Wimbledon 2013: The Most Compelling Tournament in a Decade?

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Wimbledon 2013: The Most Compelling Tournament in a Decade?
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Wimbledon has been the dream tournament of every tennis player and tennis fan for decades uncountable. There is something in its dynamic mix of history, tradition and purity that has captured the hearts and souls of so many. In 2013 it marks a decade of dominance by some of the greatest players ever to pick up a racquet—it is the 10th anniversary of Roger Federer's maiden Grand Slam title at the All-England Club.

Since then, he himself has stolen much of the limelight, ratcheting up six of the last nine tournaments. Only Rafael Nadal in 2008 and 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2011 have put themselves in a winning circle alongside him—but with less than half his title tilt, neither hardly on par with Federer.

In the wake of Nadal's record-extending eighth victory at Roland Garros just over two weeks ago, however, even Federer's seven (equalling Pete Sampras and William Renshaw for most Wimbledon titles) might seem slightly shy.

This 2013 edition of Wimbledon might also mark a crucial breaking point for the two inexorable forces that have characterised the last five years of his Wimbledon appearances—the slow decrease in his own efficiency and the increasing mental stranglehold Nadal has had over him.

Nadal's dominance on clay is certainly something perhaps even more impressive than Federer's on grass, although the Swiss will match him on Wimbledon should he claim the title again this year. He will have won, like Nadal in Paris, eight of the last 11 tournaments held at the premier grass tournament since 2002.

The drama underlying Federer's quest for the record-breaking eighth Wimbledon is but only a quarter of the action that lies in waiting over the next fortnight. As TENNIS Magazine has forecast, it is likely we will see yet another addition of the "Big Fourtnight," with Federer, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. Remarkably this will be the first time in a year all four compete in the same Grand Slam, although much might be made of there being the Four to watch, with all of them having to overcome minor struggles at this point.

Federer's issues of wear and tear have been alluded to, and Wimbledon's role in becoming the symbol of his place among the top players might emerge more clearly this year. There has been the sense in the year so far that he has looked forward to this Wimbledon defense more eagerly than anything else. 

For Nadal the issues of knee injury, which have failed to flare up in any significant way since his return to competitive play in February, move aside for the mental demons and sense of indignation he brings over from his five-set loss to Lukas Rosol last year—a match that should never have turned out, in his mind surely, the way it did.

Moreover, he has the results in 2013, with six of the eight tournaments entered going his way, to justify his favoritism. He is almost the fifth-seed wild card at Wimbledon this year.

As for Djokovic, he battles a few mental demons himself.

The winner of only two tournaments so far—albeit major ones at the Australian Open and Monte Carlo—Djokovic's first half of 2013 transpired like last year's, and he enters again with the psychological baggage after a gruelling defeat to Nadal in Paris.

What looks up, for him, is surely the favourable draw he has been dealt; a comfortable run to the final, with a strong look at the title, should stir plenty of intrigue.

Murray, on the other hand, looks like the least likely de facto favorite.

The last man, in fact, to win the tournament held at the All-England Club (being the Olympics last year) his is possibly the grass game most in succession to Federer's; he also proved in January that he has the heart now to go along with the head when it comes to beating Federer on the biggest stage.

They contested a grand four-setter last year in the final and could face each other again in the semifinal—yet Murray's recent back woes and a less-than-totally-convincing series of performances (albeit all victorious) at the Queen's Club last week might leave pundits questioning. 

When it seems the Big Four converge in timing their woes and doubts at the same event in 2013, take note, too, that the tournament this year might see the first big breakthrough of someone outside them as a result. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga knocked very hard at the door of their dominance at the French Open recently and has a fluid game perfectly suited to grass, while Tomas Berdych might reprise his 2010 antics and blitz his way to a semifinal showdown with Novak Djokovic.

 

It is hard to imagine a better scenario, or better prospects for a Wimbledon, in years. It's that old story again of the old making its way for the new. We even have a prospective Federer-Nadal quarterfinal, should the draw turn out as its seeds, and that match could well be a very suitable moment to contemplate this theme: a Nadal victory would assume the proportions of a change in the guard, in the way his victory in 2008 did not. Yet the Federer naysayers would doubt him at their peril.

If a replay of Federer and Nadal's final in 2008. It's that old story widely acclaimed as the greatest match ever playedIt's that old story is on the cards for only a quarterfinal, the tennis world has to know it is in for a special tournament.

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