The deeply familiar names of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have shared the Grand Slam spoils this year so far.
As the three-week grass court build-up to Wimbledon begins in earnest, we check on the prospects of the world’s top five players...
The world No 1 has returned from Paris with his mojo rediscovered and Ivan Lendl in tow. That the Czech has not returned to his American home marks the seriousness of their intentions, and Murray is expected to begin tuning up at Queen’s Club today. The 30-year-old has not lost on grass since 2015 and has won the Aegon Championships five times. This year’s edition is next week and the fog that engulfed him until Roland Garros should now have lifted. Nobody moves better than him on a grass court. He knows this time of year off by heart.
Grass court prospects rating:
If you were going just on the way he has looked in recent months you would bracket him among the joint favourites for Wimbledon. Yet after his Paris triumph, the 31-year-old Spaniard struck a note of caution, pointing out that the lower movements required on grass these days take more of a toll on his fragile knees. This has been shown in his results since 2011 at SW19, where he has not gone past the fourth round. How he gets on at Queen’s Club next week after a break at home should be instructive. His rebooted serve will help. 4/5
The great Swiss has adopted a very similar approach to this year’s Wimbledon to the one that brought him astonishing success in Australia. He is focusing everything on hitting his peak for the two weeks in early July — and has done so for some months now, wisely skipping the clay to get the body ready. Federer is back this week playing the relatively low-grade ATP grass event in Stuttgart and then goes again in Halle. All his actions and words suggest he really believes he can win Wimbledon again this summer, aged 35. Nadal’s 10th win at Roland Garros — and 15th Grand Slam in total — means he is three behind Federer’s tally. That may further focus the mind. 5/5
It is now exactly a year since the 30-year-old Serb started falling away, and he has become something of the man of mystery. It should, however, be pointed out that after 12 months in a relative slump he is still the world No 4, so it is not as if his form has tumbled over a cliff. But where he is in his head is anyone’s guess. He needs to sort out his coaching situation and work out whether a half-committed Andre Agassi in charge is a serious option. The top priority is a proper travelling coach. There is no indication yet whether he will go against past form and make a late entry into one of the grass warm-up events, or do his usual thing of playing the odd exhibition prior to Wimbledon. 3.5/5
Among the things that happened on a very busy Sunday for the Swiss was the news seeping out that he has hired experienced American coach Paul Annacone to help him during the grass-court season. This is a statement of intent, as among Annacone’s coaching credits are oiling the engine of Pete Sampras and guiding Tim Henman. Although still at his peak, at 32 there are not many more years to crack the grass for Wawrinka. You would assume Annacone will try to sharpen up his net game, which is not his strongest suit. He would not be among the best movers on grass either, but it is never wise to underestimate the Diesel at major events. 3/5