The weather forecast may mean an unfamiliar Wimbledon as the much talked about centre-court roof looks like it will be in for quite a work out but one thing will remain familiar for the All England Club’s 125th championship.
The two greatest players of the modern era look set to dominate Wimbledon yet again, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal’s rivalry peaked here in 2008 and together they have shared the last eight championships between them.
SportnewsIRELAND looks at the two favourites and those who pose the greatest threat to their dominance.
Though Federer is seen to be in the twilight of his career and questions have been asked of his ability to claim a 16th Grand Slam, Wimbledon has long been his hunting ground and he remains the king of the grass-court slam.
Federer’s fine performance in the French Open reminded of his greatness, even if it is fading – he ended Novak Djokovic’s 43 match winning streak and played a solid, if losing, final against Nadal.
There is little doubt that the current number 3 has lost some of his edge and last year’s performance took the shine off his near perfect Wimbledon career as he went out in the quarters to Tomas Berdych but the Swiss master’s chances should not be marginalised.
Federer always plays with the confidence of someone who finds the All England Club’s surrounding his natural environment and one less than stellar championship should not take away from the fact he is the best on this surface.
He is looking to equal Pete Sampras’s record of seven championships and if there are doubts about his ability to win another Grand Slam this is the place where he is most likely to show his greatness once again.
Nadal was long thought to be unsuited to the more technical grass-court game but the Spaniard has proved that he is anyone’s match on any surface and is without doubt the most consistent Grand Slam player.
In fact, due to not playing in 2009 due to injury, Nadal is on a 14 game unbeaten streak at Wimbledon and if he can continue his French Open form he is set for another trip to the final day.
With Berdych in his quarter of the draw Nadal is not guaranteed an easy route, especially if his movement is not up to scratch.
Nadal’s athleticism is one aspect that marks him ahead of all other players on the tour at the moment and the faster grass-court game suits his style once he does not succumb to playing it safe by standing off his opponents.
In his past two appearances Nadal has shown he is intent on becoming the next master of Wimbledon and it is hard to see who but Federer can stand in his way.
Djokovic has finally shown that he has the temperament and intelligence to match his skill and he is now contesting for the world number one spot.
The Serb’s record for the year reads 41 wins to one loss but perhaps more importantly for Wimbledon his record against Nadal this year is 4-0 and against Federer is 3-1.
He reached the semi-final last year for the second time and having rested since his French Open defeat he will be looking to put in a strong performance at the championship but it remains to be seen if he can reach that extra gear to outplay Federer or Nadal on grass.
Already having the best year of his career Djokovic will have to have the best tournament of his career to go all the way.
Britain’s/Scotland’s (delete as applicable) great hope has reached the semi-final at the last two times of asking and with the Queen’s Club title he is the only one of the top-four to go into Wimbledon with any grass-court momentum.
In three grand slam finals Murray has melted in the spotlight, never claiming a set, and with the added pressure/support at Wimbledon he will have to show a new found maturity to reach the final as he is likely to face Nadal in the semis.
Murray is certainly capable of winning a Grand Slam but it looks increasingly unlikely to come at Wimbledon and a strong run to the semi-finals looks the most likely outcome.
The dark horses
The three-time runner-up is coming to the end of a career in the shadows of Federer and Nadal but the American’s game still translates strongly onto the grass-court.
His serve has always been his go-to weapon but as his loss to Murray the Queen’s Club showed, he will have to produce an more solid all-round game to advance at Wimbledon but he may well cause an upset in taking out a top seed if he can find his best form.
Quietly tucked away as the world number six Berdych has not won a single’s title since 2009 but as he showed last year by knocking out Federer and Djokovic en route to the final he is not to be overlooked.
The powerful Swed’s game is well suited to upsetting any of the top four should they get complacent, his brutal strength and precision have seen him reach two French Open finals and he will look to improve on his quarter-final here last year.
Always erratic the Frenchman’s attacking style may mean he is as likely to go out in the first round as make it to the quarters but on his day he could upset any of the top-four as he showed by beating Nadal in the semis at Queen’s.
Juan Martin Del Potro
The much fancied US Open winner has yet to impress on grass and though he is still getting up to speed following a lengthy lay-off due to a wrist injury the big hitting Argentine should at least best his previous efforts which have seen him fall at the second round stage.