As fans and grounds staff look nervously across the skies of South-West London for the rain that will inevitably fall at Wimbledon, we’re more interested in the clouds that could overshadow some top names at the Championships – and more happily, those that can provide unexpected sunbursts.
Andy Murray: Few topics have been discussed as passionately across the United Kingdom these past few days as the state of Sir Andy Murray’s hip. Throw in that the world No.1 has generally struggled for form this season and we’re already reaching for our raincoats.
Angelique Kerber: The top seed, the world No.1 and the 2016 finalist. And yet we can’t warm up to the idea of the German as a Wimbledon favourite. She’s won just 21 matches this season. More shocking still? Kerber has beaten only one top-30 opponent.
Rafael Nadal: Yes, he’s lost only a single match (!) at the past two majors. But at Wimbledon, Rafa has won just seven matches since contesting the 2011 final. We’re not exactly reaching for our sunglasses.
Elina Svitolina: As the No.4 seed, the Ukrainian has her best-ever credentials at a major. And that’s where the outlook darkens, with the very likeable 22-year-old also contending with a foot injury that contributed to a second-round loss at Eastbourne.
Juan Martin del Potro: Yes, we know the 2013 semifinalist and former world No.4 is a sentimental favourite but he’s hardly a real favourite, given the groin injury that kept him out of ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Queen’s.
Stan Wawrinka: No injury (that we know about) but we’re not sold on Stan’s grass credentials. Wimbledon is not merely the only Slam he hasn’t won, but he’s never been past the quarterfinals. And at Queen’s, he lost early to Feliciano Lopez.
Johanna Konta: The top-ranked female Brit fell heavily in the Eastbourne quarterfinals and withdrew from the semis due to a back problem. A further cloud is that she’s won just a single match at the All England Club. Umbrella definitely required.
Kei Nishikori This injury-prone competitor has one of the least-favourable forecasts this Wimbledon. He’s retired hurt from the past two installments (ahead of the 2015 second round and against Marin Cilic in 2016’s fourth round) and more recently, quit his second-round match in Halle.
Dominika Cibulkova: The two-time Wimbledon quarterfinalist has staged some of her most impressive fights at the All England Club. But with 14 wins to 14 losses in 2017 (and only one win over a top-20 opponent) she’ll need more of that fighting spirit than usual.
Agnieszka Radwanska: A third-round run at the French Open marked only the second time this season that the 2012 finalist has won back-to-back matches. Facing former world No.1 Jelena Jankovic in the opening round, the outlook couldn’t be less sunny.
Milos Raonic: The 2016 men’s finalist struggled with a hamstring injury early this year and suffered a first-round loss to Thanasi Kokkinakis at Queen’s. The exit of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek from his coaching team just before the grass season adds to the stormy foreboding.
Dominic Thiem: Three Wimbledon, two match wins – and in the lead-up this season, the much-touted Austrian won just a single match in Halle before a loss in Antalya to a world No.222 qualifier. Those are mighty clouds circling for the eighth seed at a major.
Nick Kyrgios: There’s often a storm brewing around the very dramatic Mr. Kyrgios. At Queen’s, it erupted with a serious fall that further damaged his injured hip. The Aussie candidly says he’s only 60-65% physically ready. Given how Kyrgios can electrify the Championships, we’re praying for less thunder, more lightning.
Roger Federer: As a seven-time champ, it’s practically a given that Federer is once again a title favourite, even as his 36th birthday approaches. Still, worth reminding you he won his 92nd title in Halle just a week back. Pack the sunscreen.
Petra Kvitova: Making her comeback a Slam earlier than expected at the French Open was a smart move by Kvitova; with all the attention from that highly-anticipated return now behind her and Birmingham victory adding confidence, the two-time champ can focus on what she does best at Wimbledon: win it.
Feliciano Lopez: A 35-year-old Spaniard warming up as favourite for a grass court major? That’s what we thought. And then he beat four former or current top tenners – even saving a match point in the final against Marin CIlic – to become Queen’s champ. Beware potential sunburn.
Karolina Pliskova: Nowhere is that power game better suited than grass – as Pliskova reminded everyone with her 39 winners and 10 aces to win the Eastbourne final. And that was just the warm-up.
Gilles Muller: Eight long years since contesting first ATP final, the Luxembourgian finally won a first career title in Sydney. And then there was another one in s’Hertogenbosch. Whatever the weather, the 196 cm especially loves competing on grass.
Caroline Wozniacki: Early in her career, the very smiley Caroline Wozniacki earned a “Little Miss Sunshine” moniker. Whether that name works for a 26-year-old is questionable (Ms Sunny?) but with four finals, including Eastbourne, you can’t deny the world No.6 is enjoying a bright season.
Ash Barty: Hard to believe that barely a year ago this likeable Aussie had quit tennis for cricket. Now she’s on the cusp of the WTA’s top 50, with her Birmingham final run including an upset of 2015 Wimbledon finalist Garbine Muguruza.
Alex Zverev: A Grand Slam breakthrough admittedly still eludes this bright young German but after a finals run in Halle, the warm change could well be coming.
Novak Djokovic: A shock third-round loss last year was the start of a tempestuous time for the three-time champion. But now he’s the Eastbourne champion and has both Andre Agassi and Mario Ancic in his coaching corner. We sense the clouds are clearing.
Victoria Azarenka: As much as we’d love a favourable forecast for the returning mother, the fact she’s played just a single tournament in over a year makes it difficult. The comeback could be cloudy, bathed in sunshine or both of those things. Much like the Wimbledon fortnight really.
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