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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Wimbledon predictions: Can anyone stop Roger Federer from claiming title No 8?

As the ATP Tour heads to the All England Club, The National's sports desk provide their predictions for the grass court grand slam.

Roger Federer during practice for Wimbledon. Peter Klaunzer / EPA
Roger Federer during practice for Wimbledon. Peter Klaunzer / EPA

The ATP and Tour heads to Wimbledon next week when the best players in the world test their games on the grass courts of the All England Club. Can Roger Federer make it title No 8? Will Andy Murray defend his title after an indifferent start to the season? Could we see a first-time winner The National's sports desk offer their predictions for the men's singles events for the third grand slam of the season.

Jon Turner - Assistant Editor

Men's champion: Marin Cilic

Marin Cilic.
Marin Cilic.

With Andy Murray struggling, Roger Federer short of matches, Rafael Nadal struggling on grass in recent years, and Novak Djokovic inexplicably out of form, 2017 could be the most open Wimbledon in years. Cilic was supremely impressive at Queen's Club last week before falling to Feliciano Lopez in the final without dropping a service game. Indeed, the Cilic serve was immense all week, losing just one game. The Croatian world No 6 moves well on the grass and his forceful groundstrokes are well suited to the game's fastest surface. The 2014 US Open champion, Cilic has proved he can deliver on the biggest of stages. Wimbledon 2017 could be his chance to double his majors tally.

Surprise package: Nick Kyrgios

Nicl Kyrgios.
Nicl Kyrgios.

There is no denying the Australian's talent. Of the so-called 'NextGen', Kyrgios is the one who should dominate the next era of men's tennis. Of course, as has been witnessed over the past few seasons, talent is not the problem for Kyrgios. Instead a questionable temperament, a lengthy suspension, and niggling injuries have kept him from gatecrashing the top 10 and he enters Wimbledon ranked No 20. But when Kyrgios is in the groove, few can stop him. Just ask Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer. He possesses one of best serves in tennis and arguably the best forehand. If he can find some momentum and get in the zone he can go all the way. If.

Disappointment: Roger Federer

The greatest Wimbledon champion of all time enters the tournament after collecting a record ninth Halle Open title, is well-rested after skipping the clay court season and already has four titles to his name this season including the Australian Open. How could he possibly disappoint? Federer has rightly been installed as the pre-tournament favourite but there is a risk he could be short of matches, particularly given the gruelling two week, best-of-five format in grand slams. Also, the Halle title he won to prepare for Wimbledon was achieved against a very ordinary field, and he came up against an off-colour Alexander Zverev in the final. The week before Halle, he lost to 39-year-old Tommy Haas in Stuttgart. Quite simply, he hasn't looked as imperious on the grass as he did on the hard courts, and an earlier-than-expected exit at Wimbledon could be possible.

Chitrabhanu Kadalayil - Assistant Editor

Champion: Andy Murray

Andy Murray has been targeting a comeback for the grass-court season in June, but his resumption of training will increase the possibility of an earlier return than expected. Adrian Dennis / AFP
Andy Murray has been targeting a comeback for the grass-court season in June, but his resumption of training will increase the possibility of an earlier return than expected. Adrian Dennis / AFP

Murray will arrive at the All England Club having suffered an injury scare to his hip. He is not at the top of his game this season either, with just the one trophy he won in Dubai. Crashing out of the Aegon Championships in the first round will also have hampered his preparations. Yet one has to take into account the following facts about the Briton: he is world No 1, the defending champion, and a local favourite. He has the game to beat the best on grass and is a fighter, a quality he showcased by reaching the French Open semi-finals this year despite a below-par clay-court season. Once he gets back his judgement on shot selection, it is just a matter of building confidence in the early rounds. He will certainly not meet his biggest rivals before the semi-finals, at which stage one expects he will have found a new gear. So long as he manages his body well during the next two weeks, a third singles title at SW19 is within Murray's reach.

Surprise package: Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov.
Grigor Dimitrov.

If talent alone won you grand slam titles, Dimitrov, 26, would be up there with the best. A man seemingly born to play tennis, he has surprisingly lifted only six trophies in a professional career that has spanned eight years. He has also reached just two grand slam semi-finals – at Wimbledon in 2014 and at the Australian Open this year. But there is something about the way the Bulgarian is playing in 2017 that has renewed hopes he is ever closer to winning his first major title. Some of it is maturity: he has moved out of Roger Federer's shadow, after years of being called "Baby Fed" for the similarities in playing styles, and carved out his own niche. He was shocked in the semi-finals of the Aegon Championships by eventual winner Feliciano Lopez, but Dimitrov will be likelier of the two to go deep in the draw. With the tournament more open than it has been in the past 15 years, this is the 13th seed's best chance to win his first major title.

Disappointment: Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic.
Milos Raonic.

Raonic's appearances in the semi-finals of the Australian Open and the final at Wimbledon last year were so promising, one got the feeling he was ready to win - and not just challenge for - grand slam titles in 2017. Unfortunately for the Canadian, a recurring hamstring injury took away some of that momentum. Not one to show his emotions on court, Raonic must nevertheless be frustrated by the fact he has not won a title on the ATP Tour this year. He has remained upbeat, claiming to be in better touch ahead of Wimbledon this season than he was in 2016 when he beat Roger Federer on his way to the summit clash. It could be a tactic to talk the big game to pump himself up - something the 26 year old learnt from previous coach, John McEnroe - but his defeat in the first round at Aegon Championships showed he has much to do to return to his best. It will be a pleasant surprise if the fifth seed reaches the quarter-finals.

Graham Caygill - Sports Editor

Winner - Roger Federer

Roger Federer.
Roger Federer.

It is five years since the Swiss player won the last of his seven Wimbledon titles and arguably this is the first time since then that he comes into it as favourite. He looked in good nick in Halle, had a great start to the season when he won in Australia, as well as shining in the hardcourt season. Grass is his surface too. It was where he made his breakout in the game by beating Pete Sampras in 2001. With Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic both out of sorts, and the jury out on whether Rafael Nadal's body can still handle trying to win two majors in seven weeks, this is set up for title No 8 for Federer.

Surprise package - Nick Kyrgios

The Australian has begun to make headlines in 2017 for his talent on the court rather than the moments when he loses his cool and poise. A run to the semi-finals in Miami and a superb performance in losing to Roger Federer showed what he is capable of. He reached the fourth round in 2016 before losing to eventual champion Andy Murray, and with some luck on the draw he can go further this time around.

Disappointment - Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic will play in Abu Dhabi before he returns to Melbourne to try and win a record seventh Australian Open title. Matthew Childs / Reuters
Novak Djokovic will play in Abu Dhabi before he returns to Melbourne to try and win a record seventh Australian Open title. Matthew Childs / Reuters

The Serbian is badly out of sorts and looked disinterested in going out to Alexander Zverev at the French Open. It may sound odd to say this, given he is a three-time Wimbledon champion, but the fact grass is arguably Djokovic's weakest surface means that in this form it will be a genuine surprise if he makes it to the business end of the tournament.