Following Stan Wawrinka’s unlikely victory at the Australian Open, normalcy resumed at the French Open with three of tennis’ “Big Four” (Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray) making the semifinals in Paris. Should we look for more of the same in London?
There is cause for concern however. Nadal hasn’t won a match at Wimbledon since 2012. Djokovic looked worn out in Paris, and one wonders how he will bounce back after putting so much into the French. Andy Murray is the defending champion, but he is only now getting back to top form (due to back surgery last fall) and has a new coach (Amelie Mauresmo) to boot. Meanwhile the fourth member of the “Big Four”, Roger Federer, has failed to make the quarterfinals in three of the last four Grand Slams and is about a month away from his 33rd birthday.
Still, the four players have dominated the Slams over the last decade and, outside of a Juan Martin del Potro in 2009 and Wawrinka Down Under, have left very little for the rest of the field. It’s hard not to see that trend continuing. Let’s take a look at the men’s draw and predict what’s in store.
Novak Djokovic’s Quarter
Wimbledon went ahead and bumped world number two Djokovic up to the top seed (perhaps more due to Nadal’s poor showing the past two years than anything else). Don’t know how much of an advantage it will be for the Serbian. There seem to be several big names in his section, but players whom he has favorable records against. Radek Stepanek, for example, would be a tough second round opponent for most top seeds – except that he hasn’t beaten Djokovic since 2006. The same can be said for other names like Gilles Simon, Mikhail Youzhny and even fourteenth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who has just one win over Djokovic in their last eleven meetings. The other top seed in this section is sixth seed Tomas Berdych, and even he is just 2-14 lifetime versus Djokovic (although one of those victory did come at Wimbledon in 2010). Another name to watch is French Open semifinalist Ernest Gulbis, who should be coming into this tournament full of confidence. If his head is on straight he could be a serious dark horse in London. He seemingly has all the tools to do well on grass.He’s big and tall, yet nimble around the court and able to hit the ball big. But the question has always been mental rather than physical with the Latvian. Let’s hope he can handle his success at Paris.
Quarterfinal: Novak Djokovic vs Tomas Berdych
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Andy Murray’s Quarter
The pressure of becoming the first Brit to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry is finally over for Andy Murray, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts as the defending champion. It seemed that he played well despite all the pressure, as only Federer has a better winning percentage at Wimbledon among active players. Wimbledon also did Murray a favor by moving him up to the third seed despite being ranked fifth in the world, which means he won’t have to face another member of the “Big Four” until the semifinals. His path to the quarterfinals looks smooth on paper. The other top seed in his half of this quarter is Fabio Fognini, who is not a grass-court specialist by any means (it would not be an upset if Kevin Anderson took out Fognini in the third round). The other top seed in Murray’s quarter is seventh seed David Ferrer. The veteran Ferrer will give it his all (it’s the only way he knows how to play) but will not be favored to beat Andy Murray on grass. Ferrer is also battling a stomach ailment but has said that he will play through it. Another name to be wary of is eleventh seed Grigor Dimitrov. The 23-year-old has shaken off his disappointing first round loss in Paris, winning the Aegon Championships (a Wimbledon tune-up) at Queens. The Bulgarian’s game translates well on grass and he loves playing on this surface, having won Wimbledon as a junior in 2008.
