Stock Watch for Top ATP Stars Entering Wimbledon 2015
Wimbledon is not only the centerpiece of the tennis calendar—it’s one of the most prestigious events of any sport.
The 2015 edition is almost here, and there’s been a mad dash the past few weeks as the top players in the world scramble to tailor their games to the freshly cut lawns.
From Queen’s Club to Halle (among other destinations), these warm-up tournaments have already provided clues about what to expect when the action shifts to the All England Club.
Some, like Roger Federer and Andy Murray, are riding high after claiming grass-court trophies. Others haven’t been so fortunate and raised questions about their form.
The following slides will offer a deeper look at where several ATP stars stand. Based on their recent results, it’s time to buy, sell or hold their stock heading into the Wimbledon fortnight.
The strange saga of Rafael Nadal has taken plenty of twists and turns this year. That theme only intensified on the lawns.
His incredible reign at the French Open came to a swift end earlier this month, leaving Nadal short on momentum heading to a surface that has perplexed him to extreme degrees.
While not exactly playing superb tennis, Nadal still found a way to end his five-year drought on grass by winning the Mercedes Cup. He struggled through his first few matches in Stuttgart but picked up enough steam to oust Gael Monfils and eventually Viktor Troicki for the title.
And then that wave of good fortune was washed away.
Vying for extra preparation on the turf, Nadal traveled to Queen's Club for the first time in four years. His stay there was short, as Alexandr Dolgopolov bounced him in his first match. Squandering a break in the final set, concerns about Nadal's ability on grass returned to the forefront.
Nadal may be a two-time champion (2008, 2010) and five-time finalist at Wimbledon, but he's lost before the quarterfinals in his last three trips to the All England Club. The culprits? Journeymen Lukas Rosol and Steve Darcis, along with young Nick Kyrgios.
He's been unable to find his groove at Wimbledon lately, succumbing to the power of lesser players. And this time, he'll travel to London with a meager (by his standards) 33-10 record and lowly No. 10 ranking.
Nadal is too fierce of a competitor to remain in his rut for much longer. It's just difficult to expect grass to be the place where he finally breaks out.
Milos Raonic is back after a brief sabbatical. Is it time to once again fear the sleeve?
Foot surgery knocked the big Canadian out of Rome and the French Open, an ominous development for a player who has struggled with his movement in the past. The slippery nature of a grass court adds an extra layer of worry for Raonic, who'll have to closely monitor his footing at all times.
He's already encountered a small scare, tumbling on the slick blades in his second match at Queen's Club. He toughed it out, but Raonic lost in the quarterfinals to Gilles Simon. Because of that result, he'll head to Wimbledon short on preparation.
How he manages any lingering pain in that foot is something to watch. Raonic, equipped with one of the most lethal serves in the game, proved his mettle at Wimbledon by reaching the semifinals in 2014. That shot may be enough to navigate him through the early rounds.
If he can compete anywhere near 100 percent, Raonic should go far once again. But that creaky right foot clouds his immediate forecast.
David Ferrer is like that pesky fly that won't go away.
Just when you think he's down, he fights back stronger with his relentless energy. The fact he's been able to remain in the Top 10 even at age 33 is a testament to that ability.
Quietly, he's put together one of the best seasons of any player in 2015. Along with 36 wins, the Spaniard has clinched titles at Doha, Rio de Janeiro and Acapulco. Ferrer always seems to hang around until the late stages of tournaments, advancing to nine quarterfinals in his last 11 events.
But now he's off his precious clay and back on grass, where he's just 39-17 in his career. Ferrer's history at Wimbledon is even less ideal, and he's survived past the fourth round there only twice.
He may be a bull from the baseline, yet the quicker pace on the turf negates his considerable defensive skills and highlights his relative lack of power. Last year, he fell victim in the second round to an upset-minded Andrey Kuznetsov.
Despite those factors, it's tough to negate Ferrer's sheer will. Though he may not be expected to challenge for the title at Wimbledon, a strong run could be in the cards if he can iron out any kinks this week at Nottingham.
The new-and-improved Tomas Berdych has become a model of consistency in 2015. Just not in the way he wants.
Under the guidance of new coach Dani Vallverdu, the tall Czech has amassed 37 wins this season, reaching at least the quarterfinals in 10 of the 11 events he's entered. Yet crossing the finish line has been a problem.
He's 0-3 in finals (Doha, Rotterdam and Monte Carlo) and has an even worse 2-9 record against players currently ranked in the Top 10. In crucial moments, Berdych has been consistently disappointing.
Will that trend continue at Wimbledon?
He'll have to shake off a recent defeat in Halle to Ivo Karlovic before he heads to the All England Club, where he made the finals in 2010. But Berdych has only advanced to one quarterfinal at the tournament since then.
In recent tries, he's been given a dose of his own medicine by big hitters like Ernests Gulbis and Marin Cilic. As talented and fit as he is, Berdych often wilts in the spotlight.
Maybe Vallverdu (who helped Andy Murray to the 2013 title) can help Berdych deal with the pressure he'll soon face. More than likely, however, his quest for a maiden Grand Slam victory will keep going.
