Who’ll win Wim­ble­don is any­one’s guess

CityPress - - Sport - SIL­VER SIBIYA sil­ver.sibiya@city­press.co.za

Given his cur­rent form, Roger Fed­erer is the favourite to win the Wim­ble­don Cham­pi­onships, which start to­mor­row at the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis & Cro­quet Club in London.

How­ever, Spain’s Rafael Nadal can­not be ruled out fol­low­ing his French Open vic­tory last month over Switzer­land’s Stan Wawrinka, al­though the Paris match was on a clay sur­face, un­like Wim­ble­don’s grass courts.

And Nadal will en­ter Wim­ble­don with­out hav­ing played a com­pet­i­tive match on this sur­face in two years.

Ten­nis con­nois­seurs are in for a treat, though, as this, the third grand slam of the year, could bring an­other clash of old neme­ses in Fed­erer, who turns 36 next month, and 31year-old Nadal. Each player has bagged a Grand Slam tro­phy this year.

De­fend­ing cham­pion and top seed Andy Mur­ray will also be a player to watch.

Mur­ray beat Canada’s Mi­los Raonic 6-4, 7-6, 7-6 in last year’s fi­nal to win Wim­ble­don for the se­cond time.

The other two-time Wim­ble­don win­ner, Nadal, was handed an early defeat at the tour­na­ment in 2015 by Dustin Brown – then ranked world num­ber 102 – in the se­cond round. And last year, he was plagued by in­juries and missed the tour­na­ment.

De­spite these set­backs, Nadal has re­cap­tured his spark of a few years back. His vic­tory at Roland Garros ce­mented his dom­i­nance on clay and marked his first ma­jor tour­na­ment win since the 2014 French Open. Fa­tigue from a heavy match load this year forced him out of the Ae­gon Cham­pi­onships, which took place at Queen’s Club a fort­night ago.

For Nadal and his coach and un­cle, Toni Nadal, the ex­pla­na­tion for the dip in his per­for­mance on grass is sim­ple: dif­fi­culty bend­ing his knees enough for him to hit the sur­face’s low-bounc­ing balls with the force he once did.

Nadal’s long-time ri­val, seven-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Fed­erer, fresh from win­ning his fourth ti­tle of the year at the Gerry We­ber Open in Ger­many last Sun­day, is still seen by many as the man to beat.

Af­ter see­ing him win the first Grand Slam of the year, the Aus­tralian Open, Fed­erer’s fans would have ex­pected him to make a mark in Paris, but he de­cided to rest. In­stead, the 18-time grand slam win­ner strate­gi­cally fo­cused on grass- and hard-court events ahead of Wim­ble­don and the US Open.

As for No­vak Djokovic, the three-time Wim­ble­don champ re­turns to Eng­land with his ca­reer in cri­sis, hav­ing crashed to an em­bar­rass­ing quar­ter­fi­nal defeat against Aus­tria’s Do­minic Thiem at Roland Garros.

The 6-0 bagel handed to him in the third set was the first time he had suf­fered such an in­dig­nity in 12 years and he was ac­cused of giv­ing up as defeat be­came in­evitable.

On the women’s side, the game is wide open and with for­mer world top seed Ser­ena Wil­liams and the re­cently re­turned Maria Shara­pova not play­ing this year, favourites such as Ro­ma­nia’s Si­mona Halep, five-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion Venus Wil­liams, Ger­many’s An­gelique Ker­ber – cur­rently the top seed – and Bri­tain’s Jo­hanna Konta are con­tenders for the ti­tle.

How­ever, Ker­ber con­tin­ues to dis­ap­point in Grand Slams. In May, she be­came the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round at Roland Garros in the Open era.

Konta has only ever won one match in the main draw, beat­ing Monica Puig Marchán last year be­fore los­ing to 2014 fi­nal­ist Ge­nie Bouchard in the se­cond round.

Her build-up to this year’s tour­na­ment be­gan with a run to the Not­ting­ham Open fi­nal, where she lost to world num­ber 70 Donna Ve­kic, in her first grass-court event.

Halep has ad­mit­ted that her shock loss to un­seeded Jeļena Ostapenko in the French Open still haunts her, but she hopes to bounce back. She has yet to win a grand slam, but hav­ing reached two fi­nals al­ready in her ca­reer, this could be a case of third time lucky.

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