The 130th edition of the Wimbledon Championships gets underway on Monday as the top tennis players in the world will battle for the sport's most prestigious trophy. While the men's tour currently consists of Novak Djokovic and then everybody else, we broke down some of the contenders, pretenders and sleepers for this year's tournament at the All-England Lawn Club.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia)
A name that seems synonymous with “Grand Slam Champion” in recent memory, Novak Djokovic is seeking his lucky 13th grand slam title at this year’s 2016 Wimbledon championships. He has already claimed the year’s first two slams at the Australian Open and French Open, respectively. Djokovic has been hot all season, posting a record of 44-3 with his only losses coming to Feliciano Lopez (Retired), Jiri Vesely, and Andy Murray, who defeated Djokovic 6-3, 6-3 at the Rome Masters. He has a whopping six titles on the year and has earned more ATP points (16,950) than Roger Federer and Andy Murray combined. Djokovic has already qualified for the World Tour Finals in November and this year’s Wimbledon will be the ninth consecutive major where he is the top seed. Although he hasn’t played any of the smaller grass tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, Djokovic is 67-15 on grass in his career including titles at Wimbledon in 2011, 2014, and 2015. It is safe to say Novak Djokovic is the top player in the world and is the heavy favorite to win the whole thing.
Andy Murray (Great Britain)
As the number two seed, Andy Murray must be considered a contender to win Wimbledon, his home grand slam and the one which is played on his favorite surface. He has been one of the only players able to push Djokovic in the last few years and is one of three players to beat him this year. He is once again being coached by Ivan Lendl after they parted ways in 2014. Lendl joined Murray’s camp the first time around in 2011 and helped Murray to victories at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 2012 US Open, and the 2013 Wimbledon Championships. After losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final, Murray took some personal time away from the tour for the birth of his first child. Following this absence, Murray uncharacteristically lost early in both Indian Wells and Miami before turning it around and having a stellar clay court season. To end the clay court season, Murray lost yet another major final at the hands of Djokovic. Murray is an astounding 95-17 with seven titles on grass in his career, statistics that do not include his triumph at the 2012 Olympic games. Murray is fresh off a grass title at Queen’s Club where he defeated world number nine Milos Raonic in three hard fought sets. Seeking his third Grand Slam title, Murray is poised to begin play in front of his home crowd.
Milos Raonic (Canada)
A supreme talent, Milos Raonic is overdue to breakout at a Grand Slam, and there is no better time than this year’s Wimbledon. He reached the semifinals at the Australian Open before an injury really hampered him against Murray, and he followed that up with a disappointing Round of 16 defeat in straight sets to Alberto Ramos-Vinolas. But the Canadian brought on John McEnroe to work with him during the grass-court season, and Raonic said McEnroe has already helped him with positioning on the court and other technical aspects of the game. Raonic’s talent is undeniable, and with McEnroe now in his corner, the 25 year old has what it takes to stand alone at Wimbledon’s end.
Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland)
In the absence of Rafael Nadal, 31 year old Stan Wawrinka will likely be the fourth seed at Wimbledon. Early in his career, he hadn’t had much success on grass. He has a career record of 26-23 on grass and just 17-11 at Wimbledon. However, he improved his results in 2014 and 2015, reaching the quarterfinals. Some might categorize Stan as a “sleeper” with his two unexpected grand slam titles in 2014 and 2015, but he just hasn’t been that great on the green stuff in his career to categorize him as such for this tournament. Wawrinka is 27-9 in 2016 with titles in Chennai, Dubai, and Geneva. He played a Wimbledon tune up tournament at Queen’s Club last week and lost in the first round to Fernando Verdasco in straight sets. For these reasons, Stan Wawrinka is a pretender when it comes to the grass courts of SW19.
Kei Nishikori (Japan)
Japan’s Kei Nishikori was voted ATP newcomer of the year in 2008 and has since risen to the top of the rankings, currently sixth in the world. He has risen two spots in the rankings since the start of 2016, and has a 33-10 record with one title at the Delray Beach Open where he beat young American Taylor Fritz in the final. Nishikori proved he could beat the best on the big stage when beat Raonic, Wawrinka, and Djokovic at the 2014 U.S. Open. He eventually lost in the final to an unlikely champion, Marin Cilic of Croatia. Since, there have been hopes he would soon be a grand slam winner but he hasn’t been able to deliver. He recently played a grass tournament in Halle, Germany to get ready for Wimbledon and pulled out of the second round with a rib injury giving eventual champion Florian Mayer a walkover. Nishikori said afterwards that he should be good to go for the start of Wimbledon, but injuries have been all too familiar to the Japan native. Once a newcomer of the year, will Kei Nishikori ever be able to deliver on the biggest stage? Maybe. But not this year in London. While he has surprised at a major in the past, Nishikori has a record of just 8-6 in seven appearances at Wimbledon and seems to be battling a pesky injury placing him on the pretender list at this year’s championships.
