It is that time. For some tennis fans, Wimbledon couldn’t get here soon enough. For others, like myself, I feel like another week is needed to fully recuperate from the French Open. Two weeks is just too quick of a timeframe to acclimate fully to the grass court interlude that precedes the “Grandaddy” of them all. For some reason, this year’s Wimbledon feels a tad anticlimactic already. Maybe that’s because we already know, more or less, who is going to win.
The likelihood of anyone stopping Serena Williams from winning her 17th major are very slim. Sure, it could happen and the World No. 1 might finally suffer a letdown after her non-stop 31 match winning streak since Miami. But it’s more likely that London will be treated to three or more days of consecutive sunshine than seeing anyone else but Williams raise the Venus Rosewater Dish again.
The real intrigue, if there is any, is on the gentlemen’s side of things. And there isn’t any really mystery as to who the main contenders are. What is intriguing is that it will be the first time in over a year that all four of them will be gathered again at a major.
Defending champion Roger Federer certainly enters as the sentimental favorite, even though it is hard to get misty eyed for a guy who been crowned champion seven times. But a lot has happened and changed since Federer raised the trophy and returned to No. 1. Andy Murray, who lead an entire nation to a long crying jag after losing to Federer in the finals, lead them in singing “God Save the Queen” a few weeks later after he beat Federer to win the Olympic gold medal.
Murray’s charge to Olympic glory and then later to his first ever major title at the U.S. Open signaled that their was a new roommate in the penthouse of the “Big Three”. Although there are some who still believe Murray has a long way to go before he is considered in the same league as his fellow housemates who lord over the rest of the ATP Tour.
Rafael Nadal’s long absence from injury has almost been forgotten thanks to his stunning return to form. His remarkable eighth French Open title victory was the perfect ending to his long and at times uncertain comeback to championship form. And last, but certainly not least, is No. 1 Novak Djokovic who lost to Nadal in that memorable semifinal in Paris that many feel was the final no matter what round it was played.
The big four, yes that includes you Murray, now collectively hold one of the four majors in their grasp. But Federer’s grip on his Wimbledon title feels tenuous this year. Yes, he did win a warm up event in Halle, but that was his first title since Cincinnati last year. Federer and Wimbledon go together like strawberries and cream, but there are certainly no guarantees he will repeat as champion. A lot may depend of where Nadal, who is seeded No. 5 this year, lands in the draw. Federer will hope Nadal stays as far away from his side as possible. But any potential Federer versus Nadal match still feels in favor of the Spaniard, even if it is on Federer’s favorite surface.
If Federer claims an eighth title, he will then surpass Pete Sampras and William Renshaw to become the most successful men’s champion of all time. An achievement that Federer certainly seems destined for. But if he does come up short, the questions will begin again on how much longer the 31-year-old Swiss has left not only in his career, but as a contender for every major he enters.
The other members of the “Big Four” want to wrap their hands around the men’s trophy just as much as Federer as a victory for each man would signify an important moment in their careers. For Murray, not only would it finally put the ghost of Fred Perry to rest, but it would further prove that Murray is able to win many more Grand Slams in his career. For Nadal, a rare French Open and Wimbledon double could give him the boost he needs to challenge Djokovic for the No. 1 ranking. And for Djokovic, it would be something of a confirmation that he still is indeed “first among equals” and that he has no plans to leave the throne anytime soon.
While Djokovic, Nadal, and Murray will each get undivided attention as the fortnight carries on, it is Federer who will face the most scrutiny. Centre Court is his house in many ways and yet we don’t know how much longer we will see him take up his yearly two week residence there. Federer himself likely doesn’t know the answer, but he may get closer to it depending on how he fares this fortnight.
Federer’s well known watch ad starts with the question, “When is greatest achieved?” and ends with the answer “When you are always asking yourself what’s next.” He just may ask himself that if he does or does not indeed achieve yet another rare feat in the sport in a few weeks time.