Novak Djokovic is the runaway favourite to capture his third successive title at the 2016 Wimbledon. He's won the last four Grand Slams and has nearly twice as many ranking points as does Andy Murray at #2. His stranglehold at the top of the ATP Tour is hard to believe at times; such has been the nature of his dominance. Let's take a look at the rest of the top eight seeds and who has a fighting chance of dethroning Djokovic at Wimbledon.
At this point, any result outside of a Djokovic victory at Wimbledon would be considered a big upset. The Serbian #1 has dominated men's tennis for the last 18 months to the extent that if an opponent is able to win a set it should be considered a Pyrrhic victory. Holder of the last four Grand Slam titles, Djokovic is half way to a calendar year Grand Slam, owns a 44-3 record in 2016, and has already won six titles. He is the unquestioned favourite to win, period.
(2) Andy Murray
Best Result: W - 2013
Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal all own more Wimbledon titles than Andy Murray. However, Murray has demonstrated his own grass court pedigree throughout his career: eight consecutive appearances in the quarterfinals or better at Wimbledon, plus five titles in London at the Queen's Club, and an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London Games. Yes, Djokovic has Murray's and everyone else's number at the moment, but Centre Court Wimbledon could be the neutralizing factor that gives Murray the elusive edge over the world #1.
(3) Roger Federer
Best Result: W - 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Federer's grass court pedigree and history of success at Wimbledon make him one of only a handful of players who can be considered legitimate pre-tournament favourites. However, Federer enters this year's event having battled injury for an extended period for the first time in his career. At age 34, one wonders if he has had enough match play to cope with the demands of best-of-five tennis over seven rounds at a Grand Slam, especially when Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are likely awaiting him at tournament's end.
(4) Stan Wawrinka
Best Result: QF - 2014, 2015
Wawrinka has cultivated a reputation as one of the more inconsistent elite performers on the ATP Tour. While his performances at ATP tour events align with that reputation, Wawrinka has actually been one of the most consistent performers at the Grand Slam events over the last three seasons. Wawrinka has made the quarterfinals at the last two Wimbledons, and at least the final eight in 10 of his last 13 Slam events. Seeing him still in action on the final weekend should come as no surprise.
The year's third Grand Slam is upon us, and with it, a fourth chance for Serena Williams to tie Steffi Graf for second on the all-time list with 22 Grand Slam titles. In the three preceding Grand Slams, Williams has lost in the semifinals at the U.S. Open (Vinci), finals at the Australian Open (Kerber), and again in the finals at the French Open (Muguruza). Williams' quest for history will again be the major story of Grand Slam tennis over the next fortnight at Wimbledon.
Best Result: W - 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015
Williams let the world know that she was "really pissed" after losing the French Open final last month to Garbine Muguruza. She gets her chance to make amends over the next two weeks at Wimbledon, and another chance to win her 22nd Grand Slam singles title. Her potential path to the title: qualifier, McHale, Mladenovic, Stephens, Bacsinszky, Radwanska, Muguruza.
(2) Garbine Muguruza
Best Result: F - 2015
Muguruza enters Wimbledon fresh off her first Slam title at Roland Garros. Last year's finalist draws Camila Giorgi in the first round; the Italian holds a 2-1 head-to-head lead over the Spaniard. Should Muguruza get through her opening match, a quarterfinal against Venus Williams and a semifinal against either Halep or Kerber lurk as the major obstacles blocking a return to the final.
(3) Agnieszka Radwanska
Best Result: F - 2012
Of the top eight seeds, Radwanska is one of four who has made the final at Wimbledon. The Polish #3 has made at least the semifinals in three of her last four appearances at the All England Club. Drawn in the same half as Serena Williams, Radwanska will likely have to go through Kvitova or Bencic as the top seeds in her quarter to get to the top seed.
(4) Angelique Kerber
Best Result: QF - 2014
The reigning Australian Open champion also carries a grass court pedigree with her into the 2016 Wimbledon event. She has twice made the final in Eastbourne and won the Birmingham Classic in 2015. The fact that she has yet to advance past the quarterfinals at the All England Club doesn't represent the totality of her grass court prowess. If healthy, she stands as good a chance as any to make a deep run.
In a week where Andy Murray defended his title in London, it was Madison Keys and Florian Mayer who were the big winners. Keys' title in Birmingham secured her first ever entry into the WTA top 10 while Mayer vaults 112 spots to #80 after his win in Halle. Mayer, battling injuries for the better part of two years, became the lowest ranked titlist (#192) since Nicolas Mahut in 2013 (#240 at Den Bosch).