Quarterfinal: Andy Murray vs Grigor Dimitrov
Winner: Andy Murray
Roger Federer’s Quarter
The popular thought is that Wimbledon represents the 32-year-old Roger Federer’s best chance of adding to his record 17 Grand Slam titles. History has shown that 2014 might be Federer’s last chance at capturing another Wimbledon crown, as Ken Rosewall is the only male player to have won a Slam past the age of 32. But Federer is still the best grass-court player on the ATP according to most experts, and he should be very confident following another victory at Halle (his record seventh title there). Another common thinking was that Federer is going to need a few breaks if he were to win Wimbledon for an eighth time, and perhaps one of those breaks could be his draw (other than being in the same half as his nemesis Nadal). He could face Julien Benneteau in the second round, who came oh so close to beating him in 2012, but the feeling is the Swiss will have an easier match this time around. The other top seed in his half of the section is 23-year old Jerzy Janowicz, whose game has fallen off since making the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2012. Also present is Tommy Robredo, who does not play well on grass, and the veteran Lleyton Hewitt, who loves playing on grass but has only beaten Federer twice in their last 18 meetings. The other top seed in this quarter is fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka. The fifth seed started 2014 with that incredible triumph at the Australian Open, but has been in a slump since then. He suffered a stunning first round upset in Paris and has lost in the first round of Wimbledon the last two years. Clearly, he does not like playing on grass. Look for some of the big hitters, like John Isner (ninth seed) or the Feliciano Lopez (always a danger on grass) to take advantage and to break up an All-Swiss quarterfinal matchup.
Quarterfinal: Roger Federer vs John Isner
Winner: Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal’s Quarter
It is almost unimaginable to think that a two-time Wimbledon champion and number one ranked player in the world would be win-less at this tournament since 2012. But this is exactly the case with Rafael Nadal. Perhaps the quick transition from the clay courts in Paris (which he almost always win) to the grass in London has taken its toll as the Spaniard has gotten a little older. How much will this affect his confidence? Bear in mind that after winning the French Open again this year, he promptly lost his first match on grass the following week at Halle. Nadal seems to struggle on grass against bigger, taller opponents with big groundstrokes and an even bigger serve, such as Lukas Rosol who defeated Nadal in the second round in 2012. Coincidentally, the two could meet again in the second round in 2014. Lurking in the third round could be Ivo Karlovic, who nobody should feel comfortable playing against on grass. If Nadal gets past these two, then facing thirteenth seed Richard Gasquet should be a breeze. The other top seed in this part of the draw is eighth seed Milos Raonic. The 23-year-old has the game which should translate on grass and should give Nadal all he can handle should they meet in the quarterfinals, but the Canadian has yet to advance past the second round at Wimbledon. Perhaps this is the year he goes on that deep run. Kei Nishikori is the other top seed in Raonic’s half. Also be wary of German veteran Philipp Kolschreiber, who gave Murray all he could handle in a five-set marathon loss in Paris.
Quarterfinal: Rafael Nadal vs Milos Raonic
Winner: Rafael Nadal
Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic
A rematch of last year’s final, which Djokovic will be eager to defend. But Murray is simply the better player on grass and should have almost everyone on Center Court (outside of Djokovic’s box) cheering for him.
Winner: Andy Murray
Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal
About the only thing going for Federer is that the match is being played on grass, where the balls stay low. It means that Nadal will not be able to hurt him on the backhand wing the way he would on clay. But it is also hard to ignore how Nadal has dominated this rivalry, and has not lost to Federer in a Grand Slam since the Wimbledon final in 2007. Perhaps the Swiss is due a win, otherwise he may never beat the Spaniard ever again.
Winner: Roger Federer
Andy Murray vs Roger Federer
These are frankly the two best players on this surface (in terms of winning percentage), so it is only fitting that they should meet in the final. Murray should be up for this one, having finished as runner-up to Federer in 2012. Just as it was two years ago, Murray will not be the overwhelming crowd favorite. Such as the popularity of Federer, who is beloved everywhere in the world it seems. In the end, grass rewards the more aggressive player, which gives the edge to the Swiss. Look for Federer to set another record with his eighth Wimbledon title, and 18th Slam title overall.
Champion: Roger Federer
Who will be the 2014 Wimbledon gentlemen's singles champion?
- Roger Federer (64%, 7 Votes)
- Novak Djokovic (18%, 2 Votes)
- Rafael Nadal (9%, 1 Votes)
- Someone else (9%, 1 Votes)
- Andy Murray (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 11