It’s that time of year again when strawberries and cream is the only dish served on the menu at the All England club and British summertime hits its stride as Wimbledon hosts The Championships for the 129th time in its illustrious history.
However, tennis aficionados will have to remain patient and wait an extra week for the tournament to serve its first ball, with play not set to commence until June 29, allowing this year’s competitors ample time to recover from their exerts at the French Open which runs from May 24 to June 7.
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Last year’s tournament saw Novak Djokovic comprehensively beat seven-time champion Roger Federer to claim only his second Wimbledon title, and it’s expected that the Serbian will retain the Gentleman’s single trophy with betfair making him 13/8 favourite to walk away victorious from SW19.
The 27-year-old has already triumphed in the Australian Open, vanquishing Andy Murray in Melbourne, and picked up his 50th career title in March when he beat Federer to win the Indian Wells Masters, also claiming victories in the Miami Masters and Monte Carlo Masters.
Before he heads to Wimbledon, however, Djokovic has the small matter of the French Open, with the bookies placing odds of 5/6 at the time of writing on him taking home La Coupe des Mousquetaires – or The Musketeers’ Trophy – at Roland Garros.
It’s easy to see why Djokovic is popular among fans to hang onto his Wimbledon title and reaffirm his position as the best tennis player on the planet.
But he’ll undoubtedly face stiff competition from Murray, who is in imperious form ahead of the French Open despite dropping out of the Italian Open due to fatigue. The 27-year-old claimed his second title on clay in the space seven days after beating Rafael Nadal, who has dominated the clay surface for over a decade, in straight sets at the Madrid Masters to add to his win at the BMW Open in Munich.
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Oddly, Murray has yet to experience the sour taste of defeat since marrying Kim Sears on April 11 – writing “Marriage Works!” on the lens of a television camera after beating Nadal – and can now consider himself a genuine contender for silverware at the French Open for, arguably, the first time in his career.
That being said, Murray’s eyes will be firmly fixed on reclaiming the Wimbledon title he won in 2013 when he achieved an astonishing straight sets victory over Djokovic – the man who dethroned him just 12 months later – to end Great Britain’s excruciating 77-year wait for a men’s singles champion.
The world number three is being backed to go the distance this year with odds of 7/2 reflecting his upturn in form in 2015, although it seems that the Scott will have to defeat arch-nemesis Djokovic in the final if he is to get his hands on the prize at SW19.
American tennis coach Nick Bollettieri certainly believes Murray has the right ingredients to win a second Wimbledon title, citing his newly improved mental focus as his most potent attribute.
Bollettieri – in an interview with the official Wimbledon website – was particularly impressed by Murray’s renewed sense of focus on the court during his victory over Nadal, noting that the Scot has finally learned to harness his emotions and refrain from looking into the stands after every shot.
It’s that absolute focus and enhanced mental toughness upon which the 83-year-old is convinced will give Murray the platform to mount a serious challenge for Djokovic’s crown this year.
What is a certainty, however, is that Djokovic is the man to beat in order to claim a second successive crown, with Murray anticipated to be his closest challenger. But there are two names that are being tipped to upset the newly established order and rekindle the magic of Wimbledon’s past.
Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
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Federer – last year’s beaten finalist – will be eager to end a three-year barren run at the All England club and will come into the tournament with three ATP Tour titles in the bag this season.
With 17 Grand Slams also under his belt, the 33-year-old has the virtue of experience on his side, with his third round exit in the Australian Open at the hands of Italian Andreas Seppi a minor aberration on his record after what has been a strong showing on the ATP tour.
Victories in the Brisbane International, the Dubai Tennis Championships and the Istanbul Open have placed the suave Swiss’ odds at 11/2 for the Wimbledon trophy for the eighth time in his illustrious career – overtaking Pete Sampras to claim sole possession of the lead in men’s singles titles – although much will rest on how he fares at the upcoming French Open.
The same can be said for Nadal who, despite no longer being at the peak of his powers, remains a formidable threat to Djokovic and, like Federer, will be acutely aware that he’s failed to win a title at Wimbledon since 2010.
Injuries and inconsistent form have plagued the 28-year-old Spaniard, who has plummeted to seventh in the ATP Rankings, and there’s no doubt he’ll be keen to avoid another embarrassing exit on British soil after being dumped out by Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in four sets at last year’s Championships.
Even though Nadal is still going to be slightly raw – he’s barely played since Wimbledon due to a wrist injury and appendicitis – the bookies aren’t writing him off at 8/1 for the King of Clay to triumph once again on grass.
But there is a surprise name that the bookies are tipping to spring a major surprise at the All England Club.
Grigor Dimitrov – currently ranked 11th in the world – reached the semi-finals in last year’s Championships before succumbing to defeat against Djokovic over four sets, in what was his best singles performance at SW19.
But the bookies are offering odds of 11/1 on him to win the tournament outright, despite a relatively mediocre ATP Tour performance, where his best posting was semi-final defeat to Federer at the Brisbane International in January.
World number six Kei Nishikori, fourth-ranked Milos Raonic, and Stanislas Wawrinka are also being touted as legitimate contenders for Djokovic’s Men’s Singles crown, but it is the Serbian maestro who remains a popular choice with Murray ready to push him all the way.
With just over six weeks to go until the Championships get under way and Murray Mount starts to overflow with spectators ready to consume the passion, tension and, quite probably, a few alcoholic beverages that is part and parcel of every Wimbledon, providing the British weather behaves itself for once.
This is a spectacle that is always worth watching for its rich history, considerable significance and high-octane tennis that will leave us on the edge of our seats.
And 2015 is set to provide an intriguing battle between the two men currently battling for supremacy at the apex of world tennis, whilst two veterans and a surprise candidate are ready to pounce and etch their names onto the famous trophy.