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Looking Forward to the 2017 Championships
Security has been stepped up for this year’s Championships following the recent terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. Safety is a paramount and those attending Wimbledon 2017 have been advised to allow for extra time gaining entry to the grounds due to security checks.
Following recent events and the horror of the Grenfell Tower fire it is to be hoped that this year’s tournament runs as smoothly as ever, with only sporting headlines made in London.
With Andy Murray world number one and Dan Evans, Kyle Edmund and Aljaz Bedene also in the top 100 there should certainly be plenty of interest for British fans. Last year’s surprise hero, Marcus Willis, who won six qualifying matches to go from coaching at Warwick Boat Club to playing Roger Federer on Centre Court, may yet be awarded a wildcard to add further interest.
Johanna Konta is the strongest British contender on the women’s side, but Laura Robson and Heather Watson have won matches at Wimbledon before and will hope to make a mark this year.
Those watching Wimbledon at home will be able to enjoy unrivalled coverage from the BBC, with qualifying matches from Roehampton added to their package for the first time in 2017 alongside extensive coverage on BBC1, BBC2, the red button and online.
Who will add their name to the honours list of the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world? Two best two weeks of the British summer hold the answer.
The Wimbledon Championships 2017 – Preview
The sun’s out, summer’s up and the grass is green. That can mean only one thing: it’s time for lawn tennis.
Beginning on Monday July the 3rd and stretching until Sunday July the 16th (with the traditional day off for “Middle Sunday”), the gates at SW19 will open to almost 500,000 spectators. 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s will be served, 28,000 kilograms of strawberries will be consumed (accompanied by over 10,000 litres of fresh cream) and 2,000 rackets will be strung with as much as 40 miles of string.
Oh, and some tennis will be played. Some of the most exciting tennis of the year.
2017 has been wildly unpredictable on both the men’s and women’s sides of the game. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, the dominant male players of 2016, have struggled for consistency. Their shock early exits at the Australian Open paved the way for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to play a thrilling, throwback final that Federer claimed in the fifth set.
Serena Williams, for so many years the overwhelming favourite for every women’s tournament, is absent from the game as she prepares to give birth to her first child. Last month’s French Open was wide open as a result, with Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko overcoming pre-tournament odds of 100-1 to become the first unseeded player to triumph in the French capital since 1933.
The women’s singles at Wimbledon should be every bit as open and don’t rule out surprises on the men’s side either. Nadal has crashed out of Wimbledon in the first week on his last three visits to the tournament and with fearless young players like Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev lurking in the draw anything is possible.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the contenders for the men’s and women’s Wimbledon 2017 titles.
Men’s Form Guide – The Favourites
Andy Murray goes into Wimbledon as the world number one and defending champion but has rarely played up to his billing this year. His recent struggles were exemplified at Queen’s Club last week, where he suffered a shock straight sets defeat to world number 90 Jordan Thompson. Nonetheless, with four Queens titles, two Wimbledons and an Olympic Gold claimed on grass courts throughout his career, Murray is a proven performer on the surface and still managed to reach the semi-finals of the French Open last month despite form he described as “garbage.”
With a home crowd behind him and some wins under his belt Murray could grow into his top billing as the tournament progresses.
Rafael Nadal is fast catching Murray at the top of the rankings after a remarkable clay court run of four titles in five tournaments, culminating in a landmark tenth victory at the French Open. No other male player has won a single grand slam ten times and by sealing “La Decima” Nadal confirmed that he is back to best after a couple of years blighted by injury problems and self-confessed doubts about his game.
Nadal skipped Queen’s Club on the advice of his doctor, highlighting the fact that his physical issues have to be managed, no matter how well he’s playing. Grass courts appear to be particularly problematic for Nadal, perhaps because the lower bounce forces players to put more strain on their knees, but he remains a two-time Wimbledon champion and, if his knees hold up, has a great chance of making it three.
Roger Federer is a seven-time Wimbledon Champion and, at the age of 35, looks as good as ever. Indeed, he has arguably improved – just ask Nadal. The Spaniard has traditionally dominated the “Fedal” rivalry but three of RF’s trophies this year – the Australian Open and the “Sunshine Double” of Indian Wells and Miami – saw him put the Spaniard to the sword.
