Question Time: Wimbledon 2017 Preview

Who will win Wimbledon, is of course, the biggest question in sport right now as the 131st Championships is about to commence this Monday. But before we find out that answer, there are a myriad of other questions that will also be answered throughout the two weeks, some of which will have a huge impact of the entire tennis season moving forward, once the final “Game, Set, Match” is declared.

Let’s start who will be No. 1 at the end of the fortnight. It’s very rare to have both the men’s and women’s top ranking up for grabs at the same event, but that’s the scenario, especially given all of the surprises this season so far.

On the men’s side. Andy Murray, reigning men’s champion, has endured a so-so season that now has quite a few of the “Fabulous Five” within reach of the Scot’s top ranking. But all hope is not lost as Murray can reach the final and assure himself of his No. 1 ranking.

If that doesn’t happen other scenarios come into play. Rafael Nadal, fresh off winning a record tenth French Open, must at least reach the second week of Wimbledon – something the Spaniard has only done once since 2011. Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka also have a shot, but either man would have to win the title and have Murray lose in the opening round.

Not that any of this is a sure thing since many questions surround each of these players aside from the chase for No. 1.

Murray is dealing with a hip issue, some wonder if Nadal has had enough time to bounce back from Roland Garros, Stan Wawrinka is again a prime candidate for an early round loss though he often finds a way to reach a major final when least expected.

Djokovic is a question within a question it seems. He just won the Eastbourne title, which should give him plenty of confidence, but is it enough? It was at last year’s Wimbledon where his surprise exit to Sam Querrey in the third round began his slow slide down from his pinnacle of excellence. Can Djokovic find a way back to such lofty heights again? Or was 2016 really Djokovic at his peak?

A man not in the conversation for No. 1 but certainly for the title is Roger Federer. Taking a “less is more” approach to his schedule, Federer has reaped the benefits at the start of the year and throughout the spring. Skipping the clay court season and Roland Garros, that Nadal dominated, now appears a wise move from the 35-year-old veteran. And now also helped by the grass court formula used be the tournament that moved Federer into a top four seeding, it definitely feels like everything is in place for Federer to once again make a deep run to the final, and perhaps yet another title.

On the women’s side, the absence of defending champion Serena Williams now means current WTA No. 1 Angelique Kerber will get the honor of starting the ladies’ event on Centre Court this year. But in many ways, Kerber definitely feels more like a figurehead on the WTA throne these days after a rough season marked by multiple early round losses including last month at Roland Garros.

Kerber, last year’s finalist, now finds her No. 1 ranking on the line as well as she will be chased by Karolina Pliskova, who just won Eastbourne, and Simona Halep still trying to get over the disappointment of losing in the Roland Garros final. Elina Svitolina and Caroline Wozniacki also have an outside, though unlikely, shot at the top ranking.

Even with these top five players, the women’s draw is a toss up as to who could walk away as the champion.

Victoria Azarenka, back on the tour after having her first child, was briefly the oddsmaker’s favorite. But Azarenka is probably not match tough enough yet to make a real challenge. Venus Williams, a semifinalist last year, is making her 20th appearance at the event. Though the five-time champion certainly could make a deep run again with the right draw, the ongoing investigation and now lawsuit about her involvement in a fatal car crash may prove a huge distraction. Britain’s own Jo Konta will be the home crowd favorite. While Konta’s game is suited to the grass, will she be 100% after suffering a nasty fall in Eastbourne last week?

That’s why Petra Kvitova could be both the sentimental and outright favorite to win it all. Kvitova, who survived a knife attack six months ago, just won Birmingham in only her second event back on tour. The two-time champion is playing with a new appreciation of the game and certainly has the tools and experience to once again claim the Venus Rosewater Dish.

With all of these questions yet to be answered, one thing is certain. This year’s Wimbledon is shaping up to be a special one as both the men’s and women’s draw are both huge opportunities for a newcomer to either have a breakthrough and win their first major or, for the veterans, complete a remarkable chapter in there already standout careers. Who will win Wimbledon? We’ll find out soon enough.

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