By The Britwatch Team
Wimbledon is around the corner and who better to try and figure out the runners and riders than your resident Tennis correspondents as we try and predict champs, chumps and how the Brits will do.
Ros – Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief and pretty much always right?
ATP Champion – Novak Djokovic – hard to see anyone, yes even Andy beating him although at Boodles he did look like he was shaking out his arm/wrist. He admitted he had needed a break to get his head right after losing the French Open final, but he will be up for this. However I am more than willing to be proved wrong if we have a Djokovic/Murray final.
ATP Dark Horse – Nick Kyrgios – he is a big occasion player, not to mention vegemite-like for fans – you either love him or you hate the bluster and the showing off. He has a lot to learn but he has the raw talent, and remains fearless. He could well advance at the expense of Milos Raonic, returning from injury and could be the surprise in that section of the draw.
ATP Early Exit – Rafael Nadal – he did win in Stuttgart but then fell in meek fashion in Queen’s and he looks to face a determined Viktor Troicki (who he beat in Stuttgart). Things have not aligned well for the Spaniard on the big stages this year, and Wimbledon does not lend itself as the place where that will all turn around.
Andy Murray – Final
Aljaz Bedene – R2
Liam Broady – R2
James Ward – R1
Kyle Edmund – R1
Brydan Klein – R1
It is hard to see Klein and Ward getting past fairly hefty seeds this early, and Alexandr Dolgopolov is likely to be too much for a match-lacking Edmund. Liam Broady could well pull of a shock against Marinko Matosevic on the grass and be good for a round, and if Bedene can deal with Stepanek’s antics, he could also be good for a quick advance. Really our hopes rest with Murray who has a tough route to the finals, but is playing perhaps better than when he did the deed in 2013. It may all come down to beating his nemesis Djokovic when it matters the most.
WTA Champion – Petra Kvitova – she has really impressed me this year for her attitude off the court. She was brave enough to take a complete two month break for exhaustion and to find herself again instead of trying to play through it, and came back to win the Madrid title on a surface she refuses to adapt to, making it adapt to her! But despite having to withdraw from Eastbourne, she hits flat and hard and with a solid serve she is made for the grass. If anyone is going to stop Serena from a calendar Slam it’s Petra
WTA Dark Horse – Agnieszka Radwanska – it has been a turbulent time for the Pole, getting a super-coach, losing a super-coach and then falling out of the Top 10. But now she looks to be regaining some confidence in just playing her game. The fact that her stats on grass are just 1% behind her results on hard shows how well she can play, but she does need to start getting those top-notch wins against the power players. Losing to Belinda Bencic in Eastbourne and falling away badly as she does, she will need to work hard to gallop up home straight in the second week.
WTA Early Exit – Simona Halep – Although she is another one who has impressed me with the talk this year about dealing with being the hunted and no longer the hunter, she still found the pressure a challenge in the clay court season that really could have been made for her. Having just split with her coach too, it wouldn’t surprise me if she shipped out early and came back full throttle to bookend her year with successes on the hard courts
Heather Watson: R3
Johanna Konta: R1
Naomi Broady: R2
Laura Robson: R2
Watson has had a disrupted grass court season with her elbow, and perhaps started just too slowly against Sloane Stephens in Eastbourne. She has the game to frustrate Caroline Garcia, and she could well be a match for Dominika Cibulkova in the next round, but she is slated to meet Serena Williams in the third round and that would be a tough ask.
It would be fantastic if Konta could pull off the early exit shock of the week and oust Maria Sharapova in the first round. Sharapova has always admitted to the jitters early on and it would be great to see Konta start swiftly and take a set off her at least.
Actually Naomi Broady possibly has the best chance of the wildcards to advance to R2, when she faces clay courter Mariana Duque-Marino. She kept her composure to oust Ajla Tomljanovic in Birmingham and hung well with Halep in the first set, but with the prospect of a super-aggressive Andrea Petkovic next, that could be where her Wimbledon ends.
Laura Robson has no expectations of advancing in just her second tournament back after 17 months off the tour, but she too has a fighting chance against Evgeniya Rodina. It feels a little soon though, but if she plays with no expectations she may just pull off the surprise, and give herself a good boost.
Phil – Co-founder, King of the Pimms and sometimes right…?