Most pundits believe Wimbledon is Federer’s best chance of adding another grand slam trophy to his cabinet and the Swiss maestro seems to agree – he skipped the entire clay court season to ensure he’d be in prime condition for Wimbledon. Federer shook off a surprise loss to 39-year-old Tommy Haas in a warm-up tournament by triumphing on the grass of Halle for the ninth time and has as good a chance as anyone of hoisting the Wimbledon trophy.
Novak Djokovic has been an enigma in 2017. He entered last year’s Wimbledon as a near untouchable, having won the last four grand slams in a row, but suffered a shock early defeat to Sam Querrey and never seems to have recovered. He sacked his entire coaching team prior to last month’s French Open, claiming that he needed “shock therapy,” but still bowed out of the tournament early with a meek straight sets defeat to Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals.
Djokovic can’t be discounted – he’s still the world number two and a three-time Wimbledon champion – but out of the Big Four he seems the least mentally prepared for the gargantuan task of bringing home a grand slam title.
Men’s Form Guide – The Best of the Rest
Stan Wawrinka has three grand slams to his name – as many as Andy Murray – and can hit anyone off the court on his day. He’s knocked all of the Big Four out of grand slams before and, theoretically, with his flat serve and piercing backhands, should be a threat on grass. However, he has never been past the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and will have to up his grass court game substantially to lift the trophy.
Milos Raonic was runner-up at last year’s Wimbledon. Grass courts help his booming serve but his 2017 form has been erratic and he suffered an early defeat at Queen’s Club. Raonic can’t be discounted but doesn’t enter this year’s tournament in the same form as last year.
Marin Cilic and Juan Martin Del Potro both have grand slam titles to their name and the big serves and groundstrokes to make them a threat. Cilic signalled his intent by reaching the final at Queen’s Club, where he held match point before a tough loss to Feliciano Lopez. Del Potro was forced to skip Queens with injury concerns but memories of a thrilling five-set semi-final against Djokovic in 2013 will give him belief that, if he’s fit, he can challenge.
The ATP Tour are branding their young players with the #NextGen hashtag to build excitement around a group of players who will, eventually, depose the 30-something Big Four. Nick Kyrgios and Alexander Zverev look the most likely to push for a shock win in South London. Both are tall and rangy, with excellent movement and massive serves. They are fiery characters, too – Kyrgios, in particular, often makes headlines for the wrong reasons – but the flip side of this is a willingness to take it to the best. Ask Djokovic, beaten in successive tournaments by a preening Kyrgios. Zverev has a swagger about him, too, and appears to be a world number one in waiting. Can he make a mark at Wimbledon?
Women’s Form Guide
There are no “Favourites” and “Best of the Rest” in the woman’s game – the event is wide open!
Indeed, it’s a sign of the Serena-shaped hole in the women’s game that many would rate Petra Kvitova, who’s only recently returned to the game after an injury sustained in a knife attack, as one of the favourites. Kvitova has won Wimbledon twice and should be in form after triumphing on grass courts in Birmingham – her first title since returning to the tour. A big trophy to cap a brave comeback is certainly the story the press will be hoping for.
Maria Sharapova’s absence due to injury means that Venus Williams is the only other former champion in the draw. Williams has won five Wimbledons, though none since 2008, and is ranked eleven in the world. Her stamina in longer tournaments is in doubt but, if she can tough a few matches out, she has the potential to roll back the years.
Jelena Ostapenko’s shock win at the French Open showed that there are young players in the game brave enough to take the top titles. Ostapenko will go into Wimbledon on a high but history shows that players who make such a spectacular breakthrough can rarely sustain such a high level through to the next big tournament.
A better bet for a breakthrough young player could be Karolina Pliskova. Currently the world number three, Pliskova has been tipped by many for grand slam success and reached the semis at the French Open. Grass courts should suit her big serve and flat groundstrokes far more than the clay so Pliskova could be one to watch.
Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep are one and two in the world. Kerber was arguably the player of last year, winning two grand slams and finishing runner-up at Wimbledon and the Olympics, but has struggled in 2017. Halep has a similar game style, relying on her movement and consistency from the baseline, but has been in better form in 2017, finishing runner-up at the French. If none of the attacking players shine Kerber and Halep’s consistency from the back of the court could see them through.
