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Wimbledon 2018 Men's Contenders: How are the top players shaping up ahead of Wimbledon?

Leye Aduloju in ATP Tour 25 Jun 2018
  • Wimbledon 2018 is live from Wimbledon from 2-15 July
  • We profile the top contenders for the men's title
Roger Federer. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Over the last couple of weeks, the best players in the world have been fine-tuning their preparations for Wimbledon, and with the third Grand Slam of the year set to serve off next week, we profile the main contenders to see how they are shaping up for battle at the All England Club.

Roger Federer may have lost the Halle final to Borna Coric, but the great Swiss, who won in Stuttgart the week before, remains the man to beat at the All England Club. Federer's great rival, Rafael Nadal did not play any pre-Wimbledon warm-up tournaments, after opting out of Queen's, and given his recent record at the All England Club, another early exit may be on the cards for the two-time champion.

Last year's runner-up, Marin Cilic is arguably the second favourite for the title behind Federer following his success at Queen's, but an improving Novak Djokovic presents a compelling case. The three-time champion missed a match point in a narrow loss to Cilic in the Queen's final.

Nick Kyrgios also looked good in the warm-up tournaments, reaching consecutive quarter finals in Stuttgart and Queen's, but top-ten stars, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev haven't contributed much to grass so far. Can they find some form at the All England Club?

Roger Federer

Roger Federer. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 8
2017 Result: Champion
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Champion (Stuttgart); Runner-Up (Halle)

Despite suffering a shock defeat to Borna Coric in the Halle final, Roger Federer remains the red-hot favourite to win Wimbledon. Defeat to Coric in Halle brought an end to Federer's 20-match winning streak on grass, while he also surrendered the No. 1 ranking to great rival, Rafael Nadal as a result. In truth, Federer wasn't quite at his best all through the week in Halle, saving match points against Benoit Paire, and pushed hard by Matthew Ebden and Denis Kudla, before eventually falling to Coric. He would be disappointed on missing out on a tenth title at the tournament,but he would also be quietly pleased with the work he has put in on grass in the last couple of weeks, given that he had missed the previous three months after opting to skip the clay-court season. 

Federer is already up to three titles for season, having opened the year with titles at the Australian Open and  Rotterdam as part of a 17-match winning streak- his best ever start to a tennis season. His unbeaten start to 2018 was eventually ended by Juan Martin del Potro at the Indian Wells final, after which the great Swiss suffered a shock opening round defeat to Thanasi Kokkinakis in Miami. Federer sat out the clay-court season for the second straight year, but he has been good since his re-emergence for the grass-court season, beating Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic en route a first Stuttgart title, and backing it up with a hard-earned final in Halle. 

He might not have been at his best in Halle, but he still managed a runner-up finish. Expect him to play better at Wimbledon, where the record eight-time champion will once again be the man to beat. 

Rafael Nadal 

Rafael Nadal. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 2
2017 Result: R16
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Withdrew from Queen's

Rafael Nadal has been scaling all sorts of heights on clay in recent years, but his fortunes on grass have been heading in the other direction since the turn of the decade, with the great Spaniard is yet to go beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon since reaching the final in 2011. It isn't as if he has had tough draws; he has been beaten by Steve Darcis, Lukas Rosol, Dustin Brown, Gilles Muller and a rookie Nick Kyrgios within that spell. Nadal is also yet to reach a grass-court quarter final since reaching the last eight in Halle in 2012- not that he plays many grass court tournaments outside Wimbledon these days, anyway. 

And he will not play any before heading to the All England Club this year, having pulled out of Queen's following a another successful but tasking time on clay. 

The 31-year-old capped a magnificent run on the dirt with an eleventh Roland Garros title, having already broken the 11-title barrier in Monte Carlo and Barcelona earlier in the campaign. He suffered his only loss on the surface to Dominic Thiem in the quarter finals in the altitude of Madrid, but he rebounded to claim an eighth Rome title, preceding his latest success at Roland Garros. 

The Spaniard has played just one tournament outside clay this year, having missed the rest of the hard court season following an injury-enforced retirement from the quarter finals of the Australian Open. Recent history predicts an early exit for Nadal at Wimbledon, but completely ruling out the great Spaniard isn't exactly the smartest thing to do in tennis! 

