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Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead the field at The Championships 2017: Wimbledon men’s tennis dates and tournament preview

Live Tennis Staff in News 13 Jun 2017
  • Seven-time champion Roger Federer returns to Grand Slam action as The Championships 2017 holds from Monday, 3 July to Sunday, 16 July.
  • Defending champion, Andy Murray bids for a third Wimbledon crown 
  • Novak Djokovic seeks redemption after his shock loss to Sam Querrey last season
Roger Federer. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

After sitting out the clay court season, Roger Federer returns to Grand Slam action at Wimbledon, where he will attempt to win an eighth title, while Roland Garros champion, Rafael Nadal looks to improve on a poor recent record at the All England Club when the second Grand Slam of the season holds from 3-16 July.

Defending champion, Andy Murray looks to build on the gains on a semi-final finish at the French Open while Novak Djokovic, now down at number four in the world, continues to search for solutions to what has been an inexplicably slump.

While Djokovic and Murray disputed the number one ranking in the second half of last season, few would have thought that Federer and Nadal, blighted by injuries for most part of the campaign, would be the dominant players so far in 2017, but that is exactly how it has panned out, with the two heavyweights taking their turns to dominate the first two quarters of the year. 

Federer was sensational on the hard courts, and Nadal was impeccable on clay. Federer won the Australian Open; Nadal surged to a tenth French Open title. And as bizarre as this may sound, Federer arguably goes into Wimbledon as the favourite to claim his eighth title at SW 19.

The great Swiss presents a compelling case. He hasn’t played any tennis since the start of April, but who cares? He didn’t play any tennis for six months but yet produced some of the best tennis of his career to win the Australian Open. 

It was after a painful semi-final loss to Milos Raonic at Wimbledon last year that Federer pulled the plug on his season, taking a six-month hiatus from the sport to rest and rehabilitate his troublesome knee. Without a major title since 2012, and with injuries becoming more prominent in his 35-year-old body, Federer’s Grand-Slam-winning days were thought to be gone.

However, he fired a spectacular riposte with an eighteenth Grand Slam title in Melbourne, backing it up with Masters 1000 crowns at Indian Wells and Miami.

Following his victory over Nadal in the Miami final, Federer (wisely) decided to take another break from the sport, skipping the entire clay court season. Now, well rested and back on his most productive surface, the great man looks set to challenge for a nineteenth Grand Slam title (!).

Of course, Federer has an outstanding record at Wimbledon, with seven titles. He hasn’t gone all the way since 2012, but he has come pretty close in the last few seasons. The Swiss was a beaten finalist in 2014 and 2015, before falling to Raonic in the semi-finals in 2016.

While Federer took his break, Rafael Nadal went on a tear on clay, rolling back the years to claim tenth titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and ultimately, Roland Garros. Nadal won the French Open without dropping a set, losing only 35 games- a Roland Garros best for him- in an absolutely dominant fortnight. 

Like Federer, Nadal’s recovery from injury has been almost superhuman. Plagued by a wrist problem in the second half of last season, the Spaniard called it a year after an opening round loss to Viktor Troicki in Shanghai in October. That little break worked wonders at the start of 2017 as he produced a superb hard court season, featuring finals at the Australian Open, Acapulco and Miami. He was in control of the Australian Open final before Federer staged a remarkable fight-back in the fifth set, he probably doesn’t still understand how he lost to Sam Querrey in Acapulco, and he was well beaten by Federer again in Miami. He would have been disappointed with his conversion rate in finals, but those performances and results set him up for a blistering clay court season.

Now that he is done with clay, the 15-time Grand Slam champion sets about correcting what has been an atrocious recent record at Wimbledon. Make no mistake; Nadal knows his way around a grass court, as proven by his two Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2010. He has also been to three other finals in 2006, 2007 and 2011. His record since then has been wretched- one fourth round exit, two second round defeats, and one first round loss. He missed the tournament altogether in 2016.

Can he put together a run in 2017?

Defending champion and home favourite, Andy Murray has had his struggles with form and injuries this season, but the world number one showed signs of a return to form with a battling semi-final finish at Roland Garros, and he will be looking to build on that when he returns to grass. It was around this time last season that Murray really began his charge towards the number one ranking, claiming the Wimbledon and Olympic titles. There was the odd loss along the way in Cincinnati and the US Open, but he put the finishing touches to a fine second half with 24 straight victories and five consecutive titles (and of course the number one ranking) to end the year.

Sadly for the Scot, he has fallen well short of those heights in 2017, winning only one title (Dubai) and reaching just two finals in the opening six months of the season. Apart from his loss of form, Murray has also had health concerns. He discovered he had shingles on his return home from the Australian Open, and missed the Miami Open with an elbow problem which affected his serve. Murray has suffered some devastating losses along the way, like his fourth round defeat to Mischa Zverev at the Australian Open, his opening round loss to Vasek Pospisil at Indian Wells and another opening round defeat to Fabio Fognini in Rome, but a semi-final run in Paris, full of grit and determination, and no small measure of skill, provides optimism that the two-time Wimbledon champion may have set himself up for another charge on grass.

Around this time last year, Novak Djokovic held all four Grand Slam titles, and looked set to dominate the world for a few more years, but what a difference a year makes. The Serbian has surrendered all four majors, some of them pretty meekly (the worst being a second round defeat to Denis Istomin at the Australian Open), after an inexplicable loss of form. A third round defeat to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last year was thought to be a minor blip, but it has slowly escalated into a crisis, leaving the former world number one desperately searching for solutions.

Djokovic split with Boris Becker last December, parted company with his long-time team at the start of May (in a move he termed ‘shock therapy’), shortly before confirming Andre Agassi as his coach- none of those has yielded the desired results. There were encouraging signs towards the end of the clay court season, with a semi-final in Madrid and a final in Rome, but a crushing quarter final defeat to Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros threatens to undo all the good work. It will be interesting to see how the three-time Wimbledon champion gets along at the All England Club this year.

Stan Wawrinka remains just one Wimbledon title away from completing a quite remarkable career Slam, but he hasn’t done well at Wimbledon in the past, with his best being back-to-back quarter finals in 2014 and 2015. He was beaten by Juan Martin del Potro in the second round last year. Fellow top-ten stars, Kei Nishikori and Dominic Thiem fall into the same category, having not previously produced a telling run at Wimbledon. Nishikori, in particular, has not been beyond the fourth round in eight previous visits. 

One man that has done well at the All England Club is Milos Raonic- last year’s beaten finalist. Raonic had a rough start to the year, disturbed by a hamstring problem, but he put together a useful clay court campaign, and looks set for another strong run on grass- the surface most receptive to his monstrous serving.

Keep an eye on Marin Cilic- another man who will be looking to transform his surprising good form on clay to more favourable clines in the United Kingdom.

The young guns will be led by Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev, both of whom have made great strides this year. These guys are very much among the big boys now- Zverev now dwells in the top ten. They will enjoy the grass courts, and can do some serious damage at Wimbledon. Remember, Kyrgios famously upset Rafael Nadal on his way to the quarter finals in his first appearance in 2014. He has made consecutive fourth round appearances since then.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will always be dangerous on these courts, so will the games other big servers. In the end, as strange as it is to concede, Roger Federer arguable remains the man to beat at the All England Club this year.

The Championships 2017 is live from Wimbledon from 3-16 July.

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Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead the field at The Championships 2017: Wimbledon men’s tennis dates and tournament preview

Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal bid for Wimbledon glory at The Championships 2017, live from Wimbledon from 3 July- 16 July

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