“Can Andy Murray do it again?” are the words on everybody’s lips as the All England Club once again plays host to Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament. World number three Murray, whose historic victory on the hallowed grass 12 months ago ended 36 years of hurt following Virginia Wade’s triumph in 1977, is widely tipped to continue his success at the scene of his gold medal in the 2012 Olympic singles final. However, it is unclear how his status as defending champion, which he has only experienced once before in his career, will affect his approach. Under huge pressure from his adoring home fans and press alike, only time will tell whether Murray can recapture the brutal intensity that simply overpowered Novak Djokovic in straight sets last year. But the Scotsman will be well aware that he can’t afford any slip-ups, with his chief rivals likely to accept the first invitation to spoil the party.
Djokovic, unsurprisingly, will again be the man to beat. The Serb, newly reinstated as number one in the ATP rankings, is without a Grand Slam win this year and will be itching to avenge his defeat last year by adding a second Wimbledon win, following his 2011 triumph over Rafael Nadal – another who will be keen to forget the events of last year. After a shock defeat to Lukas Rosol in the second round in 2012, Nadal was humbled by Belgian journeyman Steve Darcis in the very first round last season. Decidedly the form man heading into this year’s tournament, fresh off the back of his ninth French Open title on the clay at Roland Garros, Nadal will certainly be looking to rediscover the form on grass which brought him Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2010 respectively. And don’t discount Roger Federer either: the 32-year-old Swiss maestro, widely regarded as one of the finest players ever to grace the game, has won everything there is to win several times over, including seven previous Wimbledon titles. After an injury-hit 2013 which hurt his form and his confidence, the world number four is showing signs of the imperious Federer we had become so used to. Winning the Gerry Weber Open title in Halle just might be a sign of things to come.
Outside the big four, who have monopolised Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt’s win in 2002, look for 23-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov to spring a surprise. As his victory in five sets against Feliciano Lopez at Queens showed, he’s far more than just tennis golden girl Maria Sharapova’s boyfriend. “Switzerland’s number two” Stanislas Wawrinka, who in January broke through to win the Australian Open, consistent Spaniard David Ferrer and France’s great hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga could also play a part in deciding the destiny of the title in the tournament’s latter stages.
In the women’s game, with Laura Robson out injured, British hopes are pinned firmly on Heather Watson, who impressed by defeating twelfth seed Flavia Penetta en-route to the semi-finals at Eastbourne. British number one Watson will be hoping to remember compatriot Elena Baltacha, whose tragic death in May robbed British tennis of one of its leading lights, by bettering her run to the third round in 2012.
Following defending winner Marion Bartoli’s retirement from competitive tennis just forty days after her straight-sets triumph over 19th seed Sabine Lisicki, all eyes will be fixed on French Open winner Sharapova, as she guns for a third Wimbledon title ten years on from her breakthrough win aged just 17. To do that, the Russian will first have to overcome world number one Serena Williams, the two great rivals set to meet in an eagerly awaited quarter-final contest, with third and fourth seeds Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska, 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and former number one Carilone Wozniaki each looking to capitalise.
Let the games begin.