Novak Djokovic 

Novak Djokovic. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 3
2017 Result: Quarter-Finals
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Runner-Up (Queen's)

Novak Djokovic has been working up some decent form in the last month. The Serbian, who has had all sorts of problems in the last couple of seasons, produced a strong finish to the clay court season, reaching his first semi-final of the year in Rome before making the quarter finals of the French Open. Djokovic would have expected to get past Marco Cecchinato in the last eight at Roland Garros, which would have put him into his first Grand Slam semi-final since the 2016 US Open, but a promising tournament came to a crashing halt as the former world number one was spectacularly taken out by the inspired underdog. 

That defeat stung so hard that a muddled Djokovic hinted at skipping the entire grass-court season at his post-match press conference, but once calmness returned, the Serbian accepted a wildcards into Queen's, where he has continued the progress made in the latter part on clay. Djokovic impressed at Queen's, beating John Millman, Grigor Dimitrov, Adrian Mannarino and Jeremy Chardy in straight sets before falling to Marin Cilic in the final- that after missing a match point. The Queen's final was Djokovic's first since his Eastbourne success lasr season.

That Eastbourne-run title was followed by months of heartache- his Wimbledon campaign ended with a quarter final retirement against Tomas Berdych, after which he missed the rest of the 2017 season because of an elbow injury. The former world number one returned for the Australian Open, but a fourth-round loss to Hyeon Chung was followed by what he termed a 'minor intervention' on his troublesome elbow. 

Djokovic suffered a number of early defeats on his comeback, most notably, at traditional strongholds at Indian Wells and Miami, while his clay court season also got off to a slow start, with early exits in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. The Serbian had been reunited with former long-time coach Marian Vajda for the start of the clay-court season, (after an unsuccessful venture into the world of super coaching!), and that reunion began to pay dividends in the latter part of the clay campaign.

He has carried that form onto grass, where he fell just short to Marin Cilic in the the title. 

Djokovic brings plenty of confidence with him into Wimbledon, and the three-time champion, healthy and refocused, looks set to make a significant push at the All England Club. 

Andy Murray

Andy Murray. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 2
2017 Result: Quarter-Finals
Pre-Wimbledon Form: R1 (Queen's), Active (Eastbourne)

Andy Murray's participation at Wimbledon is yet to be confirmd, but it is great to see the former world number one back in action after spending most of the past year battling a hip injury. 

Now ranked outside the top 150 following his lengthy lay-off, Murray made an encouraging return to sport at Queen's, taking Nick Kyrgios to three sets before losing in his first competitive match since limping through a painful five-set loss to Sam Querrey at Wimbledon last year. 

The basic elements of his game- serve, return of serve, movement and an unyielding competitive spirit- looked in decent order, although he did look in some discomfort towards the end of the two and a half hour slug- that's not unexpected after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines. 

Murray said after the match that he wasn't sure about the next phase in his recovery, with one of the options he discussed being to play in Eastbourne and skip Wimbledon. He has indeed opted to play in Eastbourne, where he takes on Stan Wawrinka in the opening game round, but it remains to be seen whether the two-time Wimbledon champion will compete at the All England Club. 

Marin Cilic

Marin Cilic. (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: Runner-Up
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Champion (Queen's)

On current form and recent history, Marin Cilic is arguably the nearest challenger to Roger Federer at Wimbledon- he strengthened that argument with a title-winning run at Queen's, where he took out Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic to win his second the tournament for the second time. A fine start to the year yielded a semi-final in Pune and a runner-up finish at the Australian Open, but he went through a quiet spell after that, and didn't regain some form until the latter part of the clay-court season, when he made the semi-finals in Rome and the last eight at Roland Garros. The trajectory is not too dissimilar to last season's, when he improved through clay, and hit peak form on grass.

Cilic has reached the final in two of the last four Slams, and his compact, big-hitting game will again be hard to subdue on grass. There is the feeling that the former US Open now truly believes that he should be challenging for these majors.

The Croatian has reached the quarter finals or better in each of his last four visits to the All England Club, including a runner-up finish last year, and he heads into the 2018 tournament with a genuine shot at going all the way. 

Alexander Zverev 

 Alexander Zverev. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R16
Pre-Wimbledon Form: R1 (Halle)

Alexander Zverev finally made his first Grand Slam quarter final at Roland Garros, but the jury is still out on the German's status as a genuine Grand Slam contender. The likelihood is that the talented German will eventually get it right and win multiple majors, but the current reality is that he is yet to truly convince in any of the Slams. 

