Wimbledon's current champion, Andy Murray, faces a tough task overcoming a crowded group of talented players at this year's tournament. Murray's job will be made even more challenging by the presence of a fit-again Rafael Nadal.
But that duo won't be the only big stars looking to reaffirm their credentials at Wimbledon. Expect a typically ruthless and assured tournament performance from Novak Djokovic.
Here are early predictions for some of the top stars at the All England Club, beginning with Murray.
Andy Murray Will Fail to Retain His Title
Murray made history by winning Wimbledon in 2013. In doing so, the Scot became the first British men's champion for 77 years. But Murray won't repeat that feat this year.
He has been shaky in big matches since his Wimbledon triumph. The most recent example came in the French Open, where Murray was obliterated by Nadal in the semi-final.
My timing was off on the returns. It is also easy to say he served well and I missed quite a lot of returns. He was just battering the next ball into the corner. So you need to try and do something with his return. Maybe I was going for a bit too much. Then, when I missed a couple in a row, I would get a bit tentative.
Of course, there is no shame in being bested by Nadal on Clay. That surface is where the powerful Spaniard is close to unplayable.
But Murray will still need to ensure he is much sharper when he turns his attention to grass later this month. Expect Murray to be better than he was at Roland Garros, but not quite good enough to retain Wimbledon honors.
Stanislas Wawrinka Will Suffer Another Early Exit
Stanislas Wawrinka has not exactly enjoyed his previous visits to the All England Club. LiveTennis.com has documented the Swiss star's struggles at Wimbledon:
Stanislas Wawrinka will also be an interesting one to watch. The reigning Australian Open champion failed to win a single match at Roland Garros, suffering a first round exit to Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. The World No. 3 has crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round in his last two appearances, but achieved his best result at the slam when he reached the fourth round in 2008 and 2009 respectively. The 29-year-old received a wildcard to play at Queen’s in preparation for Wimbledon, and will enter the tournament as the top seed.
Being bounced out of Roland Garros so early is the worst kind of preparation for Wimbledon. Yes, there's a huge difference between clay and grass, particularly for a thoughtful player like Wawrinka. But his showing at the French Open will hardly have been a confidence booster.
Wawrinka will need to regain his comfort level on the grass at the Queen's club. However, even if he does, Wawrinka is likely to be one of the high-profile names to leave the Slam early.
Novak Djokovic Will Return to the Final
It's fair to say Djokovic did not cover himself in glory the last time he entered a final at Wimbledon. Clearly awed by the occasion and the tide of emotion against him, as an obstacle to a British champion, Djokovic produced some pretty meek tennis against Murray.
But the game's Mr. Efficiency will rebound in a very positive way at this year's tournament. Djokovic won't allow himself to retreat from the spotlight so easily.
With more calm authority to his game, the Serb will rely on his trademark knack for producing the right shot at the right time. Djokovic has always been defined by doing exactly what the game calls for at any given moment.
It is an underrated and difficult-to-master talent that makes him a tough opponent to outlast. Djokovic's crafty wear-down style will overcome most of the competition at the All England Club and ensure his place in a second straight final.
Rafael Nadal Will Win the Tournament
Provided he stays healthy, Nadal will have too much power and dynamism for a talented field of competition this year. The Spanish ace has that rare combination of awesome service and baseline strength, allied with the quickness and cunning to manufacture shots and points from rallies.
Nadal's power, most obvious in his serve and forehand, is often too much even for the best opposition. It makes him one of the sport's more exciting players and will book his passage to another final.
Once there, Nadal will play one of his most complete games since he outlasted the great Roger Federer in 2008. That will be enough to secure Nadal his third Wimbledon title.
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