Wimbledon starts a week from Monday. The grass court season is only about a month long. Lots of storylines always get crammed into a small handful of weeks before the year’s third major. This year is no exception. Here is a pre-Wimbledon stroll through the tennis world.
No. 1 ranking on the line in Eastbourne: World No. 1 Angelique Kerber has reached just a single final this year, but with the ongoing instability atop the women’s game, she has maintained her ranking for most of 2017. Simona Halep could change that at the final Wimbledon tune up event in Eastbourne, England starting Monday.
The German and Romanian are the top two seeds in the draw. There are several scenarios where each can leave with the top ranking.
With Kerber struggling in general and Halep dealing with the scar tissue of letting the French Open slip through her fingers, most don’t expect either to win Wimbledon. Even so, being the top player in the world is a big deal. Thus, this is worth keeping an eye on.
Djokovic still trying to find his form: Three time Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic will also be in Eastbourne. It is his first Wimbledon tune up since 2010.
The struggling Serb continues to tinker with his game, schedule and support team after being dismantled by Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarterfinals. He has tried everything in the past year or so to get back to his dominant self. Despite flashes of brilliance, nothing has worked in the long term.
This particular move reeks of panic. Djokovic has never played a tune up and won Wimbledon in the same year. Despite that, the player field in Eastbourne is not all that strong. Djokovic should be able to lift the trophy without playing above his C level. Perhaps that feeling would snap him back into form. Djokovic remains a huge question mark for Wimbledon and beyond.
Federer and Kvitova on the rebound: Roger Federer and Petra Kvitova have nine Wimbledon singles titles between them. After bouncing back from vastly different levels of adversity, they both are among the favorites to add to that total.
By the time this gets published, both of them will have their hands on winners or runner up trophies. After skipping the entire clay court season, Federer lost his first match on grass to Tommy Haas last week. However, Federer has raced to the final in Halle, Germany this week and will face talented upstart Alexander Zverev for a chance at his ninth title there.
Kvitova’s rebound has been far more difficult. She finds herself in the finals in Birmingham England. It is just her second event back from stab wounds suffered in a December home invasion. The fact that the powerful lefty has established herself as a real contender for a third Wimbledon title so soon is nothing short of remarkable.
Murray Worry? One player who we will not see again in an official capacity until Wimbledon is defending champion Andy Murray. The Brit has come in to his home slam in far better form over the years.
Coming off a run to the French Open semis, Murray lost his opening match at Queens Club, an event he had won five times before. Murray sounded concerned about his Wimbledon chances following the defeat saying it was a “big blow” to those hopes.
As concerned as Murray and his fans may be about his title defense chances, I am not. The best of five set format really helps the men’s favorites at any Grand Slam. Also, Murray was in similar form heading into Paris, he came within a whisper of reaching the final. While Federer is a strong favorite, Wimbledon’s favorite son is not far behind.