By Ted Lane
The Wimbledon Championships are widely considered to be the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world, and rightly so. It has been the biggest event on the tennis calendar since it was first held at the All England Club in 1877, and 2013 will be no different. This year, as always, thousands of people will come from all over the globe to enjoy the magical combination of summer showers, cream soaked strawberries and world-class tennis.
For two weeks fans will flock to Henman Hill (or Murray Mount, if you prefer) and wave manically at the sight of themselves on the big screen, but for whom will they be cheering as the tournament reaches its business end?
All eyes will, of course, be on Britain’s great hope, Andy Murray. Now perched at a career high, second in the world rankings, many will feel that 2013 is the year he finally lays his Wimbledon demons to rest.
2012 was a fantastic year for the 25-year-old Scot, winning Olympic gold, together with a maiden Grand Slam at the US Open. His failure to win the Wimbledon final, however, will still hang heavily on his shoulders. Many will remember the agony of Murray’s tearful interview following his defeat to Roger Federer and will hope he can emerge victorious this year.
The US Open Champion will, as always, face stiff competition. Although Murray has now surpassed grass court legend Federer in the world rankings, you would be a fool to discount the seven-time champion. The Swiss king may now be entering the twilight of his glittering career, but the hallowed turf of Centre Court is his kingdom, and he will not relinquish his crown easily.
World number one Novak Djokovic will enter the tournament as favourite and will provide Murray with his sternest test. Tall and powerful, much in the same mould as Murray, the Serbian is a formidable server and relentless returner of the ball. This year however, Andy not only knows he can win a Grand Slam, but he knows he can beat Djokovic on the biggest stage.
Some mention must also be made of the return of Rafael Nadal. His was a horrifying 2012, blighted by serious injury, but his return to the clay courts of Monaco in April will have been a welcome sight to many tennis fans, if not his opponents. Known for his brute strength and bullying forehand, it remains to be seen whether he can regain the form that won him the Wimbledon crown in 2008 and 2010.
But what of Britain’s other hopes? Will those fans, frantically waving their Union Jacks, have anyone to cheer except the taciturn Scotsman? Former British number one, “Tiger” Tim Henman, certainly doesn’t think so.
Following a rare British win in the Davis Cup in April, Henman gave a withering appraisal of British men’s tennis, referring to it as embarrassing. This is because, aside from Andy Murray, Britain hasn’t got anyone else inside the top 200 in the world.
22-year-old Dan Evans may be someone to keep an eye out for; although ranked down at 324th in the world, many feel he has the talent to break into the top fifty during his career. In Henman’s eyes talent is not an issue, more his dedication to the sport, but with a home crowd behind him who knows what can happen?
Despite a struggling men’s game, Britain’s women are a serious cause for excitement. The successes of young guns Laura Robson and Heather Watson mean Britain has two players inside the top fifty in the world.
Current number one Robson captured the nation’s heart in 2008, when aged fourteen she became the junior Wimbledon champion and was shortlisted for the BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year. Since then she has gone on to compete on the women’s tour and enjoyed a lot of success for a young girl, most notably reaching the quarter final of the Australian Open.
Her silver medal at the Olympics will have given her a taste of what it is like to succeed at Wimbledon; could this year be the making of another British star?
Robson is not the only exciting British prospect. On 14 October 2012, Heather Watson won her first WTA singles title at the Japanese Open. She became the first British female to win a WTA singles title since Sara Gomer in 1988. The young starlet has been suffering from glandular fever, but a strong showing at her home championships could be exactly what the doctor ordered to get her fledgling career back on track.
When it comes to the women’s competition, it is hard to look any further than current champion and world number one, Serena Williams. When at the top her game the American powerhouse is almost unplayable and, bar a shock defeat in the quarter final of the Australian Open, has show great form in 2013.
When the sun shines at SW19 there is no more magical a place in the tennis world. A jubilant crowd, drunk on spectacular rallies and too much Pimms, creates an atmosphere like no other. When the two weeks finally draw to a close will it be Andy Murray facing off on Centre Court for another shot at immortality? Let’s hope this year sees tears of joy from the British number one; I don’t think he or his fans can take another heartbreak.