Roger Federer (Switzerland)
It seems crazy not to consider Roger Federer a favorite at a grand slam tournament, let alone at Wimbledon where the Swiss maestro has seven career titles. Federer has a record of 79-10 and won five Wimbledon titles in a row from 2003-2007 but is just 16-6 this year thanks in part to a knee injury he suffered while bathing his children just after the Australian Open. In Brisbane, Federer had the flu but played on, eventually losing to Milos Raonic in the final. At the year’s first grand slam in Melbourne, Federer lost to eventual champion, Novak Djokovic. Federer’s health has been in question all season long as he missed tournaments in Rotterdamn, Dubai, and Indian Wells. In March, he planned on playing in Miami, but would pull out due to a stomach virus. Federer also lost to Tsonga in the quarterfinals in Monte Carlo before withdrawing from Madrid citing a lingering back problem. When the Rome Masters came around, Federer was in question but would decide to play, losing to rising star Dominic Thiem in straight sets. Federer had not missed a Grand Slam in the last 16 years, so it was much to the surprise of his fans when he announced he would not being playing the French Open. Federer had his eyes on the grass which is quite arguably his best surface. He played Stuttgart, a tournament where he usually has a lot of success, but once again lost to Thiem. In Halle, Federer lost to teenager Alex Zverev. Federer’s 2016 hasn’t been that great and while Federer has always been a big name that could deliver against the very best, this year, Roger Federer is a pretender in London.
Dominic Thiem (Austria)
At 22, Thiem is the youngest player in the top 10 and perhaps the most intriguing player currently on the tour. Not many tennis pundits think of him as a top 10 player or Grand Slam contender, but Thiem has shown growth and resilience this season. Thiem has been on tour for just five years and has already climbed all the way up to number seven in the world. He has a tour best 47 match wins in 2016, including four titles. Thiem has five top 10 wins already this year and became the 29th player in the open era to win titles on hard, clay and grass in one season. Thiem found his stride as he triumphed in Stuttgart on grass earlier this month before making it to the semifinals in Halle. This has been the most success Thiem has found on grass, and despite having just a 1-2 record at Wimbledon in two career appearances, the aggressive baseliner could make a deep run in London with the right draw.
Nick Kyrgios (Australia)
Often called the “bad boy” of tennis, the 21-year old Kyrgios has soared up to a career high ranking of 18th in the world. His young career has been plagued with criticism, controversy and inconsistency, but 2016 has been a change for the Aussie. After much controversy in 2015, Kyrgios entered the 2016 season with all eyes on him. Everyone was waiting for his next outburst or slip up. He has been relatively well behaved this year and is looking more mature than in previous years. He won the Hopman Cup with Daria Gavrilova for Australia and won his first ATP tour title in Marseille, besting Richard Gasquet, Tomas Berdych, and Marin Cilic all in straight sets on his way to the championshop. Kyrgios finished in Marseille without dropping serve and currently has five wins over the top 10 this year. Due to his inconsistency, Kyrgios can be considered a sleeper in any tournament he plays in. He beat then world number one Rafael Nadal in 2014 and reached the quarterfinals in what was his coming out party. In 2015 Kyrgios beat Milos Raonic in the third round before falling to Richard Gasquet in a match he was accused of tanking during the second set. Although his results and attitude have been all over the place, this will only be Kyrgios’ third appearance at Wimbledon, and it will be interesting to see if the enigmatic Kyrgios can make another run on the grass courts at Wimbledon.
Richard Gasquet (France)
The 10th ranked Frenchman is one of those players on the fringe of being a Grand Slam champion. He has been a mainstay inside the top 20 for the last couple of years but has yet to reach a Grand Slam final. He has reached the Wimbledon semifinals twice in his career including last year, and has his best Grand Slam success on the grass courts of the All-England Lawn Club. Gasquet is 19-8 in 2016 including a title in Marseille at the beginning of the year, and look for the 30-year old and his one-handed backhand to make a deep run in London.
<p>Troy Haas is a contributor to Long Island Tennis Magazine. He can be reached by e-mail at THaas909@gmail.com.</p>