While he deserves great credit for battling through three consecutive five set matches in his run to the French Open quarter final, but he did make hard work of an unremarkable draw, featuring Dusan Lajovic, Damir Dzumhur and Karen Khachanov. The German dug himself out of a two-sets-to-one deficit in each of those three matches, meaning he had virtually nothing left in the tank for his quarter final against Dominic Thiem. 

Part of the disappointment stems from the fact that he had looked so good in the build up tournaments, winning Munich and Madrid, pinning Nadal against the ropes in Rome before falling in three sets, and making the semifinals in Monte Carlo. He couldn't quite find that form in Paris. 

Overall, it's been another fine year for the German, who has recovered from a slow start to cement his position amongst the sport's elite. Zverev struggled to get going, falling early at the Australian Open, Rotterdam and Indian Wells, but he clicked into gear in Miami, where he was runner-up to John Isner, before producing a superb clay-court season. 

His time on grass didn't get off to the best of starts, as he lost to Borna Coric in the opening round in Halle, but that can always happen in the swift transition from clay to grass. Zverev will expect to do a lot better at Wimbledon, where he lost out to Milos Raonic in the fourth round last season. He can definitely play on grass, as proven by consecutive Halle finals in 2016 and 2017. The 21-year-old is a naturally confident individual, and he has got bags of ability to back it up, but can he hit the right mental space to deliver a significant run at Wimbledon?

Dominic Thiem 

 Dominic Thiem. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R16
Pre-Wimbledon Form: R2 (Halle)

Dominic Thiem enhanced his growing status as the heir apparent to Rafael Nadal on clay with his run to the French Open final, but he is yet to make the quarter finals at any of the three other majors- a damning reflection of his shortcomings on other surfaces. 

A disjointed hard-court campaign opened with a rare semi-final in Doha (he subsequently withdrew from the tournament because of illness), while he missed out on a big opportunity at the Australian Open, where, with the draw opening up, fell to Tennys Sandgren in the fourth round. After a quick trip to Latin American clay (where he won his first title of the season in Buenos Aires), the Austrian injured his ankle in third round at Indian Wells, and did not play again until the European clay season. 

Perhaps still bothered by that injury, Thiem initially struggled on clay- crushed by Nadal in the last eight in Monte Carlo and beaten by Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter finals in Barcelona. There was to be another blip later in the piece, in Rome, where he suffered an opening round loss to Fabio Fognini, but the Austrian had his moments, not least his victory over Nadal en route a runner-up finish in Madrid. Thiem had a strong finish to his clay court season, winning his second title of the year in Lyon before reaching his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros. 

He has not had the most promising return to grass, losing to Yuichi Sugita in the second round in Halle. The 24-year-old does possess a grass-court title from Stuttgart in 2016, when he beat Roger Federer in the semi-finals, hinting that he can do well on the surface. The Austrian won consecutive matches at Wimbledon for the first time last year on his way to a fourth-round loss to Tomas Berdych- can he build on that and make his first telling move at a Grand Slam outside Roland Garros? 

Grigor Dimitrov 

Grigor Dimitrov. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R16
Pre-Wimbledon Form: R2 (Queen's)

Grigor Dimitrov has not quite had the season we thought he’d had, following his career-best 2017, but the two-time Grand Slam semi-finalist still remains very capable of turning it on. The Bulgarian finished 2017 as the No. 3 player in the world, after winning his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, and closing the year with the Nitto ATP Finals title, but he has struggled to reproduce that form this year. There have been some decent results through the first half of the season, like his final in Rotterdam, semi-final in Monte Carlo and quarter final at the Australian Open, but he has never truly found peak level since the start of the year. 

He suffered opening round losses in Dubai, Indian Wells, Madrid and Rome, and was knocked out by Fernando Verdasco in the third round at Roland Garros. He has carried over that poor of form into the grass court season, where he lost to Novak Djokovic in the second round at Queen's in an extremely disappointing performance. Dimitrov reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon in 2014, but he has made the fourth round on just one other occasion- last season, when he lost to Roger Federer.

His ability to turn it on means the dexterous Bulgarian is always in with a shout of making a deep run at the All England Club, but a disappointingly inconsistent season means an early departure from SW 19 would not come as a major shock.

