Wimbledon is no stranger to making headlines all over the world, but perhaps this year’s Championships will be the most talked about in years due to all the unanswered questions that linger as the season reaches just past the halfway mark. With possibly two new world number ones at the end of the fortnight and a potential fourth consecutive Grand Slam victory in doubles, here are seven storylines to watch out for at these upcoming Championships:
1. Who’s Leaving London on Top?
Arguably the biggest story of this year’s Championships is the races for number one across both tours. Current world number ones Angelique Kerber and Andy Murray are both in danger of surrendering their place at the top, and will both need to make at least the final to have a chance to retain their place for the time being in what has been a disappointing 2017 season for both.
On the women’s side, there are two other women in contention of the number one ranking along with Kerber: Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova. Their chances all vary, but all depend on how Kerber fares as well as how far each of them gets in comparison to one another.
A finalist at SW19 last year, Kerber is defending a sizeable chunk of her points (1300) and will need to make at least the final as aforementioned to even have a chance to retain her crown.
Halep, on the other hand, will be dropping Wimbledon quarterfinal points (430) and points from a title winning run in Bucharest (280) so she will need to reach at least the semifinals.
Pliskova, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon last year, is in prime position for the top spot, with a projected minimum of 6795 after Wimbledon.
VAVEL USA’s Pete Borkowski has broken down all the men’s scenarios, so please click here for a detailed explanation.
2. Can French Open Champion Ostapenko Avoid the Curse?
Historically, it’s no secret that the quick transition from clay to grass is one of the toughest challenges awaiting the world’s elite year after year, with only five women able to complete the famous sweep of the two non-hardcourt majors in the Open Era: Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.
In fact, since 2008, the farthest a French Open champion has gotten at Wimbledon weeks after her triumph is the fourth round. So the question now begs for Jelena Ostapenko, the latest player to taste Grand Slam success: Can the Latvian avoid the Wimbledon curse?
The 20-year-old Latvian skyrocketed to the title in one of the most wide-open Grand Slam draws in years, playing a certain brand of heavy, fearless tennis that fit perfectly with the speed of the European red clay. Because of her victory, the underdog went from just dropping out of the top 50 to making her debut in the top 15 and was confronted with new pressures, all of which she seems to be handling with a maturity beyond her years.
No stranger to having success at Wimbledon, Ostapenko is a former junior champion, having won the title back in 2014, but she has only won one match in her first two appearances at the All England Club. So the question is now clear: Can this Latvian powerhouse follow up her historic run with potentially another one?
3. Czech-Mate: Can Kvitova Continue Her Cinderella Story on the Grass?
Over the years, it is no secret that Petra Kvitova plays an aggressive brand of tennis that simply can’t be replicated, especially on a surface as fast as the grass. Ever since she first burst onto the scene by making her first Wimbledon semifinal in 2010, grass has proved to be a very successful surface for Kvitova, resulting in a pair of Wimbledon titles and most recently the Aegon Classic title in Birmingham a week ago just six months after a horrific knife attack that almost cost her her life.
“I just love grass,” she said. “It feels like home. I love the movement on grass. I love the flat shots, I love the serve and volley and the drop shots and the slice. I love everything about it.”
Now heading to Wimbledon as the oddsmakers’ favourite, the question now begs for the two-time champion: Can Kvitova ride her wave of momentum to a third title at SW19? At her unplayable best, it would take a fool to bet against the Czech.
4. Federer, Nadal Aim to Continue Shared Dominance in Resurgent Season on Grass
This year, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have both rolled back the years in dominant displays throughout the 2017 season, sharing the dominance for the first half of the year. After Nadal left Paris triumphant with an awe-inspiring tenth Roland Garros crown, a tournament his biggest rival of the year (Federer) decided to forego, all eyes turn to the green lawns of the All England Club as both attempt to continue their dominance and close in on the race to number one (Nadal has a chance to end the next fortnight back on top).
5. Returning to Familiar Hunting Grounds: Can Murray and Djokovic Get Their Seasons Back on Track?
While Federer and Nadal dominated the first half of the season, the other half of the Big Four in Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic has struggled mightily to live up to expectations this season, with early exits and injuries plaguing the two most dominant forces of the past couple of seasons.
After claiming his first title since January this past Saturday in Eastbourne, Djokovic will head to London poised and ready to do battle on a surface he has enjoyed great success on in the last six years, while there will be a lot of question marks surrounding Murray as he returns to SW19 as the defending champion, having crashed out shockingly in the first round of Queens two weeks ago.
6. Mattek-Sands and Safarova Going for The “Bucie” Slam at SW19
Despite all the doubles teams that have come and gone in recent years, there has been one dominant force in women’s doubles that has won five of the last 14 Grand Slams, including the last three: the partnership of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova, or team “Bucie”.
The American-Czech righty-lefty duo has proven quite the dominant force ever since pairing up for fun at the 2015 Australian Open, which was the start of their unprecedented success. After a dominant display at this year’s French Open, the pair will head to Wimbledon full of confidence and ready to conquer the one Grand Slam they have yet to taste success at in doubles to complete the “Bucie” slam (hold all four major trophies at the same time).
7. After Ostapenko’s Heroics, Is the “NextGen” Primed for a Historic Breakthrough at the AELTC?
In recent years, there has been much talk about “out with the old, in with the new” on both tours as both look towards the next generation and how promising all of the players under this “NextGen” umbrella look as a whole. And after the heroics of Ostapenko, who turned 20 just two days before blasting her way to the Roland Garros title, tennis fans everywhere have to wonder: It’s only a matter of time until they start dominating the game, but which players (if any) are primed for a breakthrough as unexpectedly pleasant as that of Ostapenko this year at SW19?
All of these questions and more await to be answered at The Championships, Wimbledon 2017.