All England battle royale
The 2018 Wimbledon Championship will witness eight-time winner Roger Federer and third-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza defend the men’s and women’s title, respectively. With an array of champions set to challenge their position, on whose court will the grass appear greener?
Come Monday, arguably the most coveted tennis grand slam tournament will roll out at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London. The 2018 Wimbledon Championships, 132nd edition of the tournament, will witness eight-time winner Roger Federer and third-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza defend the men's and women's title, respectively. Muguruza, on her road to retaining the Venus Rosewater Dish, will encounter strong contenders in Caroline Wozniacki and world number one Simona Halep. Federer, the rightful king of Wimbledon, is once again expected to run away with the title with little to no challenge. However, with age not on Federer's side, it would not come as a surprise if some promising youngster, or his long-time rival Rafael Nadal, pip him to the silver gilt trophy. Here is a brief snapshot of the likely winners at this year's Wimbledon.
Garbiñe Muguruza: The 2017 Wimbledon was only the second-ever grand slam title that the 24-year-old Spaniard won since she turned professional in 2012. Despite only two major titles in her kitty, Muguruza has consistently put up impressive performances in the grand slams she has played. A powerful groundstriker who uses her height to shoot some bullet-like serves, Muguruza will be expected to put up a very strong defence for her title. And, with no fitness issues plaguing her, Muguruza – the runner-up in the 2015 edition – can be expected to go all the way.
Simona Halep: The recently-concluded French Open was the first-ever Grand Slam victory for 26-year-old Simona Halep, who turned professional at the ripe age of only 15. If anything, her first-ever Grand Slam title has come rather late. Buoyed by her success at Roland-Garros, the Romanian could now very well secure her second Grand Slam title at the All England Club. Halep's best-ever finish at the tournament has only been a semi-final appearance four years ago. Though Wimbledon, over the years, has not favoured her luck, this year the world number one could see her fortunes change.
Caroline Wozniacki: Like Simona Halep, the soon-to-be 27-year-old Dane too turned professional at the age of 15. However, in her more than decade-long career, Caroline Wozniacki has won a single Grand Slam title, which came at the Australian Open this year. Her previous Wimbledon performances have been a disappointment for a player of her calibre. However, the world number two could prove to be the dark horse, this season. Her resurgence to form this year after recovering from injury could well be the boost that Wozniacki needs to win her second Grand Slam title.
Maria Sharapova: Sharapova has not played a match on grass since losing to eventual champion Serena Williams in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2015. Since then, the Russian has slowly come back from her doping ban and injury crisis last year. However, the 31-year-old has not won Wimbledon since 2004 and asking her to win the tournament could be daunting. Yet, the five-time major winner looked much more like her old self at the French Open, where she made the quarter-finals. And, now that she is free of injury woes, Sharapova could throw a few surprises in London this time.
Serena Williams: The return of the seven-time Wimbledon champion will hog the spotlight from all other contenders, as Williams bids to win her first Grand Slam title since becoming a mother. The 36-year-old missed Wimbledon last year while preparing to give birth and has endured a rocky time since resuming her career earlier this year. The former world number one's run to the French Open last-16 was ended by a pectoral injury. Yet, regardless of her current lowly ranking, if the 23-time major winner is over that fitness glitch she will be a serious contender for another Wimbledon win.
Roger Federer: In 2017, the Swiss maestro became the first man to win the All England title eight times, as well as the tournament's oldest champion. His 37th birthday is not far away, but Federer is like fine wine, only getting better with age. Federer won his first ever Wimbledon title 15 years ago. Today, he is still easily the overwhelming favourite and could increase his collection of Grand Slam titles to 21. He arrives having again skipped the clay season while warming up for Wimbledon with a grasscourt title in Stuttgart and runners-up spot in Halle.
Rafael Nadal: Fresh off an unparalleled 11th French Open triumph, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion has had a love-hate relationship with the All England Club. Clay has always been kind to the Spanish world number one, but grass – not so much. Since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011, Nadal has not progressed beyond the last 16. And, in Wimbledon 2017, Nadal suffered a stunning 15-13 final set loss to Luxembourg's Gilles Muller in the fourth round. However, Federer himself identifies Nadal as his prime threat.
Novak Djokovic: The Serbian dynamite returns to Wimbledon after a 12 month-long layoff when an injury forced him to withdraw in the last-eight. The injury culminated in a worrying slide in form and confidence, also causing significant damage to his Grand Slam prospects. Djokovic's dip in form was on full display in his embarrassing quarter-final exit at the French Open to world number 72 Marco Cecchinato. However, the 2011, 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon champion showed signs of life at the Queen's last weekend and if not the thrill of the Wimbledon, nothing else will get him going.
Alexander Zverev: The 21-year-old German is seen as a contender at most tennis tournaments, and for good reason. Currently the youngest player in the ATP Top 20, Zverev is considered the vanguard of the much-hyped but largely under-achieving 'NextGen', who are seen as the heir-apparents to the Big Four of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. However, Zverev is yet to translate his impressive form on the tour to the Grand Slams, with a quarter-final entry at the French Open this year being his best ever show at the majors. Zverev comes into Wimbledon with just one match on grass this summer.
Andy Murray: Two-time champion Murray, like Djokovic, endured a 2017 Wimbledon to forget, losing a painful five-setter to Sam Querrey while battling a hip injury, which led to surgery and an absence from the tour which stretched to Queen's last week. His defeat of Stan Wawrinka at Eastbourne last week was his first victory in almost a year.
However, the Scot faltered in the final, where a fully energised Kyle Edmund finished him off in straight sets. Despite a world ranking 156, his lowest since 2005, Murray has stated that he has no fitness risk at the Wimbledon.