The grass is green. The outfits are white. And the food is red. Welcome to July and the tradition known as Wimbledon! The third grand slam of the tennis season hits the historic courts of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the 131st edition of The Championships and the 50th in the Open Era.
Defending gentlemen's champion Andy Murray looks to defend his crown in front of the home "nation" supporters while defending women's champion Serena Williams prepares for motherhood and will miss her second consecutive slam. The fight for the #1 will also be on the line for both the ATP and WTA rankings. Murray, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and Novak Djokovic are all in contention to claim the #1 ranking by the end of The Championships. Angelique Kerber, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova will aim for the title and #1 ranking on the WTA side of the draw.
Up to this point of the season, the ATP tour has hit a reset button and the hands of time are being reversed. 31 year old Rafael Nadal is fresh off another French Open title following the heals of rival Roger Federer claiming his 18th grand slam at the Australian Open at the tender age of 35. Djokovic and Murray have now reached the pivotal age of 30 and Wawrinka, another multi-grand slam champion, is 32 years old. It was only a few years ago we were talking about the "young" generation toppling the "experienced" generation at the top of the rankings. Yet, here we are in 2017 with 30+ year old players still dominating the tour results and winning the big slams. The up and comers of Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, Grigor Dimitrov and now Dominic Thiem and Alex Zverev have yet to make their move to the grand slam champions table. Could this be the slam we see a changing of the guard or #HistoryRepeating?
While the ATP slam results see the same names at the end of the week, the WTA is seeing the opposite occur. Each slam poses a realistic opportunity for a number of players to claim a grand slam championship. Case in point, the 2017 French Open. 20-year old Latvian Jelena Ostapenko claimed her maiden slam title by dispatching heavily favoured Romanian Simona Halep in the championship final. Ostapenko was a dark horse entering the event but few predicted her to actually win the title. Switzerland's Timea Bacsinszky and Czech Republic's Karolina Pliskova reached the SF round in Paris, ensuring a first-time champion would be crowned on the red clay. Sure Serena Williams won the Australian Open to kick off the slam season, besting sister Venus in the final, but last season we started seeing this parity on the women's tour with Angelique Kerber claiming two grand slam titles (Australian Open, US Open) and Garbine Muguruza winning her first (French Open). And now with Serena hitting the sidelines for the remainder of the season, the field is wide open for the trend of maiden slam winners to provide shock, awe and inspiration to the WTA tour.
Let's get to the #TwineTime preview and predictions for both the gentlemen's and ladies draws. For the preview, a Top 5 list of Favourites, Watch Out For and Dark Horses will be presented. The Favourites list can include anyone in the draw while the Watch Out For are players seeded below 10 and/or unseeded and Dark Horse picks are players unseeded. Serve it up....let's see if #TwineTime can hit an ace:
Watch Out For
The Dark Horses
David Ferrer - Out of respect, Ferrer needs to get a mention here. The 2017 Wimbledon tournament marks the first slam Ferrer is not seeded since the 2005 Australian Open. The former #3 ranked player in the world (2013) and French Open finalist is hitting the tail end of his career. Wimbledon has never been best slam, with his best performance being the QF in 2012 and 2013. He opens against #22 Richard Gasquet. His last R1 slam defeat was back at the 2005 Wimbledon. If he can upset Gasquet, he could reach R3 and turn back the clock a bit.
#1 Andy Murray def. #14 Lucas Pouille
#24 Sam Querrey def. Daniil Medvedev
#30 Karen Khachanov def. #16 Gilles Muller
#9 Kei Nishikori def. #7 Marin Cilic
#6 Milos Raonic def. #10 Alex Zverev
#3 Roger Federer def. #13 Grigor Dimitrov
#11 Tomas Berdych def. #8 Dominic Thiem
#19 Feliciano Lopez def. #2 Novak Djokovic
#1 Murray def. #24 Querrey
#30 Khachanov def. #9 Nishikori
#3 Federer def. #6 Raonic
#19 Lopez def. #11 Berdych
#1 Murray def. #30 Khachanov
#3 Federer def. #19 Lopez
Gentlemen's Championship: #3 Roger Federer def. #1 Andy Murray in 4 sets - The final we all want to see. Expect a back and forth match for the opening two sets before Federer pulls away and collects grand slam #19 at SW19.
Gentlemen's Doubles Championship: #3 Jamie Murray / Bruno Soares def. #4 Lukasz Kubot / Marcelo Melo - The top two teams on grass this season battle it out with Murray and Melo having the extra prize of claiming the #1 ranking if they win. Brother Andy may suffer a championship final loss but Jamie will still bring home a title to the Murray household.
Watch Out For
The Dark Horses
Donna Vekic / Natalia Vikhlyantseva - Oh draw gods why must you curse me? This has to be what Croatian Vekic and Russian Vikhlyantseva were saying when the Wimbledon draw was released last Friday. Both of these players have been playing top level tennis this grass court season and both had the potential to make deep dark horse runs through the draw....until they were matched up against one another in R1. Vekic is up to a career high #57 in the rankings after a Nottingham Open win over Konta a few weeks ago. Vikhlyantseva also has reached a career high ranking of #65 after reaching her first career final this year at the Ricoh Open, the same time Vekic was winning a title in Nottingham. Expect a tight 3 set match here with the winner probably getting #6 Konta in R2 with a real threat to pull the upset and make a deep run to possibly R4 vs. Kvitova.
Genie Bouchard - The former finalist has looked anything but a slam contender since her breakout year of 2014 where she reached the SF in Melbourne and Paris, the finals here at SW19 and R4 in New York. The young Canadian is only 23-year old though remember and still has lots of time to right the ship and get her game back on track. She showed life last year reaching R3 here and did reach R3 at the 2017 Australian Open as well. She draws crafty Spaniard #20 Carla Suarez Navarro in R1 but, should she survive, a possible R3 battle with #2 Halep could be fun to watch.
#1 Angelique Kerber def. #23 Kiki Bertens
#7 Svetlana Kuznetsova def. #19 Timea Bacsinszky
#3 Karolina Pliskova def. #16 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
#24 CoCo Vandeweghe def. Tsvetana Pironkova
#27 Anna Konjuh def. #22 Barbara Strycova
#17 Madison Keys def. Carina Witthoft
#11 Petra Kvitova def. #6 Johanna Konta
#15 Elena Vesnina def. #2 Simona Halep
#1 Kerber def. #7 Kuznetsova
#3 Pliskova def. #24 Vandeweghe
#27 Konjuh def. #17 Keys
#11 Kvitova def. #15 Vesnina
#3 Pliskova def. #1 Kerber
#11 Kvitova def. #27 Konjuh
Ladies Championship: #3 Karolina Pliskova def. #11 Petra Kvitova in 3 sets - After everything Kvitova has been through recently, she will be the huge sentimental favourite here. But her compatriot Pliskova will steal the spotlight and pick up her first grand slam win.
Ladies Doubles Championship: #1 Bethanie Mattek-Sands / Lucie Safarova def. #3 Chan Yung-jan / Martina Hingis in 2 sets - This win would give the #1 duo the distinction of holding all FOUR slams at the same time (otherwise known as the Serena Slam).
Enjoy the two weeks of grass court grand slam of tennis action ball boys and girls. I always love the tradition of Wimbledon truly kicking off the summer season....and nothing quenches your taste buds better than watching people eat strawberries and cream. Whip up your own recipe at home and cheer on your favourite players.
Anyone want to guess the plus/minus days of delay due to rain? #TwineTime is going with 2.5!