Rafael Nadal may be the King of Clay, but his trophy case also has two Wimbledon titles and three runner-up plates. The last few years have been harsh for the left-hander on grass, but let us not forget how dangerous he can be when he gets his bearing. Both of his titles at the All England Club were won when he was seeded number two, and the last few years of early exits may be all the motivation he needs to make a deep run this year. With the number one ranking still being fought over, the greens of Wimbledon could be a turf war.
When the seed announcements were released, and world number one Rafael Nadal was seeded number two at Wimbledon (The All England Club reserves the right to seed players according to their current performance and tournament history, and not just their world rankings, unlike the other grand slams) behind 2013 runner up Novak Djokovic, some people were surprised. With the Serbian nipping at his heels for the top spot in men’s tennis, an early exit last year could be an opportunity for Nadal to gain some ground.
Djokovic also has a lot of points to defend in the second half of the year besides his runner up finishes in England and the US Open. Djokovic has played exceptional tennis this year, but the grind of clay, and his long string of victories could take its toll. The Serbian was looking leaner than usual at the French Open, and despite a valiant effort, he did not have the energy left in his tank to take down the King of Clay in the final.
Djokovic has not played any of the warm up grass tournaments leading up to Wimbledon, and like last year which saw him endure a grueling four hour, thirty-seven minute semifinal loss against Nadal at the French Open, he fell in a three hour thirty-one minute final this year. With the two of them having the top seeds at Wimbledon, the only way they could meet is in a dream final, which would be a turf war of epic proportions.
The physical and emotional toll can be overwhelming, and last year after reaching the Wimbledon, Djokovic simply did not have anything left to give against a very hungry Andy Murray. Meanwhile Nadal was still clearly fatigued from his record breaking ninth Roland Garros title run, falling in his first match on grass this year against German Dustin Brown in 60 minutes. The two time champion was clearly not in form mentally as well as physically, and needs to sharpen his game for the grass in order to do some damage.
Defending champion and British hero Andy Murray has not been in a final since his country pleasing victory last year. He seems to have lost a bit of his edge since accomplishing his lofty and country backed ambition to bring home the Wimbledon trophy, but it is still England, and Murray is worshiped in his own backyard. Seeded number three despite his number five world ranking, Murray is sure to make a turf war out of the two weeks at Wimbledon.
Commentary by John Benjamin Wilson