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka are bunched up together, which should make for some fascinating early games.
Nadal is on a high after his frankly ridiculous French Open achievement, and it would take a very brave man to bet against the Spaniard adding another Grand Slam to his collection at Wimbledon. It’s worth considering the fact that whilst Nadal had a truly incredible year last year, his low point was undoubtedly Wimbledon, where he suffered a first-round exit to go with his second-round exit the previous year.
It has been speculated that Nadal simply can’t cope with the speed on grass anymore, that his all-action game is suited to the slower surfaces, but there’s no doubt that the world number one will be looking to shatter those opinions with a strong performance at Wimbledon this year. If it all goes according to the formbook, Rafa will face either Wawrinka or Federer in the semifinal.
And this is where it gets really interesting. Wawrinka and Federer are odds on to play each other in the quarter-finals, and that’s likely to be a fascinating match. The two Swiss players – who are friends off court – have enjoyed a tumultuous playing history in the last two years, with Wawrinka beginning to usurp the old master. Nevertheless, Federer has enjoyed a solid 2014 so far, and he’ll be looking to prove that age is just a number by beating his compatriot on his way to an eighth Wimbledon title.
So for us Brits suffering the embarrassment of an early exit, Wimbledon is where it’s at. Get the fruit cut, the Pimms flowing and the strawberries and cream out: it’s time for the greatest tennis tournament on earth
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