Pristine grass courts, strawberries and cream, royal patronage and all-white outfits – it can only be Wimbledon, the most prestigious and iconic of tennis’s four Grand Slams. We preview the men’s action at The Championships, live from Wimbledon from 3 -16 July.
Novak Djokovic looked unbeatable. Regardless of the surface; the world number one smashed everything in his path. He had conquered hard courts, grass courts, and clay courts. No one could find any answers to the Djokovic conundrum. The world had been cornered into bracing itself for an extended period of Djokovic domination. Then Sam Querrey happened.
Djokovic had just completed the career Slam. The two-time defending champion held all four Grand Slam titles heading into Wimbledon 2016. No one else had managed that since Rod Laver in 1969. Not even Roger Federer at the height of his previously unrivalled excellence. And Federer’s once insurmountable record of 17 Grand Slam titles had suddenly become seriously under threat. No wonder Roger was desperate to add a couple more, as soon as possible. Djokovic was cakewalking his way towards Federer’s 17.
Until Sam Querrey happened...
Centre Court rubbed its eyes in disbelief when Querrey opened up a 2 sets to love lead over the top seed, but if there was to be an almighty first week upset, it would have to wait a bit longer as bad lights forced the players off on that Friday evening.
This bore an eerie resemblance to happenings 12 months earlier. Djokovic had found himself in the similar hole against another big-server, Kevin Anderson, only to be forced off the court by bad light. The world number one returned refreshed the next day, and duly turned the situation around. Majority around the tennis world would have staked their money on Djokovic scripting a similar escape on Saturday.
And their confidence sky-rocketed when their man raced to a 4-0 lead on his way to taking the third set on Saturday, and Querrey’s chance appeared to have evaporated when Djokovic served for the fourth set at 5-4, but extraordinarily, the top seed couldn’t close out the set, and ultimately bowed out of the competition in the fourth set tie break.
He never truly recovered from that shock for the rest of the year, and went on to lose his number one ranking to Andy Murray.
Murray was the chief beneficiary of Djokovic’s loss, as the Scot went all the way to capture a second Wimbledon title. His run wasn’t without hiccups, as he toyed with fire when he surrendered a two-set advantage against the dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarter-finals, but he recovered just in time to see off the Tsonga threat.
One can argue that the lines fell in the right places for Murray in 2016. Not only was Djokovic sent packing early, the home favourite was also spared the awkwardness of playing grass-court king and Wimbledon darling, Roger Federer in the final after the six-time champion was upset by Milos Raonic in the semi-finals. Federer looked in charge with a two-sets-to-one lead, but he somehow lost his bearings late in the fourth set to allow Raonic back into the contest, and the Canadian grabbed the opportunity to move into his maiden Grand Slam final.
Everyone of the aforementioned names (maybe except Querrey) will again be in the mix in 2017. Djokovic will be keen to make amends for his 2016 failures, but Murray will feel this is his time to dominate and get a few more Slams under his belt. Roger Federer still retains hopes of grabbing another major, and rightly so. His best chance to do so will be at Wimbledon. Despite his advancing years, his record at the All England Club remains phenomenal. He has reached two finals and a semi-final in the last three years. Federer’s next Wimbledon title (if there is to be a next one) will be an eight crown at SW 19, and will put him clear on top the list of most successful Wimbledon campaigners. There’s plenty of incentive for Federer to go on and grab that seventh major in London.
Raonic’s ever-improving game will again be a massive threat on grass. There’s already the big serve, but he is also moving better, and getting more confident on the backhand. If there’s to be a Grand Slam winner outside the established order, the Canadian sits atop the pile.
Two-time winner, Rafael Nadal has plenty of ground to make up at the All England Club after a few quiet years in London. Stan Wawrinka remains a Wimbledon title away from a quite sensational career Slam, and Nick Kyrgios has saved is best Grand Slam performances for the All England Club (with the exception of isolated no-shows like the Gasquet-gate in 2015), and if he gets on a roll, his big game and shot-making abilities make him a real dark horse in London.
The Championships are live from Wimbledon from Monday 3 July.