Hardman's Thoughts

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Ramble #13

Later for London?

I’m sat here watching Gael Monfils struggling against Dominic Thiem in their second matches at the ATP World Tour Finals.

Dom won the first set against Novak Djokovic, but lost the next two comfortably. Gael was easily beaten by an efficient Milos Raonic. This is a must win match for both men and, as I write this (6-3, 0-1 (30-30)), it’s the Austrian who looks more likely. 

Gael just doesn’t look like he’s fully fit (although he has just broken Thiem …), like Andy Murray didn’t last night, and, although I didn’t see it, Stan Wawrinka in the earlier match. 

Raonic came into this tournament carrying a knock, and Marin Cilic wasn’t 100% either. And this isn’t a new thing. Every year players pull out or don’t play at their best due to fatigue and niggly injuries. Held with just a weeks break from the last masters of the year in Paris, maybe the organisers need to look at a rescheduling. 

Firstly, this is meant to be the year-ending tournament, however, the Davis Cup final is yet to be played. Last year, Andy didn’t really turn up at the O2, his thoughts very much on winning the Davis Cup. Are we seeing something similar from Marin Cilic this year? The big Croat looked unbelievably flat last night, there’s no question that in his usual guise he would have punished Murray for an incredibly weak set. 

The Davis Cup scenario also makes it very difficult to calculate who will end as year-end number one this year. Andy will lose points following this tournament. While it can’t happen this year, in theory the world number one could win the tour finals, beating the world number two in the final, and yet not finish the year atop of the rankings. 

But all of that is just a minor point used to back up my bigger one about fatigue.

We all want to see the top eight players playing at their best. We don’t want to see a load of tired professionals, struggling to move their legs for one final week.

Give them an extra week, play the Davis Cup final first. 

The players will be happier with the extra rest, the spectators will be more willing to pay money to see closer matches. We want to see long rallies, heart-stopping moments, breathtaking winners. We don’t want to see unforced error after unforced error.

Someone in the village I live in described Wawrinka as amateur yesterday. That may well be true. But if it is, it’s only because the scheduling surrounding this wonderful tournament is amateur. 

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Who’s going to win in London?

The ATP World Tour Finals are always worth watching. Any tournament which features only the top eight in the world is bound to be full of excitement and, while the drawing of the group stages has slightly dampened expectations this year (at least on one half), it should be no different in 2016.

In Group McEnroe, or the group of death, new World Number One Andy Murray (boy, it feels good to write that!) faces Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Marin Cilic. All have reached Grand Slam finals, all have a genuine shot at getting out of the group, and winning the title.

Over in Group Lendl, Novak Djokovic has three players he’s never lost against: Milos Raonic, Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem. If you weren’t expecting to see those last two there, don’t worry – none of the tennis correspondents on this blog predicted either.

At the start of the year, a group of friends and I made predictions for how this year would pan out. It’s fair to say, very little of it has happened! I’ll do a blog after the tour finals looking at who did best, but before then – I thought it best to ask them who they now feel will win next week, and see what has changed.

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Charlie Marriott: 

Who he said at the start of the year: Novak Djokovic

Who he thinks now: Novak Djokovic

Why? It’ll obviously be Djokovic because Murray will bottle it now he’s #1.

Emma Still:

Who she said at the start of the year: Novak Djokovic

Who she thinks now: Marin Cilic

Why? He beat Djokovic in Paris, why can’t he do it in London?

Gareth Hardman:

Who I said at the start of the year: Roger Federer

Who I think now: Gael Monfils

Why? Well the Federer prediction has fallen away to 16th in the ranking, so I needed to find a new horse to back. And I’ve been convinced for a long time that, if he qualified, Gael Monfils would reach the semi-finals. Having seen the groups, I am strongly backing that, and the Frenchman would face either a fatigued Murray, an inconsistent Wawrinka, a Cilic with other tournaments on the horizon or Nishikori. I think he can win all of those matches. And then, why not? Why couldn’t he win? I feel tennis is due a shake-up, and Gael is just the man to provide it.

James Doan:

Who he said at the start of the year: Novak Djokovic

Who he thinks now: Andy Murray

Why? You would have to fancy Murray with his relentless form.. but it’s not a happy hunting ground for the lad- I don’t know why? Only tiredness and fatigue can stop him. Also, watch out for Stan, he’s a big game player and he should be well rested.

Josh Hockley-Still:

Who he said at the start of the year: Stan Wawrinka

Who he thinks now: Stan Wawrinka

Why? Andy rarely plays his best at the O2, he’s had a whirlwind few weeks, and in a nightmare group. Novak has a simple group, which I think he’ll get through, but after that I’m not convinced he’s ready to beat the very best yet. So I don’t think it’ll be one of those two, Stan usually plays well at the O2, and when he gets on a roll, he’s very difficult to stop.

Now you’ve seen what we think – who do you think is going to win? Let us know in the comments below!


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Ramble #10

Murray’s Night

Andy Murray has won singles gold for the second Olympics in a row. 

