Someone please make a strong case for NOT picking Novak Djokovic to win Wimbledon. That’s what I’m asking because right now for the Wimbledon title in my mind it’s either him or Andy Murray. And it’s close call.
So here’s my list of Wimbledon favorites as I seem them right now pre-draw:
1a. Novak Djokovic
In Paris, he was the clear choice, but now he comes on to his worst surface licking his wounds from a heartbreaking loss to Stan Warwinka in the French Open final.
The same thing happened last year when Novak lost to Rafa but then still won Wimbledon. So factor? I don’t know.
And even with the extra week this year, Novak still decided not to play an lead-up grass event – the only top guy not to play – but I don’t think that will factor much. It could show that he was too downtrodden over his loss to get back on the court, maybe? Again, hard to say.
My apprehension with Djokovic is I just don’t think he’s at his best. I still believe in this, that much of his success this season is due to the fall off of Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer and the continued lack of a real threat (Raonic, Berdych, Ferrer, Nishikori, etc), though maybe Stan Wawrinka is the guy. But Stan on grass? No.
So Novak becomes kind of a “default”.
1b. Andy Murray
Murray is finally playing some ball. He went into the French undefeated on the clay with a big win over a slumping Rafael Nadal, but to me his most impressive performance to me was in stretching Djokovic to five in that French semifinal.
Given he just won another Queen’s and he’s more accustomed to grass, I think he’s right there with Novak on the Wimbledon favorites list. My only pause with Andy is his poor record against the Big 3 the last 18 months. Otherwise, I’d make him my Wimbledon pick.
2. Roger Federer
Wimbledon is his best chance to win a Slam. That’s what we’ve been saying the last few years, and it’s accurate. Unfortunately for Federer, at 33 going on 34 in a few months, this may be his last chance to realistically win a Slam. This could be it. 2015 Wimbledon or stuck at 17 Slams forever. That’s the reality.
Since that 2012 win and 7th Wimbledon title, Roger’s only made the finals at one Slam, that was Wimbledon last year, and he didn’t have to play a Big 3 to get there.
If he can again avoid the top guys again, he can make a return, but otherwise I just don’t see him beating Djokovic or Murray, or maybe even a Nadal or Berdych.
The rest, because I really don’t have much faith in anyone else winning:
3. Milos Raonic
He hasn’t played much with that foot injury, but with his serve, the fact he made the semifinals last year, he’ll be a tough out. And I think he’ll be better than we saw in Queen’s, his first event in a month.
4. Tomas Berdych
The big Czech has been a consistent player all season, winning at least 2-3 matches in every event and even creating a few upsets. And he reached his lone Slam final at Wimbledon in 2010 when he upset both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic before losing to Nadal in the final.
Can he pull off another similar run? Absolutely! Can he win it in the end? I doubt it. But he’ll be a threat and someone no one wants to see in their quarter.
5. Rafael Nadal
I really don’t put a lot of stock in Nadal as a No. 4 pick, which puts him in the quarters once again thanks to his low seeding against potentially a Djokovic/Murray/Federer. He’s healthy, he’s saying the right things, heck, he even won a grass title, but words are just that, words. I need to see him finally beat some big names in big matches, something we haven’t seen from Rafa in over a year.
Rafa’s won one set in four matches vs Top 6 players since his 2014 French Open title. That’s a very serious problem.
6. Stan Wawrinka
Someone who has been beating the top names is Stan Wawrinka, who unlike Nadal’s poor recent results vs The top players, the Other Swiss checks in at 6-2 this year against the Top 10. The issue with Stan is he’s just not that adept on the grass.
But if the weather stays dry and warm and the balls kick up, he’ll win some matches. He’s got the confidence and the firepower even though he won’t have those hideous “lucky shorts”.
7. Kei Nishikori
Assuming his left calf is okay and no other injuries flare up, Kei’s too solid of a tennis player nowadays to leave off a list of favorites for any event. And even though grass isn’t his best surface, he just doesn’t seem to be losing to guys he shouldn’t be. So that should take him into the second week.
Other guys to watch:
Grigor Dimitrov – Is Wimbledon coach Roger Rasheed’s last event? It could be. Grigor’s also going to have some real ranking pressure having to defend his semifinal points from a year ago, and he stumbles into Wimbledon having dropped three of his last four.
John Isner/Ivo Karlovic – Two guys you just don’t want to see in your draw. Can create problems but usually don’t go far.
Richard Gasquet – Once beat Roddick at Wimbledon and once choked to Murray.
Nick Kyrgios – Dropping his coach right before Wimbledon is a Kyr-ious move, let’s see how he rebounds.
Kevin Anderson – Rarely beats the big names but does pose a threat with that serve.
Viktor Troicki – Working his way back to the Top 10, similar to Anderson in that he has trouble against the best.
Marin Cilic – Seems to show up at the Slams and does have a man named Goran as his coach!
Feliciano Lopez – Lefty has one of the best serves in the game, and twice made the Wimbledon quarters.
JW Tsonga – If healthy could make run, but a troubling ab injury leaves him in doubt. Too bad.
And like in Paris, I look forward to seeing the young guys like Jack Sock, Dominic Thiem, Borna Coric and Alex Zverev. Grass is a tricky surface so unless you have a big serve it can make for a tough adjustment especially for the lesser experienced guys.
Overall, I see Wimbledon as a 2-man tournament between friends Djokovic and Murray. Djokovic has dominated their rivalry (8 straight now?) but I just feel like Murray is inching closer and closer, and is arguably playing better tennis right now.
Djokovic, though, is No. 1, he’s earned it, he is the defending champion and that head-to-head over Murray and the Scot’s ineptitude of late against the Big 3 is awfully hard to ignore.
That said, if there’s one thing I’d like to see at Wimbledon it is Rafa getting back on track. We talk about Roger’s chances at winning another Slam, at 29 this could be Nadal’s final crack at winning another Wimbledon.
We’ll have the full draw Friday morning. Let’s see where Rafa lands!
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