Wimbledon Preview: Top 10 Questions (and a Whole Lotta Observations)


By John Huston

1. CAN SERENA WILLIAMS COMPLETE ANOTHER SERENA SLAM AND BRING HER OVERALL SLAM COUNT TO 21 ON THE GREEN LAWNS OF ENGLAND? If she does, she’ll be one Slam away from Steffi Graf heading into the US Open. Grass can be a slippery surface for Serena, and last year’s Wimbledon debacle isn’t fully erased from memory. Plus, she could run into sister Venus—like her, a five-time champion—in the fourth round.

2. CAN NOVAK DJOKOVIC BOUNCE BACK FROM MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT TO REASSERT HIS DOMINANCE OVER THE MEN’S GAME? The top-seeded Serb didn’t play a warmup event, and he knows from experience that his first-round opponent, German vet Philip Kohlschreiber, is no slouch. And it doesn’t get easier from there.

3. CAN ROGER FEDERER RECLAIM GRASS GOD STATUS AND ADD TO HIS SLAM COUNT? He won a warmup in Halle, while his nemesis from last year’s final, Djokovic, may have lost some momentum. Federer faces Bosnia’s Damir Dzhumur (who he just played at Roland Garros) in the first round, and could run into occasional foil Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

4. CAN ANDY MURRAY BRING GLORY TO GREAT BRITAIN A SECOND TIME? The Scot’s game has slowly been growing sharper and his draw looks workable—David Ferrer (never a grass stalwart) and Rafa Nadal (still a question mark) are the other top seeds in his quarter.

5. HOW WILL AMERICA FARE? John Isner has perhaps the kindest draw, though Donald Young and Steve Johnson could upset vulnerable-looking seeds (Tommy Robredo and Grigor Dimitrov, respectively) before the third round. Others don’t have it so easy: Sam Querrey is in the finals of a warmup this week, but both he and Jack Sock could find themselves up against a fellow named Federer early on in London. People will be watching to see if coach Lindsay Davenport can pass along her Wimbledon prowess to Madison Keys, who won a grass title in 2014. Keys stumbled in her sole warmup this year, but she’s landed in struggling Eugenie Bouchard’s section. Sloane Stephens continues to trend upward, reaching the semis at Eastbourne, but her first-round opponent—eccentric No. 27 seed Barbora Strycova—won’t be easy.

6. CAN MARIA SHARAPOVA KEEP HER FOOTING, AND WHICH PETRA KVITOVA WILL SHOW UP AT WIMBLEDON THIS YEAR? Will the enigmatic Czech two-time champ hit winners left, right, and center, or will she hit herself right off the court? Her early opponents don’t look dangerous, though one never knows with Petra. Potential fourth-round opponent Aga Radwanska—a finalist here in 2010—might be tricky. As for Sharapova, her first-round match against Brit Johanna Konta will feature some big hitting, but she has a kind draw—potential third-round opponent Daria Gavrilova isn’t as likely to trouble her on grass, and she could reach the quarters without facing a challenge, provided her game is working.

7. CAN TROUBLED CLAY KING RAFA NADAL REGAIN HIS FORM ON THE GRASS? Nadal’s 2015 is beginning to look like a more severe version of Federer’s 2013, with surprising losses outnumbering even small titles. He won a warmup in Stuttgart, but he could be vulnerable as early as the second-round, where he might face Dustin Brown, who straight-setted him  in Halle last year.

8. COULD THE WTA’S STACEY ALLASTER HAVE DREAMT UP A BETTER FIRST-ROUND MATCH THAN GENIE BOUCHARD VS. YING-YING DUAN? Last year’s Wimbledon finalist and current marketable golden girl has had a truly terrible 2015, but if she loses yet another first-round match, at least it’ll be to a big-hitter from China who has attracted mischievous comparisons to Lindsay Davenport.

9. CAN REIGNING ROLAND GARROS CHAMP STAN WAWRINKA RAISE HIS GRASS GAME AND RAISE ANOTHER SLAM TROPHY? Wawrinka hasn’t excelled on the surface, but he gave Federer a tough time in the quarters here last year.

10. WHICH PLAYERS WILL BE COMING AT US LIKE A DARK HORSE ON THE GRASS? The men’s side has no shortage of seeds whose draws present an opportunity to catch fire, including 2014 US Open champ Marin Cilic and Serbia’s Viktor Troicki. At least three of eight quarters (Grigor Dimitrov-to-Milos Raonic; David Ferrer-to-Nadal; Tomas Berdych-to-Gilles Simon) look potentially volatile. The women’s side features a number of young or rising seeds with grass skills (Karolina Pliskova, Madison Keys, Camila Giorgi, junior champ Belinda Bencic) and some equally dangerous unseeded players—Kristina Mladenovic, Sloane Stephens, Croatian teen Ana Konjuh, and Bulgarian perennial Tsvetana Pironkova, to name just four.