For these and other stories, let's take a look back at #ThisWeekInTennis, recapping the main stories, player tweets, articles, rankings, and podcasts.
Madison Keys captured the second WTA title of her career, both on grass, and both in Birmingham. Keys becomes the first American woman to debut in the WTA top 10 since Serena Williams in 1999.
Andy Murray defended his title in London, winning his record fifth Queen's Club Championship. The tournament was also Murray's first with former coach Ivan Lendl back on his coaching team.
Florian Mayer authored the feel-good story of the week, claiming the second ATP title of his career. Ranked as high as #18 in 2011, Mayer's career was stalled by injury in 2014 and entered Halle ranked #192.
Caroline Garcia won the first grass court title of her career at the inaugural Mallorca Open. For Garcia, it is her second WTA title in the last month (Strasbourg), and the 22-year-old now owns three WTA Tour singles titles to go along with a flourishing doubles career with Kiki Mladenovic.
The big news in tennis this week was Maria Sharapova's two year ban from tennis after testing positive for Meldonium at the Australian Open in January. Sharapova broke the news of her positive test at a press conference in March, but the tennis world had been awaiting the findings of an independent panel which convened in mid-March. The panel released it's ruling last week, issuing a two year ban for Sharapova, retroactive to January of this year. Barring a reduced sentence by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Sharapova will be eligible to return to the WTA at midnight January 25, 2018.
Meanwhile, both tours took to the grass courts after the conclusion of the French Open. Tournaments in Stuttgart, 's-Hertogenbosch, and Nottingham yielded Dominic Thiem, Karolína Plíšková, CoCo Vandeweghe, and Nicolas Mahut as winners. For these and other stories, let's take a look back #ThisWeekInTennis, recapping the first week of the grass court season in tweets, articles, rankings, and podcasts.
CoCo Vandeweghe won her second career title, both coming on the grass courts of the Ricoh Open.
After a largely disappointing 2016 campaign, Karolína Plíšková reached her first final of the season and converted that into the fifth WTA title of her career.
Nicolas Mahut defended his title at the RIcoh Open in 's-Hertogenbosch, his third title at the event and fourth overall in his career. Mahut is also currently the #1 ranked doubles player on the ATP Tour.
2016 continues to be a breakout season for Dominic Thiem. The world #7 won his fourth title of the year in Stuttgart. Thiem has won the most matches on tour thus far, and now owns titles on clay, grass, and hard courts in 2016.
Other finalists this week: Gilles Muller & Kristina Mladenovic ('s-Hertogenbosch), Alison Riske (Nottingham), and Kohlschreiber (Stuttgart).
The first week of the grass season featured some high profile comebacks: Juan Martin del Potro, Caroline Wozniacki, Belinda Bencic, Ash Barty, and Roger Federer all made their return to tennis after varying lengths of time away for the tours.
Rafael Nadal announced his withdrawal from Wimbledon, due to the same wrist injury that forced his third round withdrawal at Roland Garros.
Flavia Pennetta and Fabio Fognini got married over the weekend.
Stan Wawrinka, following in the footsteps of Milos Raonic, announced his partnership with a former high profile tennis player for the grass court season. Former Wimbledon champion, Richard Krajicek, will join Wawrinka's camp as they gear up for the season's third Grand Slam.
Caroline Wozniacki was ruled ineligible for the Rio Olympic Games and will have to appeal the decision during Wimbledon on June 30.
Nike and Head will continue their sponsorship of Sharapova after announcement of her two year ban from tennis.
We start episode 46 with a last-minute discussion of the news of Sharapova's 2-year ban. We break down the ITF report, talk about what "intent" actually means, and what this all might mean for Sharapova and tennis' future. Then, we chat about the second week of Roland Garros, which turned out to be, well, disappointing for us. Ignore how petty James is and enjoy our discussions about Bartoli's verbal diarrhea, more Kyrgios vs. Kitty Chiller drama, and what the future holds for Muguruza.
0:00 Breaking news! Sharapova gets 2-year ban
2:15 What "intentional" means
19:30 Roland Garros recap: Serena's loss to Muguruza
26:00 Is Muguruza the real deal?
