With the 2013 Wimbledon Championships just a few days away, there are already several questions to be asked.
The men's Big Four (consisting of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray) seem to be in very good shape. Unfortunately, only one of them can win this title, and the favorite is very much unclear at the moment.
Some lesser-ranked players are playing sublime tennis on grass and will be looking to challenge opponents of all calibers.
Additionally, the strategies on the grass courts could be different this year, as climate, conditions and the pace of the court certainly play large roles.
Here are the top storylines to follow at this year's tournament.
No, this is not Federer's last chance to win a major by any means. It is also not his last shot to win at Wimbledon, especially because it is among his best Slams in terms of history and dominance.
His style of play still puts him at a better chance to win on grass than Djokovic, Nadal and David Ferrer.
Murray has the grass-court knowledge, technique and feel to take out the Swiss Maestro, as well as many other players in the Top 10. However, look for him to soar into the final again.
His chances of beating Nadal in this tournament are actually higher than one might think, so that could help his confidence during the fortnight.
Andy Murray has been a tremendous force on grass courts for the past few years, routinely making semifinals at Wimbledon for about half a decade. The No. 1 reason why he loses at the All England Club is that Rafael Nadal is in his way. Last year, this wasn't the case, and he got to the final, where he challenged Roger Federer in many ways.
With Rafa back in action and in top form, it is hard to imagine Murray will be able to overcome him if they face each other.
Murray definitely has the edge over Djokovic on grass in my eyes, but still cannot be trusted against Federer.
So, he has two opponents he is unlikely to beat, and David Ferrer and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga even give him a tough challenge in their meetings.
I doubt he will even be in the final again, but I think he will make the semis and keep up his solid grass-court performance.
The Big Four have certainly been existent for the past few years.
David Ferrer has always been around and is a great player. He has been playing better with each successive year, and with his recent finals showing at the French Open, wherein he dropped zero sets en route to the final, he can arguably be added to the group to form a theoretical Big Five.
Though he usually serves as a stand-in when a Big Four member gets upset by somebody (such as Tomas Berdych or Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) or withdraws from a tournament (as exemplified by Murray's lack of participation in Paris), he is the best go-to player in these instances and occasionally earns an upset on the big stage.
Let's see how he does in his first major as a true Big Five member with all other group members competing.
Grigor Dimitrov, Benoit Paire and Kei Nishikori—these are a few of the young talents who have not truly shown their full capabilities in majors (though the Japanese man did have a quarterfinals run at the Australian Open before and also had a big US Open in 2008).
More of these young players on the rise are on the next slide as well.
Dimitrov is clearly the most complete player, as his volleys, spot-serving and backhand slice give him a slight edge over the competition. Nishikori is definitely the best when it comes to court smarts and can neutralize any opponent's strengths on a good day.
Paire is talented and hits the ball a ton, especially off the backhand side, which is where players usually try to target. This will help him to succeed in the long run.
I will go with Dimitrov and Nishikori to have decent runs at Wimbledon.
These three are similar players in the way that their dominant serves and one-two punches work wonders.
Arguably, John Isner has the least promise for the future, as he is the oldest and least fit one of the bunch. Jerzy Janowicz and Milos Raonic are better movers and baseline players as well.
I think they will go very far in this tournament, with Big John dragging behind.
When it comes down to the Polish and Canadian men, I would put my money on Janowicz, as his Wimbledon breakout last year proved him to be a worthy player on grass.
The German-American is definitely adept on grass and has done well at Wimbledon in the past (specifically the 2009 championships, where he fought off a match point against Marin Cilic and found his way into the semifinals, playing with a serve-and-volley style).
He has had a stellar year—one of his best at that.
Playing well on all surfaces and throughout many tournaments without injury, there is no telling how far Haas can venture at the All England Club. He will make the quarterfinals in my opinion, though most critics and oddsmakers might have him exiting in the fourth round.
The plan that worked so frequently at Wimbledon decades ago is being abandoned more and more each year. Some players, like Michael Llodra, are keeping it alive and continue to incorporate it into their games.
Maybe a few athletes could catch opponents off guard by serving and volleying, at least on occasion.
The people who can execute it well include Roger Federer, Ryan Harrison, Tommy Haas, Andy Murray, Mikhail Youzhny and Richard Gasquet (who definitely has toned this style down quite a bit lately).
It would be a nice change to see, as this is the one major where it would be the easiest to execute.
As of now, Djokovic is ahead of the next-ranked player by thousands of points.
Unfortunately for him, he has to defend his champion points from the Rogers Cup, China Open, Shanghai Masters and World Tour Finals along with finals points from the Cincinnati Masters and US Open. To make matters worse, he reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last year, which is not the toughest task in the world for him.
Rafael Nadal lost in the second round here last year and sat out the rest of 2012. He also missed the Australian Open, where Novak Djokovic is usually very dominant, so it is highly possible that by the end of January next year, Rafa could be the world's No. 1-ranked player once again.
There is no doubt that Rafael Nadal is playing better tennis at the moment than Nole.
However, Rafa has struggled in multiple tournaments (though winning nearly all of them) in early rounds, while Djokovic, for the most part, has not.
Sure, Novak did lose to Tomas Berdych in Rome and Tommy Haas in Miami when he perhaps shouldn't have. But in the majors, he definitely does not mess around in the first week.
Nadal was challenged on red clay in his first three matches at his favorite tournament, Roland Garros. It is likely that Djokovic will be cruising more easily than him.
The question of who the better player is will become more clear at the end of the year. Count on the ranking points of these two men to be very, very close.