There are reasons to doubt the credentials of each of the traditional big four players going into this year's championships. Andy Murray has yet to reach another main tour final or even record a win over a top ten opponent since his famous triumph at the All England Club twelve months ago. An impressive run to the semi-finals in Paris two weeks ago looked likely to be the catalyst for a return to genuine form for the Scot, but more questions were raised as he was dumped out in the Third Round of Queen's Club by Radek Stepanek a few days later. It's difficult to know what to expect from Andy at Wimbledon 2014, but he does at least have a fairly favourable draw, at least until the quarter finals where he is likely to face either David Ferrer or Grigor Dimitrov.
Roger Federer is bidding for his 8th Wimbledon title following success in Halle last week. At times this year, the Swiss star has played as well as anyone and many feel that he should have more points on the board after losing finals in Indian Wells and Monte Carlo after claiming the opening set. Federer's long run of consecutive Grand Slam quarter finals came to an end here last year, and he has since failed to reach the last eight in two of three events, but you can bet that Roger will be a force to be reckoned with if he can get to the latter stages, where he could face Stan Wawrinka in the quarter finals and either Nadal or Raonic in the last four. It's a big "if", but if the focus and the hunger is all there, this could be his best remaining chance to add an 18th major title to his trophy cabinet.
Rafael Nadal arrives in London with a 9th Roland Garros title under his belt, but his grass court credentials took another significant hit after he was blown away by Dustin Brown in Halle. If the last two years are anything to go by, the first week may well be a survival mission for the Spaniard, but if he can get through it, you wouldn't bet against him causing some serious damage in the latter stages. All Rafa needed was to avoid too many big hitters in the early rounds, so you can't imagine he'll be too pleased with the potential to face Klizan, Rosol, Karlovic and Monfils in the first four rounds before meeting big-serving Milos Raonic in the quarter finals.
With the unpredictable form of Murray and Federer and the question marks hanging over Nadal's grass court credentials, most people will peg Novak Djokovic as favourite for Wimbledon 2014, almost by default. However, the Serb has some questions to answer himself, having lost his 7th of 9 slam finals outside Australia in Paris two weeks ago. Djokovic is almost certainly the least likely of the big hitters to lose before the semi finals, but when he does get there, it'll be interesting to see how he fares in the latter stages, particularly if the potential semi final clash with last year's champion is realised.
So with the traditional big four all with their own problems to overcome, could this be the second major of the year that sees somebody different step up and take advantage? Stanislas Wawrinka was the man to do so in Melbourne five months ago, and he has the big serve and powerful groundstrokes to be a threat on grass. On the other hand, his form has been wildly unpredictable since his big Australian breakthrough, though his run to the semi finals of Queen's Club was reasonably encouraging. Stan has Feliciano Lopez and John Isner in his section of the draw, who could both seriously test his credentials in the first week.
Grass is arguably the surface that suits Tomas Berdych best, with his big serving, big hitting style, and the 2010 finalist has enjoyed a fairly strong season. A tough draw awaits the towering Czech though, with potentially dangerous customers Bernard Tomic, Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis, who beat Berdych in the fourth round of the French Open, standing between him and a quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic.
Grigor Dimitrov lost disappointingly in the first round of Roland Garros, but was hugely impressive en route to his first grass court title at Queen's Club last week, dispatching Stan Wawrinka and Feliciano Lopez to secure his third tournament win of the season. The Bulgarian has come on leaps and bounds this year and should have a strong game for the Wimbledon grass courts. For those of you who like a good omen, Roger Federer won his first title at the All England Club in 2003 after he, too, lost in the opening round of the preceding French Open.
It's anyone's guess who will lift the most sought-after trophy in mens' tennis come July 6th, but you don't have to look far to see some mouth-watering clashes as early as the first round. Arguably the pick of the opening matches sees two time semi-finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga take on Jurgen Melzer, who has reached the last four of 's-Hertogenbosch this week. In what promises to be a shot-making bonanza, Dustin "Dreddy" Brown takes on 2006 semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis, while Nicolas Mahut, who took part in the longest match in Grand Slam history with John Isner in 2011 and won two minor titles on grass last year, takes on 30th seed Marcel Granollers in the first round. A lot of eyes will also be on 5th seed Stanislas Wawrinka, who has lost in the opening round here in the last two years, as he takes on the tricky Joao Sousa to commence his campaign.
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