Thursday, 2 July 2015

Who Will Be The Wimbledon Men's Champion?

by Oliver Clark

The end of June is a brilliant time of year for any tennis fan. Having just enjoyed the trials and tribulations of a sunny French Open mere weeks before, they wait in anticipation for arguably the most widely watched and enjoyed tennis tournament in the calendar. Any Year 11 students who have recently finished their GCSEs such as myself are the most fortunate of the lot, as instead of having to go to work or school and frequently checking the BBC sport app during lessons (hopes that none of my past teachers are reading this), we can sit at home and watch every minute until the word 'deuce' makes us want to break down in tears.

This is looking to be one of the most open and widely contested Wimbledon's of recent memory. Either Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer have featured in all but one final in the last 12 years, but neither of which are favourites to win the coveted title this year. That honour falls unsurprisingly to defending champion Novak Djokovic, who has not played a competitive grass court match since last year's 5-set epic final against Federer. Home favourite Andy Murray is rightly instated as second favourite for the trophy, after a dominant showing at Queens 2 weeks ago and a scintillating run at Roland Garros halted by Novak in the semi finals. Murray failed to reach the final last year after his victory in 2013, but will he take back his crown this time out? Is it the time for recently crowned French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who's display against Djokovic in the final 3 weeks ago is arguably the best of the year so far? Here is a run down of all the favourites for this years tournament, as well as a few players to look out for on the outer courts.

Novak Djokovic

The best athlete on the court in the modern era, perhaps of all time. 53 career titles, 5 Australian Opens, 2 Wimbledon's and a U.S. Open is a record matched only by the very elite of tennis history. What else is there to say against this man? Djokovic was the first player I ever watched as a child, witnessing his first Grand Slam victory in Australia over Jo Wilfred Tsonga in 2008. It has been the unrelenting energy and passion that begins with the first point of the match and is still there at the end of a 5 set classic that has always made me a fan of Djokovic as a person, not just as a player. However, there are some drawbacks to his game. Although he possesses a coach in Boris Becker who has helped him greatly on the mental side of his game for the last 2 years, he appears to sometimes let fans reactions get to him in the latter stages of matches. The fans are in no way against Novak, but I believe that as he has been arguably the best player in he world of the last 5 years, neutral fans are inclined to support the underdog. Another important factor that may affect Novak is the heartbreaking loss he suffered to Stan Wawrinka in France 3 weeks ago. Novak did not put a foot wrong in that match, but still succumbed to his 3rd French Open final loss in the last 4 years. After the 4 set defeat, Djokovic was met with a standing ovation that lasted well over 2 minutes, a reception that nearly brought him to tears. This shows that the fans will always be behind Novak due to his excellent playing style and personality both on and off the court. Will the bitter sweet memories of France hinder Novak's progress or give him the motivation to equal his coaches record of 3 Wimbledon victories?

Andy Murray

The home hero (depending on your take on Scottish independence) has been in great form the last few years. He has managed to reach the quarter finals of every Grand Slam that he has entered since 2011, and has cooled what was once a very fiery temperament into an ice cool on court persona. It has been well publicised that Murray faces a very challenging draw this year, potentially facing Tsonga, Nadal and Federer before even reaching the final. However, in the year that Murray took the Wimbledon crown, the highest seed he faced before the final was the 24th seeded Fernando Verdasco, due to early shock exits from both Nadal and Federer. Another stat in Murray's favour shows that he has reached the semi finals or further at Wimbledon every time since 2008 with the exception of last year. One problem that I have seen with Murray on numerous occasions I his inability to close out longer matches. It appears to happen in almost all of his latter stage losses, most recently in his semi final defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros. Murray had trailed 2 sets to love and had recovered with some astonishing play, with Djokovic reeling going into the final set. However, Murray would go on to win just one more game, being steamrolled in the final set 6-1. Murray has a very powerful game and has the ability to simply blow people off of the court, with his problem being maintaining the high levels of attacking prowess that he begins almost all of his matches with. After a great win at Queens Club and a dominant straight sets win over Kevin Anderson in the final, does Murray have enough momentum and energy left in the tank to regain his Wimbledon title? One fan clearly believes so, as it has been reported that a man has placed a £50,000 stake on Murray (odds 5/2), with a potential return of an astronomical £175,000.

Other Major Contenders

Roger Federer won in Halle, Rafael Nadal won in Stuttgart and Stanislas Wawrinka won in France. Three big names with 3 big wins coming into this years Wimbledon. But are they likely to threaten Djokovic or Murray? I do not believe that Federer can ever be discounted, reaching 9 finals in the last 12 years demonstrates his relentless ability. However, there is no denying that Federer is beginning to age. A straight sets loss to Wawrinka in the French Open Quarter Finals demonstrated that this is perhaps the end of the Roger Federer era, with him not being able to compete with the younger and more physical player. Another player who is perhaps past his prime is Rafael Nadal. Once the face of tennis, a true athlete and fighter, Nadal has been plagued by injuries in recent years and has failed to reach a Wimbledon final since 2011. His 5 year undefeated streak at Roland Garros ended this year in the quarter finals at the hands of Djokovic and he has subsequently fallen to World Number 10. Nadal is not the athlete that he once was and I believe that this could result in another disappointing summer for him. Stan Wawrinka is the late bloomer of this group, winning his 2 Grand Slams at the age of 29 (Australia 2014) and 30 (French Open 2015). However, he has proved that he can tackle the very best that the sport has to offer, with wins over Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in the last 12 months. After witnessing his victory over Djokovic earlier this month, I can safely say that if he replicates the form he showed in that match over the next 2 weeks, I cannot see anyone being able to stand in his way.

One to Watch

Gael Monfils is always a player that I am happy to see get through to the latter stages of tournaments. The 28 year old Frenchman has had a relatively underwhelming professional career after winning only 5 titles, despite claiming the Wimbledon, Australian and French Open Junior titles in 2004. He currently sits at World Number 18 and I believe could cause a few upsets in this tournament. His acrobatic style of play and exuberant on court personality makes him a joy to watch, and after dropping a 2 set to love lead over Roger Federer in the U.S. Open quarter finals late last year, I believe with some composure, he could cause a couple of major upsets this year.

I believe that a repeat of the Murray vs Djokovic final is certainly on the cards once again this year, but I believe that Novak would have the will power to take his third Wimbledon title of this is the case

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