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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 2 JULY, 2018

Federer Set For 9th Singles Title?

Wimbledon curtain raiser


Is there anyone around who can stop Roger Federer from winning his ninth singles title at Wimbledon?

That is the question uppermost in everyone’s minds as the holy grail of tennis commences on Monday. Among his closest rivals over the past few years Andy Murray has made a last minute withdrawal as he has not yet fully recovered from his hip surgery.

In any case he would not have been a contender for he hardly played any tennis for a considerable period and this saw him slide to 156 in the rankings. Novak Djokovic has had an indifferent season, has slipped to No 17 in the ATP rankings and is seeded as low as 12 while Nadal despite winning the Wimbledon title twice and currently ranked No 1 is clearly more at home on clay.

On his part Federer gave the clay court season a miss as he wanted to concentrate on his favourite surface, grass. That could be a wise move as he has been playing admirably since his return. Last month he first regained the No 1 ranking after defeating Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals at the Stuttgart Open. He then went on to win the tournament defeating Canada’s Milos Raonic in straight sets in the final.

However he did suffer a bit of a setback when he failed to defend his title in the Halle Open going down to the 21st ranked Borna Coric of Croatia in three sets and losing the No 1 ranking to Nadal. The No 1 ranking in fact has changed hands several times of late with Federer excelling on hard surfaces and Nadal being the absolute master on clay.

Given his ranking.and the fact that he has won the Wimbledon singles twice even if the second triumph was eight years ago one cannot rule out Nadal’s chances. But can he translate his supremacy on clay to a third Wimbledon title on a very different surface? He did it in 2008 and 2010 but since then his record at the all England Championships has been patchy. On his current form Djokovic can be ruled out as a serious challenger.

So who is left to pose a serious threat to Federer who is seeking to extend his record to 21 Grand Slam titles? Clearly it has to come from among the other leading players who have yet to win Wimbledon. In the forefront among the challengers is the quintet of Marin Cilic of Croatia, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Dominic Thiem of Austria seeded No 3 to 7 in that order.

Two of them have won a Grand Slam with Cilic coming up trumps at the US Open in 2014 and del Potro winning the same event five years earlier. Cilic was also finalist at Wimbledon last year while del Potro’s best is a semifinal berth in 2013. The other three however have a rather uninspiring record both at Wimbledon and in Grand Slam events.

One point in del Potro;s favour is that he defeated Federer in the final at the Indian Wells Masters in March.and that should boost the confidence of the World No 4.

However at the moment Federer a month short of his 37th birthday still enters Wimbledon as favourite to win yet another title. He is playing well and his skipping the clay court season could prove to be a masterstroke.

The women’s singles has an absolute open look about it. Several players have a realistic chance of winning though one supposes main interest will centre round the player seeded 25. Serena Williams on the comeback trail after giving birth to a baby girl is clearly struggling on court enough for her to slide sharply to 183 in the rankings.

However she has been seeded obviously on the strength of her awesome record which includes 23 Grand Slam titles, seven of them at Wimbledon. There must be serious doubt whether she could recover form quickly and go on to win the title in just a couple of week’s time though one cannot see her make an early exit.

If the challenge from Serena peters out these nine players could fancy their chances – Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, Sloane Stephens, Elian Vitolina, Karolina Pliskova, Petra Kvitova, Angelique Kerber and Jelana Ostapenko. There are Grand Slam winners in that list and in fact two of them, Vitova and Muguruza have won singles titles at Wimbledon. The latter in fact is the defending champion. The open look and how Serena fares will keep the interest high in the women’s singles. .
 

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