After claiming his maiden French Open title in Paris in June, Novak Djokovic is now on course to claim his first-ever season Grand Slam. The next step in his path to this goal is the Championships at Wimbledon, where Djokovic will be defending the title he won in 2015.
The question then, is can anybody stop Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, or will the world number one claim his 13th grand slam title in July? Here’s our pick of the five players who could thwart Djokovic at Wimbledon.
Milos Ranoic has been having one of the best seasons of his career in 2016. While he’s only won one title, at Brisbane, he reached the final of the Indian Wells Masters and showed what he’s capable of on grass courts by reaching the final of the Queens Club Championship in June.
In grand slam tournaments he reached the semifinals of the Australian Open before exiting the French Open in the fourth round.
While there’s no doubt that the 25-year-old is an outsider, there’s also no question that his game is improving and he’s been rewarded for this with a 6th seed at Wimbledon 2016. This seeding effectively clears him to advance to the quarterfinals without having to face one of the tournament favourites.
What he’ll achieve when he reaches this stage of the tournament remains to be seen. However, his record against the ‘big four’ of Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray is 6 wins in 27 games, suggesting he’s more than capable of generating a massive upset.
We predicted that Dominic Thiem would be one of the players to watch at the 2016 French Open, and the young Austrian duly obliged by advancing to the tournament semifinals where he lost to eventual champion, Novak Djokovic.
Since bowing out of the French Open, Thiem has taken his game up a level on grass courts, claiming the Stuttgart Open in early June before advancing to the semifinals of the Halle Open a week later.
Those performances have seen Thiem seeded eighth at Wimbledon, which means he won’t encounter any of the other top eight seeds until he reaches the quarterfinals.
Once he reaches that stage of the tournament, a single strong performance against a top ranked player could be enough to create the momentum he needs to produce one of the biggest upsets in Wimbledon history.
© AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin
While Stan Wawrinka has never won a grass court tournament, he does have a talent for unexpectedly upping his game in grand slam tournaments. This ability saw him go from a 4th round Australian Open exit in 2013 to a title in 2014. He then won the French Open title in 2015 after having exited the same tournament in the first round the previous year.
In 2015 Wawrinka made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon before losing to Richard Gasquet. In 2016 he’ll have the draw on his side, which means he’s unlikely to encounter one of the top four seeds until he reaches the semifinals. We know what he’s capable of from there. He’s already taken three ATP Tour titles this season, and he’s never lost in the final of a grand slam.
If Roger Federer is going to claim another grand slam title in his career it will have to be at Wimbledon in 2016.
Federer has already won seven Wimbledon titles, a record he currently shares with Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. In 2015 he came painfully close to setting a new record at the tournament, only to be denied by Novak Djokovic in a hard-fought four set final.
So far this season he’s failed to win a single tournament, with his best result a losing appearance in the final of the Brisbane International.
However, we can’t dismiss the man who has reached the last two Wimbledon finals. He knows what’s at stake at Wimbledon, and will give it his all at the tournament. If he comes up against Djokovic in another final, we could witness one of the epic battles in Wimbledon history.
© AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus
Andy Murray has a few things going for him that his rivals at Wimbledon don’t. For a start he’s playing in front of a home crowd, and he’s heading to the tournament with an important win in the Queens Club Championships beneath his belt.
Murray is also one of the few players at Wimbledon who is consistently strong on grass courts, and is the most accomplished grass court player at the tournament after Roger Federer.
He’s won seven of his 37 career titles on the surface, and has lost just one final on a grass court. Apart from that he’s already won Wimbledon once, and won the gold medal on the surface at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
This record compares more than favourably to the record of Novak Djokovic on grass, with Djokovic having claimed only three grass court titles - all at Wimbledon.
Who will stop Djokovic?
Wimbledon has a tendency to either see a single player dominate for years on end, or to deliver major upsets. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer both dominated the tournament for long stretches of time, but nobody will forget the huge performances by young Boris Becker, or wildcard Goran Ivanisevic, when they emerged from nowhere to take the title.
Therefore any one of the players listed above could spring a surprise on Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon 2016. However with form, home advantage and aptitude for grass on his side, Murray stands out as the player most likely to end Djokovic’s title ambitions at Wimbledon in 2016.