In January, we tipped 2017 to be a vintage year for men’s tennis, but with the resurgence of the ‘Big Four’, that’s starting to look like a huge understatement. Following the Australian and French Opens, which were split between the game’s two greatest ever players, we look ahead to what could be a once-in-a-lifetime Wimbledon Championships.
With three ‘greatest of all time’ contenders and a home-grown world number one defending his title, the planets are aligning for the most compelling tennis tournament in living memory.
If the drama of Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer winning their first Grand Slam events for three and five years respectively was too much to take, you may well require sedatives to survive this year’s Wimbledon.
The bookies have Andy Murray and Federer as the joint-favourites, with fairly long odds being offered on anyone else bar Nadal and Novak Djokovic. So, to keep surprises and your blood pressure to a minimum, we look at the prospects of the four main men.
Grand Slam Titles: 3
World Ranking: 1
With only three Grand Slam wins under his belt, it might be fair to question why Murray is bracketed with such lofty company. However, eight Grand Slam runner-up medals and two Olympic Golds, combined with the fact that he’s played a full part in ensuring no one outside the Big Four has held the world number one position since 2004, means he’s well worth his place.
Despite a poor early season on clay, Murray will be buoyed by his performances in Paris, where he eventually lost over five sets in his semi-final against Stan Warwrinka.
Back on his favourite surface and with colossal home support, he has every chance of extending his reign as Wimbledon Champion and his stay at the top of the world rankings.
Grand Slam Titles: 18
World Ranking: 5
Federer on form and on grass is utterly irresistible and he’s probably the only player who will be truly confident of winning if playing well.
Andy Murray’s fans might take solace when looking at the head-to-head stats with his principle threat, as Federer leads by only 14 wins to 11. If that seems surprisingly close, given Federer’s incredible record, the figures for their encounters in major tournaments are far more sobering, reading 5 wins to 1 in Federer’s favour.
Furthermore, despite Federer’s tournament victories becoming less frequent in his 30’s, he has beaten Murray in their last 5 encounters.
If anyone doubted his motivation in his 36th year, his skipping of the French Open to concentrate on Wimbledon sent out a clear message that he’s after his eighth title in SW19.
Having rolled back the years to take his fifth Australian Open title in January, he’s perfectly set for a fitting swansong at the scene of many of his greatest triumphs.
Grand Slam Titles: 15
World Ranking: 2
Here’s an interesting fact: of the four times Nadal has won the French Open final in straight sets, three times he went on to win another Grand Slam that same year (Wimbledon twice and the US Open once) and the other was last week…
After a dominant performance at Roland-Garros that culminated in a three-set trouncing of Stan Wawrinka, it will be a brave soul who bets against history repeating itself once more.
Nadal has admitted that grass is the hardest surface for his troublesome knees, but he will have the added incentive of recapturing the world no. 1 spot for the fourth time in his career.
Andy Murray winning at Queens and Wimbledon last year means anything less than that this summer will see his points tally drop at the top of the rankings, potentially paving the way for Nadal (the rankings system is based on points won over the last 12 months).
Nadal will be well aware that a strong showing, even if not a win, could see him back on top, not that the sport’s greatest ever fighter will be setting his sights on anything less than the trophy.
With his backhand firing like never before, if he stays injury free, he’s in with his best shout for years.
Grand Slam Titles: 12
World Ranking: 4
Djokovic has been suffering a well-publicised dip in form, but writing-off a man with 12 Grand Slam titles, five of them in the last two years, would not be wise. To address the slide, he’ll have eight-time Grand Slam winner Andre Agassi in his corner for Wimbledon. Boring tennis is the only impossible outcome of that pairing.
If they hit it off and Djokovic gets back to the form that in 2016 saw him win five Grand Slam titles in six starts, he could breeze to his thirteenth big one, leaving him just one short of Pete Sampras in third place on the all-time list.
Wimbledon will run from Monday 3rd July to Sunday 16th July and Engage has VIP packages available for every round, including the sensational show courts. Click here to read more.