Dubai: For the past 16 years, only four players have won the singles crown at The Championships. While Roger Federer is at the top with eight titles, Novak Djokovic follows in second with four, while Rafael Nadal and home favourite Andy Murray have won two each.
So it is but natural that the focus will be on these four yet again with Djokovic, Nadal and Federer leading the chase for the singles title, while Murray continues his comeback by playing alongside Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the doubles.
While the scales will be heavily tipped in favour of defending champion Djokovic and French Open winner Nadal, the backing will definitely be on Federer’s thirst of adding a ninth silver gilt cup on July 14.
Last year was an emotional one for Djokovic as he breezed to his fourth title at The All England Club — a triumph that not only lifted the Serbian back into the top-10 but also helped him finish at No 1 in the ATP Rankings by the end of the season. Djokovic was not at his best heading into the French Open, but the red clay of Paris has never been his strong point, barring that lone flourish at Roland Garros in 2016.
Djokovic will start the defence of his title as he headlines the top half of the draw alongside last year’s finalist Anderson, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Serbian will open against Philipp Kohlschreiber and then go up possibly against Gael Monfils, the promising Felix Auger-Aliassime or 2014 semi-finalist Grigor Dmitrov in the fourth round, while his potential quarter-final opponent could be Tsitsipas or Daniil Medvedev.
Posing a challenge to the world number one will be former two-time champion Nadal, who will be coming to Wimbledon on a 12-match winning streak. His mastery on clay was seen earlier this month when he brushed aside Austrian Dominic Thiem in a repeat of the 2018 final. But, at the back of Nadal’s mind will be Wimbledon’s seeding system that sees him placed at number three, while long-time opponent and good friend Federer — who is one spot behind him in the ATP Rankings — is the second seed.
However, the Spaniard who has been drawn in a loaded quarter and in the same half as the Swiss ace, will have to find his way past several tricky opponents including Denis Shapovalov, Nick Kyrios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Bernard Tomic.
Competing for the 21st year, Federer will go in with a 95-12 record at the grass major looking to add to his collection of 20 Grand Slams. The 37-year-old, who won for the 10th time in Halle for his 102nd career title last week, will open against Lloyd Harris after which he could face the likes of Lucas Pouille or Richard Gasquet in the third round, Borna Coric in the fourth and either Kei Nishikori or John Isner in the quarter-finals.
Perhaps, Greek sensation Tsitsipas may blossom this year. The 20-year-old is capable of delivering against the established trinity when at his best. Last week, Tsitsipas lost in straight sets in his quarter-final against Aliassime, but that will take very little away from the resolute youngster as he looks ready to break into the inner sanctum of tennis’ now-established order.
Perhaps, John McEnroe best described the situation when he said: “The big three just have this incredible will to win, but it would be good for the game if there were other winners.