Ed White: Young and old pose a threat to Britain’s golden era

Andy Murray celebrates winning the Men's Singles Final at Wimbledon in 2016.
Andy Murray celebrates winning the Men's Singles Final at Wimbledon in 2016.
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British tennis fans have not been short of things to shout about at Wimbledon in the last ten years.

Since Jamie Murray won the mixed doubles title with Jelena Jankovic in 2007, British players have had their hands on nine trophies at SW19 across the men’s, women’s, juniors and wheelchair events.

Switzerland's Roger Federer, right, and Spain's Rafael Nadal hold their trophies after Federer won their men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne

Switzerland's Roger Federer, right, and Spain's Rafael Nadal hold their trophies after Federer won their men's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne

That list includes a fresh faced Laura Robson in 2008, Sheffield’s Jonny Marray causing a shock doubles success four years later and Heather Watson’s mixed doubles triumph 12 months 
ago.

Of course, double Olympic champion Andy Murray has been at the vanguard of the golden era with his two singles titles in 2013 and last year.

Rose tinted glasses would say, given all that, the British contingent has its strongest hand of the Open era going into this year’s Championship, starting today.

On paper, Britain has the defending men’s champion, the women’s sixth seed and an emerging player that has just reached the third round of the French Open for the first time.

For the first time since Federer started his dominance of in 2003, the sporting cliché “anything can happen” is as good a pre-tournament analysis as any.

Ed White

But throw in a sense of turmoil over a failed drugs test and a spate of shock first-round exits in the lead up to the Championships and there is a worrying feeling come the second Monday that the British support will only have the doubles entrants, wheelchair players and juniors to get patriotic about.

Murray will walk out on Centre Court today as top seed for a first time in 12 Wimbledon campaigns.

But, what is also a first, is the question marks over what can be expected from him over the next two weeks.

Murray’s defeat in the first round at Queen’s reflected the Scot’s disappointing form since he rose to the top of the world rankings at the end of last season.

Great Britain's Johanna Konta celebrates victory against Romania's Sorana Cirstea during day six of the AEGON International at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne.

Great Britain's Johanna Konta celebrates victory against Romania's Sorana Cirstea during day six of the AEGON International at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne.

World No. 90 Jordan Thompson added to a list of players outside the top 10 that Murray has fallen to this year.

The names hardly run off the tongue for the average Wimbledon viewer – Fabio Fognini, Berna Coric, Albert Ramos-Vinolas, Vasek Pospisil, Mischa Zverev.

Murray has had the worst preparation he has had going into Wimbledon. But given his record of 53 wins and only nine defeats at Wimbledon – excluding the Olympic title of 2012 – it would be churlish to write off the world No. 1.

With the glorious return of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and the emergence of an exciting pack of youth there is a sense that this year’s Wimbledon is the most open tournament of recent time.

Federer and Nadal’s successes at the Australian and French Opens have shown the world that the established names are not quite ready to pass on the baton.

But for the first time since Federer started his dominance of in 2003, the sporting cliché “anything can happen” is as good a pre-tournament analysis as any.

Fresh from a tenth title in Halle, and a rest over the clay court season, Federer goes in as favourite for an eighth Wimbledon title which, at 35, would provide the perfect excuse to hang up his racquet on a high.

The Swiss beat German prodigy Alexander Zverev in the final at Halle to keep the stranglehold with the old guard – for now at least.

There’s also the mysterious case of Novak Djokovic, whose motivations are fluctuating more than a five-set classic.

The Serb heads to Wimbledon outside the top three for the first time since 2009 and the effects of his self-proclaimed “shock therapy” are still to be determined.

Of the young players, Zverev has proven his ability to mix it with the best deep into tournaments, likewise Canada’s Milos Raonic and Australian Open semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov.

On the other hand, Beverley’s Kyle Edmund has yet to win a match in four attempts at SW19.

The fast courts have proven to negate his powerful forehand in past years and hard luck stories begin to run out under the scrutiny of his Wimbledon results.

The 22-year-old remains one of the dangermen to seeds in the draw but has much to prove on the fresh green grass.

If the men’s draw is hard to predict, the women’s draw can simply go down as potluck.

With Serena Williams’ absence through pregnancy and Maria Sharapova still on the comeback trail from her drugs ban, there is a shortcoming in leading contenders.

Britain has not had a women’s singles triumph at Wimbledon since Virginia Wade clenched the Venus Rosewater Dish 40 years ago.

Johanna Konta goes into the tournament with her highest slam seeding to date but, like Murray, form has been indifferent in recent months.

The Australian-born player’s final appearance at the Nottingham Open was sandwiched between disappointing defeats in the 
early rounds of the French Open and Aegon Classic in Birmingham.

Robson and Watson have also struggled for consistency and required wildcard entries as they were outside the world’s top 100.

All eyes will be on two-time champion Petra Kvitova as she continues her recovery from a hand injury sustained in a stabbing at her home in December.

Kvitova made her return at Roland Garros last month and took little time getting back accustomed to the grass courts in winning the Birmingham title in only her second tournament back on tour.

Of all the potential stories that could unfold over the next fortnight, perhaps a third Wimbledon title for the Czech player would top the lot.