Wimbledon has always been the standard of tennis tradition, but in 2015 it could use a little life. Unlike the anticipation to several compelling French Open storylines ranging from Rafael Nadal’s dynasty, Novak Djokovic’s Holy Grail quest and Stan Wawrinka’s enormous big-match play, Wimbledon does not currently have the dramatic flair of its continental rival.
Djokovic is going after his third Wimbledon championship, but it would not make up for his loss in the French Open final. That’s the one he really wanted. There’s no Ivan Lendl-esque chase for trying to break through on grass.
Andy Murray will have the British media scrutinizing his play, but he ended the Fred Perry drought for his nation by bagging the 2013 title. Sure it would be a nice encore, but the anticipation is certainly not as thick as the London fog.
Nadal may or may not get through the first week on grass, but a Stuttgart teaser is hardly the path to a Wimbledon title. A two-time Wimbledon winner, now five years removed, he does not carry the legendary history he defended at the French Open.
Roger Federer is going after major No. 18 as his career ages into a sunset, but isn’t that the same storyline at every major since he polished off No. 17 three years ago?
And what about contenders like Wawrinka, 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych and Japanese star Kei Nishikori? Slim hopes and pretty hard to sell; Hardly worthy of a tabloid cover.
The tennis will be good and the field is deep, but the headlines are drab. What does the men’s bracket need?
Superstars Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer became immortal through dominating their respective generations at Wimbledon. Although Borg routinely won the French Open, his superstar status was sealed by winning five consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1976-80.
Sampras was arguably the most dominant player ever at Wimbledon, taking seven titles in eight years with a brand of power serving and net play that all but suffocated the 1990s. Wimbledon was front and center in showcasing tennis’ best player.
Federer became a household name at Wimbledon by defeating Sampras in 2001, but truly came of age in 2003 after winning his first major. This was the launching pad to the most prolific major winner in tennis history, and Wimbledon was his power.
Is there a new star-in-waiting right now? While it’s possible a young big server like Milos Raonic could win the title, he’s not the kind of all-courts star who will take over tennis. And while a more talented player like Grigor Dimitrov could one year get a Wimbledon title, it’s also unlikely that he is the future of tennis.
Maybe young Austrian Dominic Thiem or Croatian Borna Coric take Centre Court by storm and compete for the title. It’s a long shot, but it would create a lot of new excitement separate from French Openrama.
The most interesting potential superstar is Nick Kyrgios, a tall, sinewy athletic power player who can bomb serves and crush forehands. Wimbledon could be his destiny, and if he can win one now as a teenager, it could change the tour.
A superstar born at Wimbledon. It’s been a long time.
Borg’s battles with John McEnroe highlighted tennis at the end of the wooden-racket era. It set a rivalry standard that would not be surpassed for at least another generation. While Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg was interesting from 1988-90, it would not ultimately last. Sampras and Andre Agassi would only play one final at Wimbledon, a 1999 exclamation point by Sampras.
Wimbledon might have peaked with its legendary rivalry between Federer and Nadal from 2006-08. The Swiss champion took the first two meetings, highlighted by perhaps his most impressive win in the 2007 final. Nadal responded in 2008 with his most important breakthrough, becoming the first player since Borg to win the French Open-Wimbledon double in one year.
This “Fedal” rivalry was showcased at Wimbledon, and by the time Federer willed himself past Andy Roddick in 2009, there was no question that Wimbledon was the centerpiece of drama for men’s tennis.
Wimbledon has still been a wonderful scene for tennis, but it could use a fresh rivalry.
Maybe Wawrinka and Djokovic put on the gloves for another finals war. Maybe Wawrinka and Andy Murray battle to see which player get his third career major. Maybe Nadal and Federer get back for one final blast of nostalgia.
All compelling possibilities for sure, but unlikely any of them will happen. There are mostly retreaded storylines and few tennis fans anticipate much more than a possible Djokovic-Federer meeting in the final.
Djokovic is the usual favorite in men’s tennis, but he’s no guarantee to get to the final. Federer could also slip up. So we are looking a cautionary possibility at this point and not a harbinger of tennis’ future.
Or Wimbledon could open up a new era. Could Kyrgios mix it up with fellow Aussie youngster Thanasi Kokkinakis in the semifinals? Could either of them breed enmity with Thiem or Coric? While it’s very unlikely, maybe 100-1 odds, sometimes tennis’ future arrives in a hurry.
For instance, many tennis observers expected veterans like Lendl, Becker and Edberg to compete for the 1990 U.S. Open title. Instead, young Agassi rebounded from his disappointing French Open final loss to defeat Becker and land in the final. He lost in the final against teenager Sampras who had conquered Lendl and McEnroe en route to the final. The future had arrived.
While anticipation for 2015 Wimbledon is lethargic, the men’s bracket will no doubt bring some surprising and interesting results as it plays out. Someone will emerge out of obscurity, or a veteran like Berdych just might cap off a career goal and get that major trophy. We don’t know what will happen, but Wimbledon will definitely be important for the summer stretch of ATP tennis.
Prime-time Borg and young McEnroe are not walking into Centre Court. Pistol Pete Sampras’ gun-slinging days are over. Federer and Nadal are no longer the exclusive, indomitable force in men’s tennis.
Something else is brewing, and just maybe we will witness a genesis in the form of a new star or rivalry.