With Wimbledon 2019 kicking off on Monday, we look at four key players in the men’s draw who will be either looking to hold on to supremacy, regain or attain glory. Some notable mentions will also be included as the excitement builds among fans awaiting another dramatic fortnight of tennis action on the SW19 lawns.
The men’s draw promises to be an exciting and tightly-contested battle this year, with a solid field full of match-ups that are sure to provide some surprise results, even in the initial rounds.
In terms of projected match-ups, old foes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are on the same side of the draw and could meet in the semi-finals, while defending champion Novak Djokovic could face rapidly rising Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarters.
Last year’s finalist Kevin Anderson could face Alexander Zverev in a match-up of big servers and big men, while there are plenty of dangerous floaters in the draw who could make a big impact, even deep into the second week of the tournament.
Defending Champion: Novak Djokovic (1)
The Serbian world number one and number one seed will be looking to return to SW19 with the aim of re-asserting his dominance and coming back from a disappointing semi-final defeat to Dominic Thiem in the French Open. It was here at Wimbledon 12 months where Djokovic achieved his big comeback to the top of the game after a period of apparent decline and the 15-time major winner will be confident of backing up his status as bookies’ favourite to grab a 16th Grand Slam and fifth at Wimbledon.
That feat certainly won’t come easily and Djokovic will have to contend with a particularly tricky first round encounter against the wily German campaigner Philipp Kohlschreiber, a man who has already beaten the Serb this year. Providing he progresses as projected, Djokovic would probably have to beat Tsitsipas along the way and either Federer/Nadal in the final to retain his title.
If Djokovic plays with the same level of consistency, focus and desire that he showed in his dominant title victories in the three Grand Slams prior to this year’s French Open, it will take a herculean effort to topple him. Time will tell but the champion should deservedly be seen as the man to beat this year.
Key Challenger: Roger Federer (2)
Regardless of how many times he is written off as a fading force, the evergreen Swiss keeps providing more and more examples of his greatness with a tennis racquet.
Holding a record eight Wimbledon titles, Federer is arguably the greatest grass-courter of all time. Undoubtedly, age affects everyone and Federer is more susceptible to defeat with each passing year. After a surprising 5-set defeat to Kevin Anderson last year, many wondered whether Federer would get another chance of adding to his Wimbledon haul.
However, in true Federer style, the Swiss has once again put himself at the forefront of hearts and minds with a surprisingly strong run in the French Open, eventually falling to old nemesis Rafael Nadal in the semis, and making a seamless transition to the grass courts by winning the Halle tournament in Germany for a record tenth time.
After a somewhat disappointing start to the season, Federer has come back with strong performances which suggests he is in as good a form as he can be and confidence will be high for the Number 2 seed that he can in fact reach the top of the mountain once more and win another trophy on his most loved court of all. After all, he may not get another chance.
Young Prospect: Felix Auger-Aliassime (19)
The young Canadian ‘FAA’ has been a revelation over recent months on the ATP tour. Still only 18 years old, the athletically-gifted youngster has an all-court, all-round game that is capable of damaging anybody on grass. In a breakthrough 2019 where the Canadian has reached three tour-level finals, got his first top-10 victory, and a Masters 1000 semi-final, Wimbledon could be the big stage that the confident talent can really announce himself to the world.
Wimbledon has of course been known to be a platform for talented youngsters to thrive, from Boris Becker to Nick Kyrgios to Rafael Nadal. Auger-Aliassime is of course still prone to errors and lapses of concentration, a point which reminds us that he is still very young but improving with every passing match.
It would be wrong to expect an extraordinary result from the Canadian here, but it would be no surprise to see him reach his first latter stage of a Grand Slam, beating established and older players along the way, and giving any big guns a real run for their money. Auger-Aliassime is touted by many as the future of men’s tennis, and it will be intriguing to see just how far he will be able to prove that hope over the next fortnight.
Dark Horse: Feliciano Lopez or John Isner (9)
It is never easy to identify a single outsider or dark horse, as by definition they are the ones who thrive among no expectation or particular prior recognition. Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez, now 37, was a prime example in the Queen’s Club tournament last week. Against all predictions and odds, Lopez completely turned the tables on his 2019 form and managed to win the title, both in the singles and doubles no less. Lopez has always been a strong grass-court player, and success at his age continues to show tennis fans of just what is possible for those who continue to work hard and believe in their ability.
Wimbledon has often been a stage for old-timers to make surprise runs deep into the tournament, with names such as Tommy Haas and Marat Safin being two of many in the last 15 years or so. As long as Lopez stays fit and limits his court time to stay fresh, he has a legitimate chance to make use of a fairly favourable draw and have one last hurrah on the grass courts where he has always been seen as a dangerman, but never reached the highest highs.
Another notable dark horse, largely due to his also favourable draw, is the 6’10, number 9 seeded American John Isner. The ‘Marathon Man’ of 2010 has of course forged a successful career outside of that record match here against Nicolas Mahut and is always a huge threat on grass due to his booming serve, which remains one of, if not the best on tour. After narrowly losing in the semi-finals last year to fellow giant Kevin Anderson, Isner should not be discounted as a legitimate contender, as long as he is fit enough to perform at his best.