London (AFP) – Roger Federer chases a ninth Wimbledon title and 21st career major at the All England Club next week but is wary of the threat of two-time champion and career-long rival Rafael Nadal.
AFP Sport looks at the five leading contenders for the men’s title — and one outsider to watch:
Roger Federer (SUI)
Federer became the first man to win Wimbledon eight times in 2017 as well as the oldest champion. His 37th birthday may be fast approaching but the evergreen Swiss, who triumphed for the first time at the All England Club 15 years ago, is comfortably the overwhelming favourite for a 21st Grand Slam title. 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 (ESP)
Fresh from an astonishing 11th French Open triumph, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion has endured a bittersweet relationship with the All England Club in recent years. Since finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic in 2011, he has not got beyond the last 16 and suffered a heartbreaking 15-13 final set loss to Luxembourg journeyman Gilles Muller in the fourth round in 2017. However, Federer has identified a healthy Nadal as his chief threat and a third Wimbledon title would take him to 18 majors, just two behind the Swiss.
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
The complex Serbian returns to Wimbledon 12 months after an injury-enforced withdrawal in the last-eight precipitated a worrying slide in form and confidence which culminated in an embarrassing quarter-final exit at the French Open to world number 72 Marco Cecchinato. But the 2011, 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon champion showed signs of life at Queen’s last weekend where he had match point to beat Marin Cilic in the final before losing in three sets.
Andy Murray (GBR)
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 an and absence from the tour which stretched to Queen’s last week. His defeat of Stan Wawrinka at Eastbourne on Monday was his first victory in almost a year. With a world ranking 156 — his lowest since 2005 — Murray is still uncertain over whether or not he will play Wimbledon.
Alexander Zverev (GER)
The 21-year-old German is at the vanguard of the ATP’s widely-hyped but largely under-achieving ‘NextGen’, the players seen as the heir-apparents to Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray. However, Zverev has yet to translate his impressive week-in, week-out form on the tour to the Slams with a run to the quarter-finals at the French Open this year representing his best performance at the majors. Comes into Wimbledon with just one match on grass this summer.
….’You cannot be serious!’
AFP Sport’s outside tip for the Wimbledon title:
Nick Kyrgios (AUS)
Volatile and flamboyant, prone to trick shots and getting hit in the pocket for the occasional on-court lapse in decorum, there is no doubt that the 23-year-old Australian is ‘box office’. Announced himself in 2014 by shrugging off his ranking of 144 to shock Nadal in the last 16 on his way to the quarter-finals on his debut appearance. However, 12 months later, he was accused of ‘tanking’ in a fourth round loss to Richard Gasquet while, 12 months ago, he retired injured in the first round.