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: QF
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Runner-Up (Stuttgart); R2 (Queen's- withdrew from the tournament)

Since reaching the Wimbledon final in 2016 and breaking into the top 3 in the same year, Milos Raonic’s progress has been hamstrung by injuries to the extent that he is now out of the world’s top 30, and has lost his country’s No. 1 ranking to Denis Shapovalov, but with those big serves, the big Canadian remains a very dangerous proposition on this surface.

When he has played, he has been decent- he made the quarter finals at the Australian Open and Wimbledon last year, and after a slow start to 2018, he reached the semi-finals at Indian Wells, and the quarters in Miami. 

Raonic struggled with a knee injury during the clay-court season, and subsequently withdrew from Roland Garros. He returned in time for the start of the grass-court swing, making an instant impact with a runner-up finish to Roger Federer in Stuttgart. Unfortunately, the injury curse struck again at Queen's, where a right shoulder complain forced a second-round withdrawal.

If he can somehow find some fitness at Wimbledon, the former finalist possesses one of the most potent weapons on this surface, and that serve alone can fire him into the second week at least!

Juan Martin del Potro

Juan Martin Del Potro. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R2
Pre-Wimbledon Form: Withdrew from Queen's

After all his injury concerns, Juan Martin del Potro is finally enjoying a relatively extended spell of fitness. He has not been without a few niggles, like the groin problem that almost kept him out of Roland Garros, but there has been nothing like the wrist injuries that threatened to end his career. Del Potro heads into Wimbledon without playing a warm-up tournament, after pulling out of Queen's to nurse the groin problem that bothered him during the clay-court season.

Del Potro has again shown that when he is fit he is right up there with the best in the business. The Argentine is enjoying a fine season, which has already yielded titles in Acapulco and Indian Wells- his first Masters 1000 title, while he also made the quarter finals at Roland Garros, breaking back into the top four as a result. 

Del Potro’s record at Wimbledon isn’t great. He made the semi-finals in 2013; and has not gone beyond the fourth round in his seven other visits. The skiddy grass isn’t the big man’s best surface, but if he is fit, and in form, which he is at the moment, you can’t put anything beyond the mighty Argentine.

Nick Kyrgios 

Nick Kyrgios. (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R1 
2017 Result: Semi-Finals (Stuttgart, Queen's)

No one is entirely sure what to expect from Nick Kyrgios, but the abilities of the man means he will always be a major threat, particularly at Wimbledon where his big-serving skills are accentuated. Kyrgios can of course crash to a petualnt first round exit at the All England Club, but he is also perfectly capable of getting dialled in, and producing a strong run in London. The signs in the build-up tournaments have been encouraging. 

Kyrgios had missed the entire European clay season because of an elbow injury, but he looked sharp on his return to action on grass, making consecutive semi-finals in Stuttgart and Queen's. He was edged out in a third set tie break by Federer I. Stuttgart, while he played two poor tie breaks at Queen's to fall to Marin Cilic. On another day, in another mood, it could have all been different. 

The Australian had made a fine start to the year, winning Brisbane before reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. His season was detailed by an elbow injury sustained while in Davis Cup duty for Australia against Germany, but hebhas made a strong return on grass, and was banging down those serves at Queen's. 

Kyrgios reached the quarter finals at Queen's in 2014, famously blasting his way past Nadal in second round, and if he is healthy, finds his range and rhythm on serve, and keeps his frustratingly wandering mind in check, there is no reason why he can't make another deep run at the All England Club. 

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)
Wimbledon titles: 0
2017 Result: R16 
2017 Result: R1 (Queen's)

Kevin Anderson is an excellent left-wing pick for Wimbledon. The big-serving South African has already been to a Grand Slam final (US Open last year), and he has compiled a very good season so far. Anderson has reached finals in Pune, New York and Acapulco (he won in New York), semi-finals in Madrid, and quarter finals at Indian Wells and Miami to cement his top-ten status. He really should have made the last eight at Roland Garros, but he somehow bungled a big lead against Diego Schwartzman when he had looked dead and buried. The 32-year-old is yet to go beyond the fourth round at Wimbledon, but he has arguably been playing the best tennis of his career over the last year; and could well get that Wimbledon breakthrough this year.

Anderson was surprisingly beaten by Leonardo Mayer in the opening round at Queen's, but that appears to be a minor blip, given how well he has played this season. He will pose a big threat at Wimbledon.

Wimbledon 2018 is live from The All England Club from 2-15 July.

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