For many, the next two weeks are the high point of the tennis year — somehow the traditional backdrop of Wimbledon brings out the best in so many of the tour’s top players, and has often been the scene where new stars emerge. This year is no different — here are the questions we’re asking before the fortnight begins:
1. Is The Future Here Yet?
To use his own favorite word, Dominic Thiem has had a “mega” spring — making his first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros, winning four titles — including one each on hard courts, clay and grass, and beating Roger Federer twice. So, it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the young Austrian at the business end of Wimbledon, but given his confident play, the question is — is he ready to win a big one? He’ll have to get through some tough matches early — starting with Florian Mayer, the man who just defeated him in Halle.
2. Is The Future Here to Stay?
Garbine Muguruza might be the only young player who’s had a better spring than Thiem — her emphatic win over Serena Williams at Roland Garros was less a surprise than an eventuality. After her strong play at SW19 in 2015, it was always a matter of when rather than whether. But now that she has a Slam trophy, the question becomes whether there will be a letdown, or if she will use the confidence of winning her first title to propel her way to many more.
3. Are We Getting Ahead of Ourselves?
For all of the excitement around Thiem and Muguruza, the truth of the matter is that the defending champions, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams, are still the people to beat. Djokovic finds himself in the same position as Serena was last year — on a tear, the winner of four Slams in a row, and seemingly impervious to anything his opponents throw his way. He has a very realistic chance at a Golden Slam this year, which would not only further cement his place in history, but would also bring him even with Rafael Nadal’s 14 Slams and within grasp of Federer’s 17. Needless to say, he will be as motivated as ever this fortnight.
As for Serena, her year would be a huge success by anyone else’s standards. But two losses in Grand Slam finals is not why she continues to play on the tour, and surely it will fire her up to go one better this time. It’s always hard to imagine anyone beating Serena, but in the past 9 months, more than a few players have found the imagination to do just that, so this time we’re looking at a more open competition than we have in years.
4. Who Will Win the Supercoach Face Off?
The Supercoach Era is in full swing, with two additions to the ranks — John McEnroe has joined Milos Raonic Tennis, and Ivan Lendl has rejoined Andy Murray’s team (no official name). McEnroe brings a bit of flair and fire to a player who has tended toward the robotic at times, and it seems that both are enjoying their time together, so far. That said, this Wimbledon is likely the litmus test of whether this partnership will last — it’s hard to manage it continuing if Raonic doesn’t at least live up to his seeding and make the quarterfinals. That said, with his serve, if Raonic doesn’t make the quarterfinals, no one at Milos Raonic Tennis should keep their jobs.
As for Lendl-Murray, this was always the Supercoach relationship made in heaven. Lendl has already set the tone — noting that he and Murray are looking forward to spoiling Djokovic’s Golden Slam plans. Given the success the pair had together last time — two Slams and an Olympic gold medal, it’s hard not to be excited about this reunion tour. On the other hand, 2012 Novak Djokovic was less assured, and more prone to folding under pressure than this year’s model, so the task will be much harder this time around. I, for one, will be excited to see Lendl’s stonefaced presence courtside.