After Rafael Nadal captured his astounding ninth Roland Garros title, it's time to examine Wimbledon 2014, which is shaping up to be an intriguing tournament. Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal come into it as favorites, and each one has something to fight for: Murray has to prove in front of his fellow Brits that his 2013 Wimbledon was not a one-time occurrence; the Serb has to show that he is still capable of winning in the final, after going 0-3 in Grand Slam finals since early 2013; and the Spaniard will evidently be trying to get one Slam closer to Roger Federer's 17. As always, there will be a few others who can potentially challenge at Wimbledon. So, what should we expect coming into the Gentleman's draw?
It didn't come as a major surprise to anyone that Rafa won the French Open in great form, but he may have a bit more trouble at Wimbledon. For one thing, he has been ousted from the last two years' Wimbledon extremely early. Last year, he suffered a straight-sets loss to Steve Darcis in the first round, while in 2012, Lukas Rosol edged Rafa in five in the second round.
It seems that his woes on grass are continuing this year, as he lost his first match of the year on the surface to Dustin Brown 6-4, 6-1 in Halle, Germany. This could turn out to be a very ominous sign for the World No. 1, who was quoted as having said this after the match (according to ATP World Tour):
I lost today because my rival was playing better than me. And at the same time, as I said yesterday, the transition from clay to grass is difficult, especially when you arrive a little bit tired and not at 100 per cent. But I tried my best.
Nadal being injured or tired is nothing new, but could this lead to a third disaster in a row in England? I predict that Nadal will not get very far in the tournament, despite his recent success at Roland Garros.
As for Novak Djokovic, he is my clear favorite coming into this tournament. Although he hasn't won a Grand Slam since the 2013 Australian Open, he has played consistently well in Slams. In the last few years, he hasn't had many problems on grass, and because of this, I see Nole winning the whole thing in 2014.
He was last year's runner-up, a semifinalist in 2012, and the champion at the All England Club in 2011, so he has been getting consistent results at Wimbledon. He had a strong French Open this year (even though he will be disappointed by what happened in the final) and will look to continue getting results in the Wimbledon.
The defending champion, Andy Murray, had a rough loss in the semifinals of the French Open, winning only six games against Rafael Nadal in what turned out to be a drubbing. Then, at the Aegon Championships, he was dealt a loss in the second round to Radek Stepanek, who at the time was 42nd in the world.
Murray, who has signed Amelie Mauresmo as his coach for the grass season, did not impress Kevin Mitchell of The Guardian, who wrote the following in his article:
He seemed to lack zip and urgency, and will strive to rediscover those qualities at Wimbledon where expectations – his own and the nation’s – will be stratospheric.
That Murray doesn't seem to be as passionate and enthusiastic could prove to be a huge issue, and it does not bode well for the struggling Brit, who always faces immense pressure from his home fans and the British press. This time last year, Murray was a man on a mission to win his first Wimbledon, but if he cannot get that motivation back, then I don't see him getting to the final.
Evidently, Federer is always going to be one of the centers of attention, as he is at every slam. The Swiss is coming off a win in Halle, beating Alejandro Falla of Colombia in two tiebreaks to capture his seventh Gerry Weber Open title.
Despite this, I do not think that Federer is a favorite to win it all coming into this tournament. A legend at the All England Club, it would not surprise anyone if Federer made a deep run to the semis, but I think an 18th slam is beyond his reach. The last Slam final that he got to was Wimbledon 2012, and he hasn't looked like a serious contender for a long time.
There are also a couple of notable others who I think will go far in this year's tournament.
Firstly, Grigor Dimitrov has never gotten past the second round of Wimbledon, but I think this year he will shatter that record of his. The Bulgarian won the Aegon Championships after saving a championship point against Feliciano Lopez in the final.
"Baby Fed" has been expected to break out big time for very long, and he had his best result at a Slam this year at the Australian Open, where he got to the quarterfinals. This month, however, he can make a deep run on grass. He possesses a combination of confidence, momentum, and undeniable talent that I predict will lead him to at least the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
The other dark horse who can do extremely well is Philipp Kohlschreiber, a man whose best-ever result at a Slam was at the 2012 Wimbledon, where he reached the quarterfinals. This year, the German is playing well, with the Dusseldorf title to his name, as well as two semifinal appearances, one of them in Halle, Germany.
Again, in Kohlschreiber's case, a title or final appearance will be asking a bit much, but expect a quarterfinal appearance and an upset or two from him.
Apart from the people I have mentioned above, I do not predict any major flops or shockers, but you should be ready for a very interesting Wimbledon.
One interesting thing about this tournament is that there has been no player that has been completely dominant in the last few years on grass: The last four Wimbledons have had four different winners. Could the year's third Grand Slam hold a surprise winner?