The players to watch at the All England Club before the 2015 Wimbledon tournament starts Monday:
Novak Djokovic, Serbia
Age: 28; World ranking: 1; Wimbledon best: Champion 2011, 2014
– Looked unstoppable until Stan Wawrinka put the skids under his dream of a career grand slam at the French Open, but Djokovic remains the overwhelming favourite for a third Wimbledon title. Still possesses an admirable 41-3 record in 2015 with the Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome titles to his name. Has made at least the semi-finals at Wimbledon in his last five appearances.
Roger Federer, Switzerland
Age: 33; World ranking: 2; Wimbledon best: Champion 2003-07, 2009, 2012
– Bidding to become the oldest Wimbledon champion of the modern era having come close last year with a runner-up spot to Djokovic. Secured his 15th career grasscourt title at Halle at the weekend for his fourth trophy of 2015. Needs one more Wimbledon triumph to snap the tie for seven he currently holds with Pete Sampras and take his career tally at the majors to a staggering 18.
Andy Murray, Great Britain
Age: 28; World ranking: 3; Wimbledon best: Champion 2013
– Since 2008, has made the quarter-finals or better at Wimbledon with his historic 2013 win ending a 77-year wait for a British champion. Title defence ended by Grigor Dmitirov in 2014 when he was hampered by a back injury. But this year, he is in a rich vein of form, wrapping up a fourth Queen’s Club title at the weekend and boasting a record of just one defeat – to Djokovic at the French Open semi-finals – since his marriage in April.
Stan Wawrinka, Switzerland
Age: 30; World ranking: 4; Wimbledon best: Quarter-finalist 2014
– No-one expected Wawrinka to win the Australian Open in 2014 or the French Open this year, but the man with the finest one-handed backhand since Federer copyrighted the shot in his personal playbook will revel in his role as All England Club underdog. A run to the last-eight in 2014, where he lost to his Swiss compatriot, remains his best performance but he needs to be aware of a Grand Slam hangover – when he won in Melbourne in 2014, his next outing at a major ended in a first round loss in Paris.
Rafael Nadal, Spain
Age: 29; World ranking: 10; Wimbledon best: Champion 2008, 2010
– Nadal? World ranked 10? Still looks like a typing error to many in the business. The 14-time major winner heads to Wimbledon where his last three visits have ended in second, first and fourth round defeats. He also suffered just his second career loss at the French Open this year before stunning his critics with victory on the Stuttgart grass courts. His first round loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov at Queen’s Club two days later did little to help out forecasters.
Don’t sleep on:
Kei Nishikori, Japan
Age: 25; World ranking: 5; Wimbledon best: Fourth round 2014
– Nishikori has reached the quarter-finals in the two grand slam tournaments this year after he was a finalist at last year’s US Open. Wimbledon is still the toughest nut for the Japanese to crack, though, with just a 7-6 career record at the All England Club – his worst at any major, and never getting beyond the fourth round. Still, he did make it to the semi-finals in Halle, notching decent wins against Jerzy Janowicz and Dominic Thiem before having to retire against Andreas Seppi. Health may be the ultimate issue holding Nishikori back from a grand slam breakthrough.
Milos Raonic, Canada
Age: 24; World ranking: 8; Wimbledon best: Semi-finalist 2014
– It’s been a year now since a 23-year-old Raonic reached the Wimbledon semi-finals and it’s not clear he’s any closer to taking the next step. Has the kind of serve that should play well on grass, and yet he’s never won a grasscourt title or, in three tries, registered a win over a top-10 player on grass. His Queen’s Club quarter-final loss to Gilles Simon doesn’t inspire confidence, but at the same time he seems as solid a bet as any to be a threat late in the tournament – he’s reached at least the quarter-finals in seven of the nine events he’s entered this year.
Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria
Age: 24; World ranking: 11; Wimbledon best: Semi-finalist 2014
– Likewise, Dimitrov’s year since reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals hasn’t exactly put the world on notice. Last year he won Queen’s Club in the run-up to Wimbledon and then scored a major win over Andy Murray in the quarter-finals before he offered a stiff challenge in losing to Novak Djokovic in four sets. This time around he’s coming off a round of 16 Queen’s Club loss to Gilles Muller and a first round loss at Roland Garros to Jack Sock.
Keep an eye on:
Alexander Zverev, Germany
Age: 18; World ranking: 76; Wimbledon best: Never played
– Among a number of intriguing teenagers expected to be playing the tournament proper for the first time, Zverev has racked up four victories on grass in the run-up to Wimbledon, one each at Stuttgart and Halle and has so far reached the last 16 at Nottingham, dispatching Mikhail Kukushkin and Thomaz Bellucci along the way. He also took the opening set from Ivo Karlovic, a Wimbledon seed, at Halle and took the middle set from another Wimbledon seed, Viktor Troicki, at Stuttgart. May very well have the kind of surprising teenage run in him Nick Kyrgios produced last year.
Borna Coric, Croatia
Age: 18; World ranking: 39; Wimbledon best: Never played
– Coric has shot up the world rankings this year, but it’s not evident he’s yet got a good feel for grass. In his two warm-up tournaments at Halle and Stuttgart, he managed to win just seven combined sets in losses to Tomas Berdych and Troicki. He did manage a three-set win over Donald Young, and fans would be lucky to get a glimpse of the prodigious talent he put on display in an epic five-set win over Tommy Robredo in the Roland Garros second round.
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