As the Wimbledon Championships approach, we take a look at the men who go into the grasscourt Grand Slam in sizzling form, and those whose results are in need of an upward surge.
The Spaniard has been simply sublime since returning to the tour in February following a length knee injury. In his nine tournaments so far, he’s reached the final at every one, winning seven and compiling a 43-2 win-loss record. He capped his comeback with a magnificent eighth title at Roland Garros less than a fortnight ago, and heads to Wimbledon on a 22-match winning streak. Having wisely skipped the grasscourt tune-ups to rest and refresh, Nadal will be a hot favourite to claim his third title at SW19.
Although the critics were quick to write him off following his limp quarterfinal exit in Paris to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Federer bounced back last week to claim the title at Halle, Germany. The Swiss great’s game lifts as soon as he steps out on the lawns, evidenced by his defeats of Tommy Haas and Mikhail Youzhny in the latter rounds in Halle, his sixth victory there. He heads to Wimbledon on the back of his first title in 10 months, with confidence restored.
Murray may have been bitterly disappointed to skip the French Open with a back injury, but it proved a wise move as the Scot rebounded last week to claim his third title at Queen’s. Looking rejuvenated, the world No.2 came through a tough draw – including beating Tsonga and Cilic in his final two matches – to hoist the trophy, which will leave him feeling good about his grasscourt game heading into his “home” Grand Slam.
Successfully shouldering the massive burden of home-country expectation with a run to the semifinals at Roland Garros on his least-favoured surface, Tsonga will be free to let his attacking game flow in what is a less intensive setting for him at the All England Club. The Frenchman’s big serve, forehand, net skills and athleticism have served him well previously at Wimbledon – he’s reached the semifinals the past two years – and by reaching the same stage at Queen’s last week, he’s positioning himself for another big run at SW19.
The 12th-ranked Croatian is rounding into form at the perfect time thanks to another excellent run at the Queen’s Club ATP event. Having won the title in 2012, Cilic again reached the final, beating world No.6 Tomas Berdych in the quarters before extending top seed Murray to three gripping sets in the decider. His penetrating flat groundstrokes and solid serve have worked well at Wimbledon, where he has twice previously reached the second week.
Since famously beating Novak Djokovic in an epic battle in Rome in May, Berdych has hit a wall. He was thrashed in his subsequent Rome match by Rafael Nadal, bombed in the opening round of the French Open to unseeded Gael Monfils, and lost to Cilic in the quarters last week at Queen’s, an upset given the Croatian was ranked outside the top 10. A Wimbledon finalist in 2010, Berdych will hope to recapture that form when he steps out on the lawns of the All England Club next week.
Juan Martin del Potro
After his incredible run to the Indian Wells final, it’s been a lukewarm period for the Argentine. He’s gone just 4-4 since late March, with a virus impacting his claycourt season and forcing his withdrawal from Roland Garros. A quarterfinal finish last week at Queen’s on his return was encouraging, but a loss to the then-82nd-ranked, 32-year-old Lleyton Hewitt was less so.
Having begun the year ranked inside the top 10, Tipsarevic has slipped to No.14, and owns a tepid 13-12 win-loss record in 2013. The Serb went 4-6 throughout the entire claycourt season, meaning he arrives at Wimbledon with limited match play and possibly even less confidence. A change to a quicker surface could improve his fortunes.
Raonic appears to have plateaued, having hovered around the No.15 ranking mark for almost a year now. His form coming into Wimbledon is less-than-ideal; his last four tournaments have featured a second round exit in Madrid, first round loss in Rome, third round defeat in Paris, and another first round loss, this time in Halle. With the latter result coming on grass against a player – Monfils – not known for his lawn exploits, it doesn’t bode well.
On his favoured clay, Monaco’s record at the three big recent claycourt events in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros was a second round exit followed by a pair of first round defeats, respectively. Now he heads to Wimbledon, where he has passed the first round just once in five visits for a 2-5 record. The Argentine began the year at No.12 but is now ranked 20th.