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Federer favourite despite Halle loss

The defeat in the final at Halle has slightly dented the Swiss legend’s status as the shoo-in for a ninth Wimbledon crown

Federer favourite despite Halle loss

Last week we discussed how Roger Federer was the overwhelming favourite heading into Wimbledon as he surged towards what would’ve been a 10th title at Halle. While Federer still remains a strong favourite, the defeat in the final at Halle has slightly dented the Swiss legend’s status as the shoo-in for a ninth Wimbledon crown.

Borna Coric, Federer’s conqueror last week, who snapped his 20-match streak on grass, came into the tournament having only won two matches on grass in his entire career. The 21-year-old has been a rising star of men’s tennis for the past 3-4 years, but the surface was never his forte. But beating Federer on grass would not only encourage Coric to finally take the step upwards towards fulfilling that potential, it would also provide hope to others seeking to undo the Swiss at Wimbledon.

Federer’s loss meant that he exchanged ATP ranking spots with Rafael Nadal once again, with the Spaniard returning to the No 1 spot. Nadal having skipped Queens will be without any competitive action on grass heading into Wimbledon, but will play a couple of exhibition matches and would be hoping to bank on the form he mustered in the clay court swing to power him through at SW19.

Nadal hasn’t made it past the Round of 16 at Wimbledon since 2011. And while he remains vulnerable in the first week of the grass major, a favourable draw and a run into the second week could make him one of the favourites in that point in time.

However, among those who would’ve gained confidence from Federer’s slip up would be last year’s Wimbledon finalist Marin Cilic, who won at Queens after overcoming Novak Djokovic in a pulsating three-set encounter. Outside of Federer, Cilic should be the next in line to win his second major after the 2014 US Open.

While Djokovic lost the final, he’s playing his best tennis of the past 18 months. And he would only feel stronger if he goes deeper into the tournament at Wimbledon. If the draw opens up for him, the three-time Wimbledon champion might be able to bank on his Grand Slam experience in the latter stages of the tournament.

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray has returned after a year out as well. And while it would be too soon to expect him to be challenging for any high-profile tournaments, let alone majors, he would be a wild card lurking in the draw, setting up potential big-name matchups early on.

Among the younger lot, Coric of course has had the most lucrative grass court build up to Wimbledon. After him, Nick Kyrgios has looked dangerous, with the Australian being a tie-break away from beating Federer at Stuttgart.

Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, after long clay court seasons, haven’t fared well on the grass. And it is extremely likely that one – or both – of them could be heading out early at Wimbledon.

The draw, which would’ve come out by the time you read this, will be crucial as always. And in that regard, Wimbledon’s unique seeding system might benefit some of the bigger names.

While Nadal has replaced Federer as the World No 1, the Swiss will be seeded 1 at Wimbledon and the Spaniard 2. And even though this interchange won’t impact the draw itself, other seeding reshuffle could.

For instance, both Kyrgios and Djokovic are seeded inside the top 16, despite being ranked outside of it, which means they would avoid the top seeds – and vice versa – till the fourth round. Cilic too being seeded 3rd, while being ranked 5th, would avoid Federer and Nadal till the semi-final stage.

Since 2003, only four men have won Wimbledon: Federer (8), Djokovic (3), Nadal (2) and Murray (2). And with the other members of the once-called Big Four struggling at varying levels, the two likeliest scenarios at Wimbledon this year are a ninth crown for Federer or a first-time winner.

The win for Federer would take his Grand Slam tally to 21, keeping the Fedal stranglehold at majors going with the duo having won the previous six majors.

It would be a massive surprise if either Djokovic or Murray – especially the latter – end up winning at SW19, and it would need a massive overhaul of the draw in favour of either. Djokovic should be happy with making to the latter stages and building on his quarter-final run at Roland Garros. For Murray, any wins would be a bonus.

Nadal meanwhile would be looking to overcome the voodoo, and go past the Round of 16 – every time he has done that at Wimbledon he’s made the final.

And as far as potential first-time Wimbledon winners are concerned, it’s hard to look past Cilic and Kyrgios. For the latter, it would not just be a first ever Wimbledon crown, but a first major as well.

K Shahid

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