34:30 The Rant: Taking aim at Serena's fairweather "fans"
41:30 The warring fandoms
45:00 Serena passes currently banned Sharapova as top-earning female athlete
50:30 Bartoli's major gaffe exposes the blurred lines in tennis
55:00 Men's results: Novak wins Career Slam, 4 in a row, and we are petty af
1:01:15 Kyrgios' withdrawal and questioning the "Olympic spirit" fallacy
1:08:45 Some good news: Venus is back in the top 10!
1:12:25 Comebacks by Ashleigh Barty and del Potro
Two brand new champions were crowned at Roland Garros last Sunday. Novak Djokovic won his first French Open to complete a career Grand Slam, while Garbiñe Muguruza delivered on her much hyped promise to realize her first ever Slam title. Serena Williams' quest to tie Steffi Graf's 22 Slam titles will have to wait until at least Wimbledon, after falling in straight sets to the Spaniard in Saturday's final. As for Djokovic, he has now won four consecutive Grand Slam events dating back to Wimbledon last year.
Volume 22 of #ThisWeekInTennis will take you through week two of the French Open. Before crowning its new champions, Roland Garros delivered innumerable rain delays, frustration, player angst, breakthrough runs, veterans rediscovering their old magic, and doubles events delivering the goods. There were also off-court announcements that garnered big headlines over the last seven days.
Garbiñe Muguruza made good on her promise as presumptive next best on the WTA Tour when she defeated Serena Williams to capture her maiden Grand Slam title. Her Roland Garros title lifts her to a career high #2 ranking, some 1,564 points behind Williams. It was her third career WTA title and first on clay.
Serena Williams making a Grand Slam final and being unable to close the deal is atypical of her career. Prior to 2016, she had failed to close out a Slam only four times in 25 tries. While her losses to Kerber and Muguruza in Australia and Paris are jarring considering her sterling track record, she's still made the finals in four of her five tournaments played in 2016, including a title in Rome.
Kiki Bertens made the Cinderella run of the fortnight at the French Open. She arrived in Paris having won a title the week before in Nürnberg, then won a further five matches to reach her maiden Slam semifinal. Despite carrying an injury from her quarterfinal, Bertens still managed to push Williams to a 7-6 6-4 scoreline. She rockets 31 spots to a career best #27 ranking.
Sam Stosur achieved her best Grand Slam result in four years, matching her semifinal showing from the 2012 French Open. That was also the last year Stosur finished the year as a top 10 player in singles. Her strong showing in Paris vaults her 10 spots to #14 and within reach of a return to a place among the WTA's ten best.
Venus Williams' run ended against Timea Bacsinszky in the fourth round, her best showing at Roland Garros since 2010. Had she beaten Bacsinszky, it would have been Williams' first quarterfinal at the French Open since 2006. Nonetheless, her unexpected second week showing secures her return to the WTA top 10 at #9.
Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic continued their incredible run through the doubles clay court season with a maiden Slam title in front of their home crowd. Having already claimed titles in Charleston, Stuttgart, and Madrid, their latest triumph ensures the #3 & #4 doubles rankings for Garcia and Mladenovic respectively (still almost 6,000 points behind Hingis and Mirza for the top two spots).
Yulia Putintseva reached the first Slam quarterfinal of her career, even managing to take a set off Serena Williams. Her previous best result at a Slam was at this year's Australian Open where she lost in the third round. Putintseva makes a 25 spot jump to #35 (a new career high) in the latest WTA rankings.
Kiki Bertens orchestrated one of the major upsets of this 2016 French Open, beating the world #3 Angelique Kerber in the first round. Ranked 58th, only the most bold prognosticators could have predicted the tournament she would go on to have at Roland Garros. All told, she beat four seeded players -- Kerber, Kasatkina, Keys, and Bacsinszky -- on her way to the semifinals. Her tournament ended in a hard fought, straight sets loss to Serena Williams.
To be certain, these type of results occur all the time at all four Grand Slams and at tour-level events. Still, Bertens' dream run in Paris is a reminder to pay attention to seemingly inconsequential first round results; these easy-to-overlook first rounders might feature a player who will go on to have a big effect on the event, or the history of tennis years later.
Sometimes the story is an unheralded player who goes on the run of their life, as Bertens did this year. Other matches represent a changing of the guard, as an established player meets an unknown player who will become accomplished in their own right. Then there are times when a match overlooked in its time assumes greater meaning as time goes on, when considered within the context of tennis history.
Here are a few of these matches that have taken place during the first round at Roland Garros, dating as far back as 1976.