Two men born barely a week apart could contest the final of the men’s singles this year – not for the first time. Novak Djokovic sits on top of the men’s tennis world, secure in his number one ranking and seemingly able to produce the goods in almost any circumstances. The other man, of course, is Andy Murray, who captured the hearts of his nation in a thrilling five-set victory over Djokovic on Centre Court in 2013. Since then, the Serb has usually had the edge over the Briton, but huge support from his home crowd might just close that gap this time around.
Roger Federer is in his twilight years, but he cannot be written off. After a year of setbacks and injuries, can the veteran Swiss maestro produce one last surprise? It seems unlikely, but Federer has a stellar record at Wimbledon and won’t shrink from the fight. Rafael Nadal’s time at the top, though, is surely up, the Spaniard weighed down by injury. Federer’s compatriot Stan Wawrinka, already twice a major winner, probably has a better shot at adding a Wimbledon title to his growing portfolio. As a long shot, consider the hugely talented Nick Kyrgios – if the Australian can keep a lid on his fiery temper.
Serena Williams is sure to be the favourite to become women’s singles champion at Wimbledon for the seventh time, her combination of immense power and breathtaking skill making her unbeatable on her day. She’s not invulnerable, however: Britain’s Heather Watson came within a whisker of close to defeating her in the third round last year, and Williams has failed to make the quarter-finals on three occasions in the past six years. Even aged 34, as one of the greatest female players in the history of the game, Williams must be respected.
Nevertheless, there are others. Women’s tennis has more strength in depth than it has for some time, despite Maria Sharapova’s absence, and several players will be eager to dethrone Williams as Queen of Wimbledon, including current world no. 3 Garbine Muguruza. The Spaniard reached the final last year – losing to Williams in a competitive two-setter – and has the all-round game to be a huge threat to the established order. So too does Madison Keys, who shows signs of getting a grip on the inconsistency that has so far prevented her raw talent from bringing her major success.
The tournament’s official title is “The Championships, Wimbledon”, testament to the oldest Grand Slam tournament’s prestige and long history. It has been played on grass courts in southwest London ever since its inception at the small Worple Road site in 1877, and remains the title that players most want to win. The All England Club, which organises the event, started life as a croquet club, but by the mid-1880s tennis had become its focus. Only men were eligible to compete until 1913, and in 1920 Wimbledon moved the short distance to its current home in Church Road.
Wimbledon quickly become enormously popular in Britain, helped by the success of players such as Bunny Austin and triple champion Fred Perry. Despite a long barren period for British tennis after the 1930s, Wimbledon received another boost when the open era, allowing professional players to compete, began in 1968. The 1970s and 1980s saw all-time greats such as Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf at the height of their powers. Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in 1977, but it was not until Andy Murray’s emotional triumph in 2013 that Britain had another singles champion.