Wimbledon 2018: Roger Federer's charge for ninth title to Serena Williams' return, here are some talking points ahead of the event

With all the hype of the football World Cup, it is almost easy to forget that Wimbledon begins next week. Here are six things to look out for over the next two weeks.

Roger Federer and the quest for Number 9
No conversation can begin about SW19 without talking about Roger Federer. With Nadal and Federer alternating Grand Slam wins since 2017, it is Roger’s turn to win Wimbledon and it’s not surprising to see him as the significant favorite.

 Wimbledon 2018: Roger Federers charge for ninth title to Serena Williams return, here are some talking points ahead of the event

Roger Federer suffered a surprise defeat in the final of the Halle Open on 24 June. AFP

But if you look closely, things may not be as easy as it seems. After taking time off during the clay court season, Federer won his first grass tournament of the year in Stuttgart. Things changed at the Halle Open as he had a tough time in most of his matches before eventually losing the final to Croatia's Borna Coric.

Federer hasn’t looked his best in both these tournaments and while Wimbledon is a different ballgame, an upset might be on the cards. Yes, this is a best of five sets tournament and you have to favor the eight-time champion, but there is no doubt that the two weeks will require him to use all his skills, experience and talent to pull off the win.

The 'W' in Wimbledon
The W in Women’s may just stand for Williams. Since 2000, a player with the last name ‘Williams’ has won twelve of the eighteen ladies singles titles. The dominance of the two sisters at Wimbledon has been so unbelievable that despite being ranked 183 in the World, as she took a break from the game, Serena Williams is still the second favorite to win it all as per betfair.com odds.

Much like Federer, she has history, experience and raw talent on her side. The question remains: Is her body fit enough to last two weeks as Serena did pull out of the French Open with an injury? Count her out at your own peril but if Serena has to return to her dominant ways this is the place where she can get it done, after all she’s won it seven times.

Rafael Nadal
Wimbledon has been a bit of a challenge for Rafa and this year may not be different. After dominating the clay court season year after year, Rafa hasn’t done much at Wimbledon in the past few years. Here's a look at his performances over the past few years:

2012- second round
2013- first round
2014- fourth round
2015- second round
2016- missed the tournament
2017- fourth round

The bottom line is while he could manage both the clay and grass season from 2006 to 2011, things have changed since. His body just can’t handle the switch as easily anymore and Rafa making a deep run in the tournament seems unlikely.

Will someone else please stand up?
Who will challenge Federer? It is not going to be Nadal. Can it be Djokovic, who looks like he is just one big win away from returning to his winning ways? Marion Cilic, last year's finalist is currently the third favorite behind Roger and Novak. Being one of the few players outside the quartet of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Andy Murray to a Grand Slam in recent times (2014 US Open), he is someone who knows what it is like to win a big one. He will meet Federer in the semi-final if they both pull through. Will it be the young Zverev that will begin his accession or is it too early for him?

If Federer is to lose early, it will be a shock loss and then it is anybody’s tournament. The thing to look out for here is early form and the ability to adjust quickly to grass. It is the big servers that will make it through to week two.

Women contenders
Not many women have shown consistency on grass over the years. The only two players who may seriously challenge the Williams sisters are two-time winner Petra Kvitova and last year’s winner Garbine Muguruza. Both of them have shown the ability to do well at Wimbledon and while Muguruza’s form on grass is has not been the best this season, she is likely to be ready for the challenge.

World number 1 Simona Halep made a major breakthrough a month ago by winning the French Open, her maiden slam. But her game is not ideally suited for grass and so not a lot of people are giving her much of a shot. While the same thoughts remain about Sloane Stephens, the US Open Champion and French Open finalist has really developed as a player in the past year and is poised to finally make a run at Wimbledon.

If you want to get sentimental, you can throw Venus Williams in the mix. She is always a threat at Wimbledon and reached the final last year. But at 38 years of age and having won her last Grand Slam ten years ago, she will need a special effort to win the entire thing.

Three Fearless Predictions

1) Rafael Nadal won’t make it to week two
2) Serena Williams will lose/withdraw before the semi-finals
3) Roger Federer will not win Wimbledon 2018

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Updated Date: Jun 30, 2018 14:53:01 IST