With Wimbledon, the sport’s biggest event, set to start on Monday, it’s probably no surprise that several dads are leading contenders for the coveted gentlemen’s title. Yet ironically one father, who is not even a player, may end up being part of the biggest story of the fortnight if history does come to pass.
Novak Djokovic, World No. 1 and defending champion, is for many the man to beat yet again despite his disappointment in losing the French Open final. That Wimbledon is becoming something of a go-to event for the Serbian is a bit surprising, only if Djokovic’s defensive prowess seems best suited for clay courts or even hard courts where he has thrived so often. While it’s hard not seeing Djokovic winning Wimbledon again, another loss in a major final to whomever he could face across the net would once again fuel debate on Djokovic’s ultimate legacy if he ends up owning more finalist plates than winner’s trophies.
Roger Federer’s legacy, especially at Wimbledon, is already assured. The 33-year-old Federer once again goes in search of a record eighth title there having losing in last year’s final to Djokovic. The storyline of “Can Federer Win One More Wimbledon?” is being touted again and the question has been asked so many times in the last few years the answer either feels like “No.” or “Hurry up and win it old man so we can stop talking about it.” Federer has the benefit of a kind draw, at least in the early stages. But despite having just won his eighth Halle title (an omen his fans hope) and himself saying he feels more relaxed than ever, Federer even reaching the final isn’t an all-out certainty. Wimbledon may be Federer’s “house”, but even he knows his days of holding onto the keys won’t last much longer.
Stan Wawrinka, even with his surprise French Open title, remains unpredictable to predict. While now part of the “Big Five”, no one is quite sure what to expect from the Swiss star whose one-handed backhand broke the heart of Djokovic in Paris. Another clash between these two could happen in the semifinals, but only if Wawrinka can somehow stop celebrating just having won his second major title and get back to the business at hand. Of all the top four seeds, he still feels the most vulnerable for an early upset.
The two players not yet turned dads may just end up having the last say after all. No. 10 seed Rafael Nadal enters Wimbledon with none of the pressure and expectation that awaited him as in Paris. Now with David Ferrer withdrawing due to injury at the last minute, Nadal should have a clear path to the quarterfinals. Emphasis on the word “Should” considering no one can really tell which Nadal will show up – the two-time champion who proved he could beat anyone on grass or the Nadal we’ve seen this year who’s lacked confidence and potency in his shots. His early matches will prove key to unlocking the answer.
Murray, of course, is the home favorite, and for some the favorite to win it all. A solid clay-court season appears to have set up Murray for a potentially winning fortnight in London. Plenty talk about about the pressure he’ll face, but Murray is used to all this by now. His biggest challenge could well be Nadal should they meet in the quarterfinals. With his coach Amelie Mauresmo due to give birth in August, a Wimbledon title would be the perfect christening present and a perfect result for both given the early grief and backlash Murray faced after he hired Mauresmo to be his new coach.
Yet with all of these current fathers and fathers perhaps-to-be battling for the men’s title, it could be a man who’s not even competing who may yet be part of the biggest story to emerge out of the tournament.
Richard Williams, father to Serena and Venus Williams, may yet turn up to watch his daughters face each other once again on the Wimbledon lawns. Though they have competed in the final in the past, this year the Williams Sisters may face each other in the fourth round in what would be their earliest meeting yet at the event.
Serena, of course, is going for not only her sixth Wimbledon title, but her third major of the year that would set her up to possibly complete a rare calendar Grand Slam later this summer at the US Open. If Serena wins Wimbledon, she will also complete a second self-described “Serena Slam” where she will hold all four major titles within a twelve month span since she won New York last year.
In her pre-tournament press conference, Williams gave credit to her father when talking about what she considered her biggest strength.
“I think for me being mentally tough is probably my biggest strength. And my dad always said growing up, you know, Tennis is so mental, you have to have your mental, you have to be really mentally tough. I guess I really took that to heart. I think also being the youngest of five really made me have to scrap and be tougher. I think all those things kind of played into action.”
If Serena wins Wimbledon or not is to be determined. But Richard Williams is certainly among the tops in the sport’s long list of father slash coaches.