Given that the England team already has one hand on the World Cup trophy, you’d wonder if Wimbledon will struggle for eyeballs this year.
The chiefs at the All England Club must doubt that football is coming home as they’ve scheduled the men’s final for 2pm on July 15th – just two hours before the World Cup final.
Hard as it might be to believe, a decade has passed since Rafael Nadal overcame Roger Federer in the greatest match that Centre Court has hosted. If both legends once again navigate their way to the final, expect some fierce inter-familial battles for TV remotes across the globe.
So how likely is a 39th meeting between the pair in a fortnight’s time?
After the relative disappointment of losing the Halle final to Borna Coric a week ago, 7/4 favourite Roger Federer will be pleased with how the top section of the draw has fallen.
The eight-time winner and defending champion shouldn’t be unduly taxed early on but will have concerns about a potential fourth round rematch with the Croat.
The 21-year-old is a superb mover, possessing a top-drawer backhand and effective serve. He took full advantage of a misfiring Federer in their last meeting and will have pleasant memories should a second bout come to pass.
Should Roger roll through to the last eight, he will likely see a power hitter like Kevin Anderson or Sam Querrey on the other side of the net. If the Swiss’s timing is as precise as usual, expect to see him in the last four.
Apart from Federer, the most significant actor in the top half of the draw is likely last year’s beaten finalist, Marin Cilic, who is 15/2 to win the tournament. The 29-year-old’s blistering power propelled him into the Australian Open final and I expect him to at least make the Wimbledon semis again this year.
In a top section overflowing with big servers, 6ft 8in John Isner stands especially tall.
The American has had an excellent season with a first Masters 1000 victory in Miami and an improbable trip to the fourth round in Roland Garros. I think he will make a deep run at SW19 this year.
The remaining point of interest in the top half involves two marquee players searching for form.
After an injury layoff, three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka is ranked at a hilarious 225 in the world. The 33-year-old’s reward for this temporarily low ranking is a first-round tussle with 2014 semi-finalist and the world no.6, Grigor Dimitrov.
After a solid start to 2018, the Bulgarian has struggled of late. This match could go the distance and determine the how the section develops.
While his arch-rival will be pleased with the draw, Rafael Nadal has a path littered with dangerous opponents – actually, we should say ‘had a path’. The news of Andy Murray’s withdrawal will definitely have put a wry smile on the Spaniard’s face.
It’s well known that the world no.1 is vulnerable at Wimbledon’s first week, having not made the last eight since 2011. The Majorcan hasn’t played a warm-up event on grass this year either, so few outside his camp can place his fitness and form right now.
An 8/1 shot for the title, the 32-year-old should not have issues with first round opponent Dudi Sela but could have an uncomfortable time with Mikhail Kukushkin in round two. The Kazakh just made the semis in Eastbourne and took a set off the Spaniard at the All England club in 2014.
Even if the ruler of Roland Garros unleashes that famous forehand and surges through the opening rounds, his path to the final will get no easier with Novak Djokovic standing in the way. If he’s to make a sixth final in Wimbledon he may have to beat the Serb in the last four, however, that’s just a projection on paper, and paper is not a surface tennis is played on.
Djokovic’s route is more straightforward to begin with. The three-time winner should have more than enough for his first two opponents before what’s likely to be a pivotal clash in the third round with Kyle Edmund.
The 23-year-old is now a top 20 player after an excellent 2018 campaign highlighted by that semi-final run in Melbourne. Edmund also possesses a calm demeanour that should withstand all the Henmania and Murray Mount palaver.
Overall, the third quarter is a minefield as, apart from Djokovic, del Potro and Edmund, you will also find world no.3 Sascha Zverev, French Open finalist Dominic Thiem, former US Open finalist Kei Nishikori, and the ever-dangerous and unpredictable Nick Kyrgios.
While we are likely to see Federer and Cilic duke it out in one semi-final, the other matchup is anyone’s guess. Will a familiar face outlast the crowd or can a burgeoning talent seize the opportunity?
*All odds correct at time of posting