Roland Garros is in the books, which means the top stars in the world of tennis will now shift their focus to tournaments played on grass and the most prestigious Grand Slam of them all, the 2014 Wimbledon Championships.
Andy Murray became the first British winner in 77 years when he won the tournament last year, and the Scot will have his eyes set on a repeat performance following his disappointing defeat against Rafael Nadal in Paris.
He will have plenty of competition at the All England Club, however, with a number of players highlighting the 2014 edition of Wimbledon for a variety of reasons.
Let's have a look at some early predictions for the main contenders going into tennis' grass season.
Andy Murray Won't Repeat As Wimbledon Champion
Murray's run at the title in 2013 was a great story and something British tennis sorely needed. The Scot has always been a force on grass, taking advantage of his great size and his powerful forehand.
But 2014 has not been his year, and the semi-final defeat at Roland Garros was a painful reminder of that. Nadal embarrassed Murray in every facet of the game, but his dominance from the baseline was particularly noteworthy.
Murray looks a step slower than he was in 2013, and, unlike last year, fans will be expecting him to be the favourite to win this year's tournament. While the surface will be a tremendous advantage for the Brit, questions about how he'll handle the pressure remain.
Via the ATP World Tour Twitter account, Murray appointed Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach for the grass season:
Hiring a new coach one year after winning the granddaddy of grass tournaments is not the sign of a player confident about his game, and Mauresmo will have little time to work with Murray before Wimbledon kicks off.
Expect Murray to look strong in the early stages of the grass season but falter as he gets closer and closer to the Wimbledon final.
Roger Federer Will Put Everything in Wimbledon, Come Up Short
Everyone knew Wimbledon would be Federer's best chance of winning one more Grand Slam going into the season, so it wasn't a big surprise when he told reporters his mind had already switched to grass following his loss against Ernests Gulbis, as reported by LiveTennis.com:
Mentally I have already switched to the grass, to be quite honest. Clay doesn’t need me anymore, I got flushed out here. [...]
Yeah, I do feel so. I think when I’m healthy, like I have been now for the last six to nine months, I think clearly I can also decide the outcome of the matches more than I could last year. So I’m very excited about my chances for Wimbledon now.
The Swiss former world No. 1 looked very strong at the Australian Open and even better in Dubai, but the birth of his third and fourth child seems to have thrown his entire schedule off balance.
Federer has been working with Stefan Edberg all year for the sole purpose of opening up his offensive game heading into Wimbledon. For all of his versatility, serve-and-volley has been one of the few tools he has moved away from as his career has progressed.
With so much pressure resting on a strong performance at the All England Club, not winning an eighth Wimbledon title would be devastating for Federer. Getting his serve-and-volley back on track will be key, and, at this stage of his career, a loss of power in that first serve will keep him from going all the way.
Rafael Nadal's Back Will Keep Him from Winning His Third Wimbledon Title
Nadal's dominance on his way to a record ninth Roland Garros title was impressive, but, as reported by the Daily Mail's Mike Dickson, the Spaniard told reporters he was still struggling with a back injury that has followed him since the Australian open:
I felt my back a little bit so that’s why I slowed down the serve,’ he said.
I felt it a little bit from the beginning and in the second match I was not serving that fast, too. I had a few strappings on and in the second set I was feeling the pain.
During my career I have had a few problems so always things can happen. Hopefully, it will not be the case here.
He deserves credit for adapting his game to work around the injury, but the fact that it hasn't fully healed since the start of the year is worrisome.
Playing on a surface as fast as grass, players simply can't hold back in their serve. It's arguably the primary weapon top players will use at Wimbledon, and against players as strong in the return game as Murray and Novak Djokovic, Nadal's serve needs to be clicking.
Nadal was hardly troubled during the early stages of Roland Garros, as he was able to end most of his matches in a timely manner to spare his back. Whether he can do the same thing at Wimbledon will go a long way in determining his success there, but opposing players will test that serve of his early and often.
The world No. 1 is too good a player to bow out early, even if his back is slowing down his serve. But going up against one of the top contenders for the title with such a disadvantage is too much to handle, even for the mighty Nadal.
Novak Djokovic Will Win the Championship
Last year's final loss will still sting, as will the loss to an unleashed Nadal at Roland Garros. Djokovic hasn't won a Grand Slam in over a year, and the Serb will be as motivated as Federer going into the tournament.
Djokovic has a bone to pick with Murray and Nadal, both of whom are facing issues going into the tournament. His athleticism and his length are great tools on grass, but the Serb's tennis IQ is arguably his biggest asset.
Nadal gave him no chance in the Roland Garros final, but Djokovic has looked slightly more powerful in 2014 than he did last year. On grass, you have to like his chances over any of his three main rivals, who all have some form of concern after the 2014 French Open.
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