The truth is there are no clear favourites on the women’s side and another shock winner could well be on the cards. It will be fascinating to see who hits form at the right time and has the belief to add their name to Wimbledon’s prestigious roll of honour.
The 131st edition of the longest-running tennis championships in the world will take place in SW19, London from July the 3rd to the 16th 2017. The thousands of fans fortunate enough to win tickets in the Wimbledon ballot or dedicated enough to queue for hours will pass through the gates into a place so iconic it almost stands outside of time.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, custodians of the Wimbledon Championships since the first edition in 1977, zealously guard their traditions.
The ATP and WTA tennis tours are high-end, aggressively marketed competitive arenas. Finely tuned players with access to the best sports science available use rackets made of composite metals to whip balls over the net at over 100 miles-per-hour.
In most tournaments players enter the arena to thudding music, wearing the latest extravagant colour-combinations of their chief sponsor and amplified to giant proportions on big screens around the stadium.
At Wimbledon players dress all in white, pad onto the grass courts to polite applause and, if they’re female, have the pleasure of hearing themselves referred to as “Miss” whenever the score is called.
Wimbledon’s timelessness is a rare and precious commodity. For some, strawberries and cream, Pimms and Ladies Day are every bit as important as the quality of the tennis. To others, watching grass courts force hypertrophied modern tennis athletes to add chips and dinks to their heavy hitting arsenal is an essential connection with the origins of the sport.
Competitive tennis was born at the All England Club. Every year it comes home for a fortnight. And the world watches.
The All England Club was founded in 1868 as a croquet club but in 1877 tennis was added to the club’s itinerary. Croquet, a genteel sport now the sole preserve of Sunday evening period dramas, was dropped by the club within five years as the evolving game of lawn tennis began to assert itself.
The 1877 Wimbledon Championships only had one competition, Gentlemen’s Singles, and an entry list of 22 players. Spencer William Gore took the inaugural title in a final that was delayed by rain – to the great surprise of no one familiar with another of Wimbledon’s inescapable traditions.
Happily, Wimbledon was opened up to women within ten years. The list of Ladies’ Singles champions dates back to Miss M.E.E. Watson in 1984, a year in which a Gentlemen’s Doubles competition was also introduced.
Tennis, in the 19th century, had a style very much of its own. Rudimentary wooden rackets with a head size closer to modern badminton rackets than today’s oversize tennis rackets were used to hit flat, spinless shots and rush the net.
Nonetheless, legends began to be made in SW19. Suzanne Lenglen dominated the women’s event in the 1920s, the decade in which the Championships moved to their current site on Church Road, while Fred Perry and Bunny Austin established themselves as greats in the 1930s.
Wimbledon was suspended during the Second World War – indeed, Centre Court was bombed – but continued to grow in the post-war years and hosted the first “Open” event in 1968 when tennis became a professional sport.
Wimbledon also made history in the 1960s as the first event to be televised in colour on British TV, part of a long and fruitful collaboration with another great British institution, the BBC.
Serena and Venus Williams have dominated women’s tennis in the 21st century. Between them they’ve won 11 of the last 17 Ladies’ Singles events at Wimbledon, including back-to-back triumphs for Serena in 2015 and 2016.
Two other notable recent women’s champions are Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova. Both have suffered setbacks in recent months. Sharapova has recently returned to professional tennis after a controversial drugs ban, while Kvitova injured her hand in a terrifying encounter with a burglar during the off-season.
With Serena absent from this year’s Championships as she awaits the birth of her first child and Venus past her peak, a strong Wimbledon showing from Kvitova or Sharapova could capture the headlines.
The men’s title has been the sole preserve of the “Big Four” of Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic since 2003. Federer has won a record-equalling seven championships, Djokovic holds three, while Murray and Nadal have two apiece.
Murray’s 2013 triumph was one of the most emotional in Wimbledon history, ending a run of 77 years without a British champion and cementing his bond with the fans. Federer is also a great favourite in SW19, with his elegance on and off-court winning the hearts of the British tennis public.
Despite reaching their 30s all four men head into this year’s competition at the top of the game, with Federer and Nadal in particularly sparkling form. A possible rematch of the 2008 Federer-Nadal final, widely considered the finest tennis match of all time, is a thrilling proposition heading into the 2017 tournament.