Kei Nishikori is one of the most talented and athletic players in tennis. But he’s also one of the most brittle.
The Japanese star has had an extensive series of physical maladies the past few years, including injuries to his elbow, knee, toe, back and groin. There aren't many body parts left he hasn't hurt, and you can now scratch his calf from that list.
In Halle, Nishikori retired from a semifinal clash with Andreas Seppi due to pain in his left calf—what poor timing with Wimbledon only a few days away.
Though Nishikori expects to recover in time for the start of the tournament, that ailment will surely cut into valuable preparation time. Grass, a surface that requires more quick-twitch movements, will be unforgiving if that calf is still tender.
It's a shame to see Nishikori, a player who's certainly capable of winning a Grand Slam, deal with so many health problems. And the latest one couldn't have come at a more inopportune moment.
Stan Wawrinka might want to consider petitioning Wimbledon to let him wear those magic shorts he rocked at Roland Garros.
Basking in his unexpected triumph, Wawrinka suffered a bit of a letdown at Queen's Club, dropping his second match to Kevin Anderson in a tough straight-sets loss. Will he be able to avoid any further hangover at Wimbledon?
For a player with such massive groundstrokes and overall ability, it's a surprise that Wawrinka hasn't done better on grass in his career. He's 22-21 on the surface, and the Swiss has reached just one quarterfinal (2014) at the All England Club.
He's a player who needs that extra millisecond to load up for his powerful shots, which he can't always do on the quicker lawns. Wawrinka's five opening-round defeats at Wimbledon highlight the lack of comfort he has there.
It's tough to tell which side of the Stanimal will show up on any given day. A Channel Slam therefore seems unlikely, yet his recent Grand Slam victory proved how deadly he can be when his game is clicking.
Call him the king of Queen's.
By capturing his fourth title at Queen's Club, a resurgent Andy Murray has begun to wash away the sour taste left by last season. He must now be considered a prime contender to win his second crown at the All England Club.
After Roger Federer, he may be the best grass-court player. The world No. 3 sports an 83-16 record on the turf, saving his best for Wimbledon, where he captured the 2013 title and gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games.
Murray has amassed a 36-6 mark this year, and the Scot is inching closer towards passing Federer for the No. 2 ranking. He's come on especially strong as of late, winning titles in Munich and Madrid before his clay perfection ended in the French Open semifinals.
With only quarterfinal points to defend at Wimbledon, Murray has a chance to take another step forward. And he'll have a big advantage with the people of Great Britain loudly cheering him on.
There could be a sizable roadblock in his path, however: Novak Djokovic. The Serbian has beaten him 11 times in their previous 12 meetings, and he holds a sizable edge in confidence. But his one loss during that span came at Wimbledon in the 2013 final.
Should they cross paths, the championship may be on the line. Expect a surging Murray to rise to the occasion.
Nothing brings out the best in Roger Federer like his annual vacation on the grass.
By capturing his eighth title in Halle, Federer improved his already sterling grass-court record to a remarkable 136-19. Impressively, the Swiss won all six tiebreak sets he played last week and didn’t drop serve once in his last four matches.
He couldn’t ask for better preparation as he attempts to end his Grand Slam slump.
A seven-time champion at Wimbledon, Federer has made the All England Club his second home. There’s just something about Centre Court that takes his game to otherworldly levels. Yet his 2012 victory there remains his most recent triumph at a major.
Three agonizing years for him have passed since that moment, and the doubts about his future have only intensified with every loss he takes. Now may be his best (and perhaps last) chance to silence the critics.
With his 34th birthday fast approaching, Federer won’t have many more opportunities to win an 18th Grand Slam. But he may be peaking at the perfect moment.
Federer’s stock is always on the rise entering Wimbledon. That victory in Halle once again proved why he’s such a dominant force on the grass. And with the memory of last year’s finals loss still fresh in his mind, he’ll be extra hungry this time to lift that golden trophy.
Coming so close (and failing) to win his first French Open title has gnawed at Novak Djokovic the last few weeks. And you can bet the world No. 1 is eager to make amends at Wimbledon.
But after opting out of playing any warm-up tournaments, will he be sharp enough to defend his title?
The quick adjustment from clay to grass is one of the most radical in tennis. Even the very best on the surface need extra time to adapt to the quicker conditions and slick soil.
A two-time champion (2011, 2014) at the All England Club, Djokovic will be one of the favorites to win the title again. Still, that Roland Garros loss—his sixth in the last nine Grand Slam finals he's played—leaves an unmistakable blemish on his otherwise stellar resume.
As dominant as he's been at the World Tour Finals and Masters Series events, he's too often come up short when it matters most. There's no denying his majesty on the court, it's just a matter of whether or not he can sustain that level in a major final.
One thing Djokovic has proved himself to be extremely adept at is rebounding from defeat. He may well be ready to embark on another long win streak, but Wimbledon will be a key litmus test.
All statistics are courtesy of ATPWorldTour.com unless otherwise noted.
Joe Kennard is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.