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Much of the attention in the last few days that lead up to Wimbledon, home to epic battles, which will see its 125th edition getting underway this year, has brought forth an apparent scenario and it is pretty apt to say that there are enough strength and depth in men’s tennis that will ensure the best ever tournament this year, which is also phrased as the Championships. Like all those ardent tennis fans, we can’t wait for the action to get started, but there is something that bothers us a bit. Actually, a perceptible fact about this prestigious event is that only the most favourite players end up as trophy holders in the end. After Goran Ivanisevic's awe-inspiring run at Wimbledon in 2001, the tournament hasn't seen a winner seeded outside the top 4 to claim the title. So, we can expect tremendous battles, but only a few setbacks. In fact, only six contenders not seeded between 1- 4 have claimed the Wimbledon title in the Open Era. So, we can start with narrowing down our competition to top 4 in the hindsight:
Top 4: Obviously Rafael Nadal enters this tournament as a clear favourite. After clinching a record equalling 6th French Open title earlier this month, the Spaniard is looking in a far better position to retain his crown at SW19 too. This indefatigable Spaniard has already earned 10 Grand Slam titles and if maintains his fitness from here on, then he can clinch most number of Majors in tennis history. Earlier known for his clay-court prowess, Nadal proved everyone wrong in 2008 by clinching his first-ever Wimbledon title after beating Roger Federer in an enthralling final. Nadal has reached the final in each of his last four appearances at the All England Club. The Spaniard could not defend his title in 2009 due to a career threatening injury, but rebounded nicely in 2010 and beat Tomas Berdych in the final to win his second Wimbledon title. Nadal has a tremendous 45-7 win-loss record this year, with three ATP titles to his name. His recent loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Queen’s Club raised a few eyebrows, but we will have a different Nadal at the Wimbledon. Nadal has a very good 29-4 win-loss record at SW19. Well, the biggest threat to Nadal is Novak Djokovic, who has beaten him four ATP World Tour tournament finals this year.
After Nadal we have World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who has been the most successful player of 2011 so far. His 43 games winning streak including seven titles – says a lot about Djokovic’s surge in the new season. The Serbian was stopped by in-form Federer at Roland Garros, when he was only a match shy of equalling John McEnroe’s record of 42 consecutive wins in a season. Besides eying his maiden Major title on Grass, Djokovic will also be looking to leap into the No. 1 spot with a good run at Wimbledon. Though, Djokovic is not considered as an ultimate threat on grass, the Serbian has got all the weapons in his artillery to go all the way and with his improved court-movement of late, Djokovic can be the trickiest contender to tackle on grass. The Serbian has beaten all three of his main rivals in 2011, including back-to-back wins against the mighty Nadal on clay in Madrid and then Rome. It would be interesting to see, how he would fine-tune to grass, as he did not participate in any of the warm-up grass court tournaments, leading to Wimbledon, citing an injury. Djokovic has a 20-6 win-loss record here at the All England Club with semi-final appearances in 2007 and 2010.
Nadal’s colossal surge in the season and Djokovic’s consistency in the new season may have sidelined Roger Federer’s challenge a bit, but the Swiss Ace’s recent Roland Garros victory against the Serbian once again proved that he is here – right in the helm of the competition. Federer has won Wimbledon title six times - more than anyone except William Renshaw, who clinched the title seven times in the 1800s and American legend Pete Sampras who ruled the grass courts for the majority of the ‘90s and in 2000 as well. Well, Federer’s biggest threat here is his great opponent Rafael Nadal, who has beaten the Swiss thrice in the new season in Miami and Madrid Masters semis earlier and recently in the final of the French Open. On the other hand, Djokovic also beat Federer thrice in 2011 in Melbourne, Dubai and Indian Wells. But, the Swiss avenged his defeats by wounding Djokovic at the Roland Garros semis and also snapped his 43 matches winning streak. Federer has a 34-8 win-loss record this year win an ATP title to his name. The Swiss has a jaw-dropping 55-6 win-loss record at Wimbledon with title wins from 2003 to 2007 and then in 2009. Last year, Federer lost to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals, here at the All England Club. Federer did not participate in any of the warm-up tournament, leading to Wimbledon. Thus, we will have a fresh Federer here, who would be hungrier this time to add one more Major title to his treasure-trove.
By winning the Aegon Title at Queen’s Club last week, World No. 4 Andy Murray sent a strong message to the top trio that he is very much here to bid for the title at Wimbledon. Murray hit a low form throughout the 2011 season after his heartbreaking loss to Djokovic in the Aussie Open final. In fact, the Scot lost five first round matches in the aftermath of that loss, but rebounded nicely later on, as he reached the semis at Monte-Carlo and tested Nadal before vowing out and also made it to the semis in Rome-Masters. The Scot also made his maiden semi-final appearance at Roland Garros, but once again he was ousted by Rafael Nadal. Murray will get all the home advantage and support at the SW19. The Scot has a 19-5 win-loss record, here at the Wimbledon with semi-final appearances in 2009 and 2010. Once again, Murray will shoulder the expectations of home-fans, who will be praying for his success, as the last home a Briton won the title was way back in 1936, when Fred Perry brought home the glory.
Other contenders: Undoubtedly, there are some notable contenders, who can pose some serious threats to top 4, but they will have to play out of their skin to create an upset here. First of all, we have Robin Soderling, who caught the attention of everyone after reaching successive French Open finals in 2009 and 2010. Sodering has a 32-8 win-loss record this year with 3 ATP titles to his name. The Swede has not done significantly well at Wimbledon, as his best showing is quarter-final appearance in 2010. Talented Argentine Juan Del Potro, who won the US Open in 2009, is yet to fully recover from his hand injury, but if he fires at the right time then we would see a sudden change in power-shift. Then we have consistent Spaniard David Ferrer, who has done pretty well in the new season. The Spaniard has a 31-9 win-loss record this year with 2 ATP titles to his name. Ferrer is never considered as a potent threat on grass, as he has an ordinary 13-8 win-loss record here with 4th round appearances in 2006 and 2010, but his improved showing in the new season can bring forth rich rewards – provided he adjusts well to grass. Last year, Tomas Berdych surprised many by making it to the final, but once again his surging career was plagued by inconsistency. This time, Berdych will have to come up with something superb to repeat his last year’s feat or to go one step ahead. American Andy Roddick, who is a three times finalist here at Wimbledon is nowhere near to his A-form and looked in complete disarray last week at Queen’s club, when he was humbled by Andy Murray. Low in confidence, we cannot expect any miracle from this American. Then we have Richard Gasquet of France, who reached the semi-final here in 2007, has an 11-5 win-loss record at the Wimbledon. The Frenchman is playing hard-tennis of late and now is the right time to deliver at the big stage. Spare some thought for the rising Canadian star Milos Raonic, who surprised many by making it to the fourth round at the Aussie Open earlier this year. Raonic started the year as World No. 156, but earned some big wins and currently placed at No. 26. The 20-year Canadian is participating in his first ever Wimbledon tournament, but he has it all to produce an upset or two.
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