ATP Champion – Novak Djokovic – At the moment, I’m flitting between Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic almost every day! Murray is playing fantastically and if he had Djokovic’s draw then I would definitely go with the Scot. We’ve been guilty before of writing off players before because of hard draws before which is dangerous given the amazing stamina the top players have these days. Do I think Murray, or Roger Federer can win it? Absolutely! But their tests seem so much greater than the Serb’s, who’s success may come down to his return of serve with the likes of Bernard Tomic, Marin Cilic, Kevin Anderson, John Isner, and Milos Raonic all in his side of the draw. On current form I’m going with Andy but my head says Djokovic because at the moment I just don’t see him losing to anyone until at least the final.
ATP Dark Horse – Kei Nishikori/Kevin Anderson – Can you be the dark horse if you are the fifth seed? Probably not but I also think Nishikori won’t be at the top of many people’s lists, especially those who don’t follow the tour all year long. He didn’t perform at his best in the US Open final and will be desperate for another shot at joining the elite group of grand slam winners.
If the courts are fast and he replicates his form from Queens, expect Kevin Anderson to make a run to the last 16 and maybe even give Djokovic some trouble. The 6’8” South African was well beaten at Queen’s Club by Andy Murray but looked impressive on his run to the final.
ATP Early Exit – David Ferrer – See also the Brits section – so this pick could go spectacularly wrong for me but we’ve seen James Ward play his best tennis on the big stage of Davis Cup, and has good form on grass, something we can’t say for the eighth seeded Ferrer from Spain.
Murray is in his best form since he won in SW19 in 2013, if not better. Although his run to the final could see him need to beat Andreas Seppi, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Rafa Nadal and Federer, for the first time in a while it seems to be all about how Murray plays – if he plays his best, it should be the final at least.
Bedene might squeeze past veteran Radek Stepanek but that will probably be it for him. It would be great if the AELTC put him on say Court 2 to see if the Slovenian born, now British citizen, can enjoy some home crowd support.
As for James Ward – see Early Exit prediction! So I’m all in on the British No. 3, even predicting he’ll make it to the third round where Fabio Fognini will probably do for him.
Sadly I don’t see Edmund, Klein or Broady making an impact this year, though if Edmund can play his best and ride the support of the British crowd he might give Alexandr Dolgopolov a scare.
WTA Champion – Serena Williams – Only Serena can beat Serena….
WTA Dark Horse – Belinda Bencic – The 18 year old has been impressing on tour for a while now and has played well to reach the Eastbourne final this week. I’m really looking forward to a potential third round match against Ana Ivanovic, who herself is in her best form for a few years.
WTA Early Exit – Eugenie Bouchard – Bouchard is a crowd favourite and last year’s runner up but the 21-year-old Canadian is in woeful form with one win in her last 11 matches. There’s no doubting Bouchard’s potential but if continues her poor form into round one where she faces a Ying-Ying Duan, a qualifier with three wins already under belt, it could be Bouchard’s second first-round Slam exit in a row,
Heather Watson: R3
Johanna Konta: R1
Laura Robson: R1
Naomi Broady: R2
It’s not a great draw for the Brits. Watson faces the 32nd seed Carolina Garcia from France in round one and although Watson will be the underdog she can definitely cause an upset. A tough second round match against Daniela Hantuchova or Dominika Cibulkova would then stand between the Guernsey girl and top seed Serena Williams.
I loved watching Jo Konta’s run to the Eastbourne quarter-final this week but Maria Sharapova is just too tough a draw. Hopefully the match will be on Centre or Court One to give Konta the crowd support and national exposure that she deserves.
Everyone is pleased to see Laura Robson back playing tennis after 18 months out with a wrist injury but her 6-0, 6-1 loss to Daria Gavrilova in Eastbourne qualifying demonstrated what a long road back this is going to be for the former British number one and Olympic doubles silver medallist. World number 101 Evgeniya Rodina may be a fairer test but it’s still optimistic to see this as anything other than match practice for Robson.
Meanwhile Naomi Broady had a decent win two weeks ago at the AEGON Classic Birmingham against top 100 Ajla Tomljanovic and here’s hoping she can replicate her first round win at Wimbledon last year by defeating world number 99 Mariana Duque-Marino.
