By John Huston
WILL MURRAY AND MOMO FLY OR FLOP? In the brief window between Roland Garros and the Championships, the talk of the tennis world has been Andy Murray’s selection of Amelie Mauresmo as his new coach. Going into his Wimbledon title defense, with all of merry old England already watching his every move, Murray’s decision has garnered a reaction from everyone. Fellow pro Marinko “Mad Dog” Matosevic used it as a chance to fire some shots at women’s tennis, outspoken Ernests Gulbis offered some expected snarkiness, and former pro Tim Mayotte—once coached by Billie Jean King—weighed in with more thorough skepticism. On the bright side, Murray has some good British karma—thanks to the home cooking of the All England Club, he was upgraded to No. 3 seed, with what looks like a relatively easy draw to the quarters or even semis. He faces Belgium’s diminutive David Goffin in the first round.
CAN RAFA RETURN TO FORMER GRASS GLORY? Of the top four seeds, perhaps none has a tougher draw than Rafa Nadal. The Spaniard, who hasn’t gotten past the second round in two years, could face his 2012 conqueror Lukas Rosol again in that round, but he has to beat Slovakia’s tricky Martin Klizan first. There was a time when Rafa ruled the grass, reaching the Wimbledon final five out of six years in a row and taking two titles. But since 2012, his record on the surface has been a dire 2-4, and he goes into Wimbledon having lost three matches in a row on the surface.
WHAT’S GOING ON WITH NOLE? In the leadup to majors, Novak Djokovic has become a reliable winner’s choice for analysts—both Patrick McEnroe and Chris Evert tip him to win Wimbledon this year. But while the Serb has been triumphant at ATP events, he hasn’t won a Slam since last year’s Australian Open. He goes into Wimbledon with no matches since the bum trip of his French Open final loss, and fresh speculation that his wrist might be bothering him. Can Nole regain his footing on the grass? He has some big-hitting Ernests Gulbis and formidable grass players Jo-Willly Tsonga and Tomas Berdych in his quarter, but he’s dominated all three and Tsonga has been struggling.
WILL THERE BE A HIGH INJURY COUNT? There were times last year when Wimbledon resembled an accident scene, with players like John Isner almost immediately falling prey to surface-specific injuries, while others slipped, slid, and narrowly avoided harm. All England Club came in for criticism, and some claimed officials were in denial about the conditions. In Wimbledon’s first few days this year, all eyes will be on the quality of the courts, not just the players. Adding to the intrigue, some of the top seeds aren’t in tip-top shape. Rafa has voiced concerns about his back since winning the French Open. Nole pulled out of an exhibition this week, spurring new murmurs about wrist problems. And No. 5 seed Stan Wawrinka is ill in the hospital.
ARE THERE EARLY FIREWORKS ON THE HORIZON? This year’s lineup of potentially dramatic first-round matches includes: Fernando Verdasco vs. Marinko Matosevic; Marcos Baghdatis vs. recent Rafa conqueror Dustin Brown; and an all-American battle between US No. 3 Sam Querrey and No. 4 Bradley Klahn. Potential second-round square-offs: Novak Djokovic vs. Radek Stepanek; Ernests Gulbis vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky; Grigor Dimitrov vs. Dominic Thiem in a battle of the Baby Feds; 2013 semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz vs. Lleyton Hewitt; Milos Raonic vs. Jack Sock.
WHO WILL MAKE THE MOST NOISE OFF THE COURT? There is no doubt that a resurgent Ernests Gulbis was the most quotable player at Roland Garros. Going into Wimbledon, he’s getting some online competition from Frank Dancevic. The Canadian, long pegged as an underachiever, posted a lengthy Facebook screed about shoddy conditions and poor treatment of players at Wimbledon’s qualifying rounds in Roehampton. The complaints didn’t stop him from receiving a lucky loser spot in the main draw at All England Club. Will he make more waves? His first round is a tall order by the name of Ivo Karlovic.
CAN THE AMERICAN MEN MOVE FORWARD ON GRASS? The French Open proved to be surprisingly successful for the US men, relatively speaking, with Donald Young and Jack Sock scoring some wins, and John Isner making the first fourth round appearance by an American man since 2012. Can the US contingent—rounded out by Bradley Klahn, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Alex Kuznetsov, Ryan Harrison, Michael Russell, and Denis Kudla—advance further in England?
CAN RYAN HARRISON EVER CATCH A BREAK? For once, Ryan Harrison—who had to fight through qualifying for a place in the main draw—won’t have to face the likes of Rafa Nadal in the first round, but No. 11 seed Grigor Dimitrov is no walk in the park.
IS BABY FED READY TO GROW UP AND SHOW UP? The ka-ching! photogenic love match that is Maria Sharapova and Grigor Dimitrov is on a winning run of late, with the Bulgarian responding to his girlfriend’s French Open victory by taking the title in Eastbourne. His record at Wimbledon thus far hasn’t been impressive, but he’s definitely progressing, having won tourneys on hard court, clay, and grass this year. Can he make a great leap forward on the sport’s most hallowed stage?
WILL FEDERER REGAIN HIS CROWN AS KING OF GRASS? While seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer fell to Ernests Gulbis in Paris, he’s had a strong year so far, and won the grass warm-up in Halle, defeating Kei Nishikori along the way. Many feel that if the Federer story includes another Slam title, it’s most likely to come at the All England Club—his peak moments of grace have been on the grass. But the surface can be a tricky mistress, and more recently, he’s struggled, making his first early departure from England in over a decade last year. On paper at least, his first three rounds this year don’t look threatening. Simply put, you can’t count Roger Federer out.