2014 Wimbledon

10 Players with the Most to Prove at Wimbledon 2014

Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistJune 28, 2014

10 Players with the Most to Prove at Wimbledon 2014

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    Rafael Nadal hits a backhand during his first round match.
    Rafael Nadal hits a backhand during his first round match.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Every player, from qualifiers to Grand Slam champions, arrives at Wimbledon with the goal of winning it all. However, some carry an extra chip on their shoulder. They have much to prove.

    Roger Federer and Serena Williams, each with 17 Grand Slams, face high expectations and the added pressure of playing in the twilight of their careers. But neither has to prove anything. Federer and Williams have solidified their place in history among the Greatest of All Time. Instead, they are pursuing personal goals.

    The players with the most to prove have big question marks surrounding their games or status in history. Just who are they? 

    Up-and-coming players like Madison Keys and Eugenie Bouchard have little to prove. They are young and their success, especially Bouchard's, has them on schedule for productive years ahead. 

    This list is about players who must dismiss naysayers. They need to prove they can overcome roadblocks in their careers. Players made this list because they desperately need to change the narrative. They need to make a statement.  

Grigor Dimitrov

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    Grigor Dimitrov hits a forehand during a match at Wimbledon.
    Grigor Dimitrov hits a forehand during a match at Wimbledon.Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Grigor Dimitrov, ranked No. 13, is having the best year of his career. He reached a career-high No. 12 in May.

    But he has to prove that his game is about more than being a Federer copycat. He needs to make headlines for his accomplishments on the court, instead of who he's dating

    Dimitrov must reach at least the semifinals to justify all the hype heaped upon him. 

Simona Halep

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    Simona Halep waves to the crowd after winning her first-round match.
    Simona Halep waves to the crowd after winning her first-round match.Associated Press

    Simona Halep, 22, has been the surprise player of 2014. She's reached the finals at Madrid and the French Open.  

    She's reached a career-high No. 3. Now that No. 2 Li Na is out, Halep can set her sights on No. 2. A deep run at Wimbledon, along with Li's early exit could put her within a tournament's distance from another career high.

    Halep is no longer an up-and-coming player, but she has to prove that she deserves that ranking and that she's in the Top Five for the long haul. 

Rafael Nadal

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    Rafael Nadal reacts to winning a tough second-round match.
    Rafael Nadal reacts to winning a tough second-round match.Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

    Any questions about how much pressure Rafael Nadal feels at Wimbledon were answered with his jubilant celebration after his second-round win over Lukas Rosol. 

    Nadal celebrated as if he had won the tournament. He hadn't moved beyond the second round since 2011. He has 14 Grand Slams and a winning record against Federer. Yet lingering in the "Greatest of All Time" discussion is his dominance on clay and a rather pedestrian history at Slams on other surfaces.

    Nadal doesn't have to dominate grass like Federer, but if he wants to erase all doubts about his place among the greats, he has to prove he's more than a clay-court specialist. 

Maria Sharapova

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    Maria Sharapova hits a backhand during her second-round match.
    Maria Sharapova hits a backhand during her second-round match.Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Maria Sharapova is riding high after winning her second French Open. It's the only Grand Slam title she's held more than once. Although she is one of the biggest names in tennis, Sharapova must prove that she's worthy of the elite status.

    Despite winning five Slams, few consider her an all-time great. That's because when people talk about Sharapova, her tennis often comes up third, sometimes even fourth.

    Her looks, endorsements, and even her screeching often dominates the conversation about Sharapova. And then there's the 15-match, decades long losing streak to Serena Williams. 

    She can flip that script with a win here. With Williams struggling this year, Sharapova can at least put herself back in the conversation for the players playing the best right now. 

Andy Murray

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    Andy Murray leans to make a play on the ball during a second-round match at Wimbledon.
    Andy Murray leans to make a play on the ball during a second-round match at Wimbledon.Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Talk of Andy Murray joining the "Big Four" surfaced when he won the U.S. Open in 2012. That was right after he won an Olympic Gold medal. He solidified his spot among the elite when he captured the 2013 Wimbledon title, under a wave of pressure. 

    Now, Murray must defend his title to prove he is worthy of his No. 3 seed and is has finally returned to form following back surgery.

Sabine Lisicki

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    Sabine Lisicki hits a forehand during a match in the first week of the 2014 Championships, Wimbledon.
    Sabine Lisicki hits a forehand during a match in the first week of the 2014 Championships, Wimbledon.Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Sabine Lisicki's 2013 upset over Serena Williams wasn't the first-time the big-hitting German made noise at Wimbledon. She shocked Sharapova in the fourth round in 2010.

    Lisicki is a different player on the grass. Her size, serve and groundstrokes are as close to Williams as any player on the tour. However, Lisicki lacks focus and consistency. 

    The meltdown on display in the final last year highlighted Lisicki's mental fragility. Lisicki needs to prove she can hold it together for more than the occasional upset. 

Novak Djokovic

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    Novak Djokovic sprints to make a play during his second-round match at Wimbledon.
    Novak Djokovic sprints to make a play during his second-round match at Wimbledon.Ben Curtis/Associated Press

    Because of Nadal's dominance at Roland Garros, he's criticized for having won just twice at Wimbledon. 

    Meanwhile Djokovic, who has never won at Roland Garros, has just one Wimbledon title. Just as Nadal is sometimes called the King of Clay, Djokovic could easily be called the Australian Open master. Four of his six Grand Slam titles have been at the Australian Open.

    His last Slam title win was at the Australian Open in 2013. Although he's been to the finals ten times since 2011, he hasn't won a Slam title outside of Australia during that time. Five of his six Slams have been on hard courts. 

    Djokovic needs to prove he is more than a hard-court specialist. 

Agnieszka Radwanska

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    Agnieszka Radwanska prepares to serve during Wimbledon.
    Agnieszka Radwanska prepares to serve during Wimbledon.Steve Bardens/Getty Images

    The only reason Agnieszka Radwanska has avoided the dreaded comparisons to Caroline Wozniacki and Dinara Safina—top-ranked players who have never won a slam—is because she's never been ranked No. 1.

    Still, Radwanska has spent the last two years in the Top Five. She reached the Wimbledon final in 2012, but that's been it for finals in Grand Slam.

    Time is ticking.

    Radwanska needs to prove she can win a Slam. 

Stanislas Wawrinka

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    Stanislas Wawrinka concentrates during his second-round match at Wimbledon.
    Stanislas Wawrinka concentrates during his second-round match at Wimbledon.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Stanislas Wawrinka's post-Australian Open season can be best described as inconsistent. He's never had much success at Wimbledon, but has now advanced to the third round for the first time since 2009.

    Although ranked No. 3, Wawrinka has never been considered in the same class as the Big Four. If he ever wants to be, he has to prove he's not a one-Slam wonder. 

Petra Kvitova

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    Petra Kvitova hits a backhand during a three-set match against Venus Williams.
    Petra Kvitova hits a backhand during a three-set match against Venus Williams.Sang Tan/Associated Press

    Petra Kvitova's third-round win over Venus Williams was arguably the best match of the tournament so far. It was that type of form that earned her a Wimbledon title in 2011

    Since then Kvitova's been on the radar as a future great star. Yet her results have been mixed. She manages to play well enough to hang around the Top 10, but she falls short on the execution and perseverance needed to capture another Slam.

    To regain the respect she garnered after that first title, Kvitova doesn't have to win it all, but she does have to move beyond the quarters. With Li Na vanquished from that half of the draw, and Serena Williams gone, the door is open for Kvitova. Can she step through? 

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