Niall – New recruit and bottle-washer-in-chief. Never tell him he’s right!
WTA Champion – Petra Kvitova – We all know how well Petra Kvitova can play when she is 100% focused. The defending champion has one of the biggest games on tour, and she certainly knows her way around these courts having won Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014. As a second seed here, she will avoid Serena until the final at least and with Halep’s recent struggles, the draw looks fairly kind for Petra. Coming in as perhaps the second favourite behind Serena, it is not bold to predict that Kvitova will reign supreme at SW19 once again.
WTA Dark Horse – Sabine Lisicki – Most people (including myself) will say either Serena or Kvitova for title, but believe it could be Lisicki’s year at last. The German always peaks for Wimbledon. It is her favourite and best tournament by a long shot and her game fits perfectly with grass. Kerber in round four will be a huge test given Lisicki’s record against her compatriot, but if she can get through that then she will definitely be hitting the deep waters. She is not my prediction, but she is certainly a dark horse.
WTA Early Exit – Simona Halep – It is easy to say Eugenie Bouchard given her recent slump, but I am going to stray away from that and say Simona Halep. The third seed was a semi-finalist last year, but this season the weight of expectation seems to be taking its toll. She failed to defend her French Open final points after being dumped out early by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni. The Romanian could suffer a similar fate here if she is not careful.
Unfortunately I do not see the British women having a good tournament. Watson has a tough but winnable round one against Caroline Garcia, but if the Frenchwoman plays anywhere near the level she is capable of, then I do not see Watson winning. Konta has the toughest round one against Maria Sharapova. Despite her good form in Eastbourne, Sharapova will be too much for her.
Robson is finally back, but she will still be rusty after a long injury layoff so it is difficult to see her winning. That leaves Broady, who has a very winnable opener against Mariana Duque-Marino. The Colombian is not known for a grass court expertise, so a good chance of Broady making round two, but I doubt she can go any further.
ATP Champion – Andy Murray – Full of confidence after his greatest ever clay court season, Andy Murray will bid for a second Wimbledon title over the next two weeks. Back on arguably his best surface, Murray is one of the best grass courters in the world and amongst the favourites to take home the title. The Brit has a tough draw with potentially Rafael Nadal or David Ferrer in the quarter finals, then Roger Federer in the semi-finals, but with all three of those players past their best it is very winnable for third seed. With Murray back to his best, it is difficult to see where he might be stopped.
ATP Dark Horse – Milos Raonic – Out of the top four seeds, Stan Wawrinka is the most vulnerable on grass so that leaves the draw potentially open for someone like Raonic, who has been drawn in the same quarter as the French Open champion. With his big serve and powerful ground strokes, Raonic’s game suits the grass as proven by his semi-final run last year. If the serve is clicking over the two weeks, the Canadian might be nearly impossible to break. A semi-final is certainly possible, and with Djokovic’s known problems with the elite servers, a final might not be as farfetched as it seems.
ATP Early Exit – Tomas Berdych – Tomas Berdych seems to have a habit of having one early exit at a grand slam every year. Last year it was Wimbledon, the year before that it was the French Open, and in 2012 it was Wimbledon again. So far the big Czech has been the staple of consistency on tour, rarely losing to players ranked below him. He faces a tough draw here though, with plenty of capable players who can cause an upset. Jeremy Chardy can have on of those inspired days, Nicholas Mahut is one of the most dangerous players on these courts, Lukas Rosol and Ernest Gulbis can catch fire at any second. There is plenty of potential for an early exit for Berdych, which is why he’s my pick for a bust.
Despite plenty of early exits, Murray lifting the trophy will be considered a big success for the British contingent. The British men have tough draws, especially ward who faces Ferrer in the first round. It is hard to see Edmund coping with the variety of Dolgopolov, and Seppi will be too solid for Klein. Broady has a winnable round one against Matosevic, but I am backing the Aussie to scrape through that one. That leaves only Aljaz Bedene, who aside Murray has the best shot to win his opener. The Slovenian born Brit faces Radek Stepanek- who is semi-retired by this point. Troicki in the second round will be too tough however.
Wimbledon starts on Monday 29 June – Televised coverage is on the BBC and on the BBC Sport Website, or follow all the action here on our live-scores page