Predicting a winner of the men’s singles at Wimbledon has been a relatively easy task over the past 15 years, with only four winners since 2002. Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have both won two titles apiece, Novak Djokovic has emerged victorious on three occasions, but Roger Federer sits head and shoulders above the rest with eight wins. The 36-year-old is chasing a historic ninth title to draw him level with Martina Navratilova as the most successful singles champion at the All England Club and few would be surprised to see him do exactly that,
Last year, Djokovic was forced to retire from his quarter-final clash with Tomas Berdych due to an elbow problem, Murray hobbled out against Sam Querrey at the same stage with a hip issue, while a knee injury hampered Stan Wawrinka in a first-round exit to Daniil Medvedev. Nadal was stunned in the fourth round by grass-court specialist Gilles Muller 15-13 in the decider, as his wait for a return to the last-eight for the first time since 2011 went on. Federer became the outright most successful man in SW19 and didn’t drop a set en route to his second Grand Slam title of 2017. He defeated Marin Cilic in the final, with the Croat struggling with blisters in an anti-climactic finish. The tournament proved to be the end of the year for three of the game’s most successful active players.
The build-up to Wimbledon this year has been fascinating in its own right. After a three month absence, Federer made the perfect start as he picked up the title in Stuttgart but then looked far from his best a week later in Halle. He was then stunned by Borna Coric when chasing his 10th title at the Gerry Weber Open. Cilic defeated Djokovic at Queen’s that same day to confirm his status as one of the most feared player in the draw at the All England Club. Richard Gasquet and Damir Dzumhur were among the other players to triumph, with Mischa Zverev winning his first ATP Tour title in Eastbourne.
There were some cracking first-round ties this year with Wawrinka taking on Grigor Dimitrov, Gael Monfils meeting Rosmalen champion and fellow Frenchman Gasquet, while exciting Canadian Denis Shapovalov takes on one of the most impressive players in the build-up to this event: Jeremy Chardy. Defending champion Federer will kicked off the action on Centre Court on Monday against Dusan Lajovic and dark horse Nick Kyrgios is on course to meet fellow young gun Alexander Zverev in round four, with the winner potentially meeting Djokovic in the quarter-finals.
There are four British men in the main draw, although all face a challenge to get beyond the third round. Kyle Edmund enters Wimbledon as British No. 1 for the first time in his career and has enjoyed an excellent year, reaching the semi-final of the Australian Open. He is due to face Djokovic in the round of 32. Liam Broady has a tricky tie with 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic, although question marks over the Canadian’s fitness will provide some hope, while Jay Clarke faces unpredictable former top-10 player Ernests Gulbis. Cam Norrie will fancy his chances of winning a couple of matches, but John Isner is a potential third round opponent.
It’s possible Djokovic could cause an upset and get his hands on a fourth Wimbledon title but, unsurprisingly, Federer is viewed as the man to beat on his favoured surface. Although he hasn’t been beyond the last-16 in seven years, Nadal is a tempting price considering his relatively kind draw though Del Potro, Zverev and Kyrgios are viewed as the main challengers to upsetting the status quo,
There were signs that Federer was feeling the heat in Halle, but he can still be expected to claim the title and although he will be pushed far harder than last year’s stroll in the park he’s avoided the worst sections of the draw. Cilic has a real opportunity of exacting revenge on the Swiss in the semi-finals, while Djokovic has shown enough form to be a strong contender to reach the final. If Kyrgios is mentally focused, he could easily win the tournament, however, there has been little evidence in the past to suggest that will be the case.