While the 2012 run was relatively comfortable – even the 7-5,7-5 semi against Novak felt reassured compared to matches we’ve watched since – the 2016 was anything but. An easy couple of rounds were followed by massive scares when playing Fabio Fognini and Steve Johnson. Still, he pulled through – and an easy semi against Kei Nishikori was followed by a nervy final four-set victory over Juan Martin Del Potro.

Del Potro is an amazing story – he beat Djokovic in the first round, then Rafael Nadal in the semi-final, and surpassing his bronze from London in the process. He was knackered going into the final, but didn’t let that stop him from giving Andy a huge test. I believed he would win, but he fell (just) short.

(And boy, what a final it was. I didn’t watch it – instead I followed it on live scores unable to sleep. The fourth set was just hell. They exchanged breaks, with Del Potro the first to consolidate one. That led to a painful game at 5-4, especially with the many long rallies that were happening. Somehow Andy won, and I’m still not sure how.)

But, last night was history for Andy Murray.

On a day when Great Britain continued to exceed expectations at this wonderful Olympics, Murray secured second place in the medals table, at least overnight. 

For Andy personally, he’s just become the first tennis player to win two singles titles at the Olympics.

(And yes, John Inverdale made it sound like he was the first player ever to win two gold medals at the Olympics and yes, Andy Murray’s response was fantastic. Inverdale made a mistake, that’s all. He has flaws, but stop hounding him for a slip of the tongue.) 

In an era when Andy has reached landmarks second, third, fourth, that is such a huge achievement. It’s a record which is his own and no-one can ever take that from him. 

In an era when Andy has had to settle for second best in so many events, he’s found a field which he loves, and he can dominate. 

Andy has always said the Olympics defines his career. His first round loss to Lu in Beijing inspired him to improve his fitness and dedication. His 2012 gold led to four years in which he has secured 3 Grand Slams and is starting to knock on the door for the World Number 1. 

His 2016 effort? Well, it’s too early to say.

However, I’m starting to believe that as good as Andy’s individual career is, he’s going to be remembered for his efforts when competing for Great Britain.

He’s wonderful when for himself, he’s inspired when for country. 


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Victories and Cream

Yesterday was such a good day for Brits at Wimbledon that even Greg Rusedski managed to get his hands on a trophy!

Greg was one of the many male Brits who tried and failed to win a singles title at Wimbledon in the years between Fred Perry and Andy Murray. Yet, yesterday, Greg was the least important of 5 British winners. Gordon Reid became the first winner of the men’s Wheelchair Singles (which is his second GS of the year), adding to his doubles with Alfie Hewett in the process, Jordanne Whiley added Wimbledon Wheelchair doubles to her growing Slam collection (1 singles, 8 doubles and she’s only 24!)  while Heather Watson sealed an unexpected but delightful mixed doubles title with Finn Henri Kontinen.

They are all great achievements in their own right, and all deserve equal praise. For Reid, Hewett and Whiley it’s a case of coming into form at the right time – the Paralympics are just around the corner and all appear to be in the form of their life. For Watson, it’s finally a trophy after years and years of disappointing early losses in singles. She showed enough in that final to suggest she could become a formidable doubles player, and potentially leave her singles career behind. Rather than a step backwards, it would be a move to aim for more slams and more glory. And any more tournaments with Kontinen would be welcome, the two of them clearly enjoy playing together.

And yes, there is one more I haven’t mentioned.

When Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013, it felt like an ending. He had won a slam almost a year earlier in New York (after all, with the pressure and expectation his first slam was never going to be in London), and Wimbledon sealed his place amongst the elite of British sporting history. It was the culmination of all his hard work, long hours and sheer dedication to reject a life in the tabloids for a life of training.

It was no surprise he dipped. A recurring injury meant he underwent surgery, and 2014 was an awful year by his standards. He almost dropped out of the world’s top 10 and didn’t beat a member of the aforementioned group until the US Open. His ambition for winning slams, at least to us not in his head, seemed to have vanished.

I can’t remember when I started getting hopeful about his slam prospects again. Certainly, the re-hiring of Ivan Lendl a few weeks ago was a massive, positive surprise, and has clearly worked – with Murray not losing a single match since the Czech returned to his box.

But to pin this all on Lendl would do a massive disservice to the woman who got Andy back to his best. Amelie Mauresmo.

History might not look too kindly on what Amelie did for Andy, but it should. Amelie turned him into a competitor on all surfaces, returned his desire to win slams and restored his ability to compete with Novak Djokovic. Yes, Andy didn’t win a slam under her guidance. But that doesn’t matter. Without her, Andy wouldn’t have reached the 2016 Wimbledon Final.

And even then, with her Andy would have won yesterday regardless. Milos Raonic played the match of his life, indeed I believe he was better yesterday than he was against Roger Federer, yet couldn’t break the Murray serve – he only fashioned two break points! Andy was serving at his very best, and returning with enough venom to pose problems for Raonic. It was the best returning match I’ve seen for a long time, yet there was only one break of serve in three sets.

The match reports have all under-played Milos, and claim that Andy had some sort of grip on the match from the very beginning. That he was always going to win. I personally think that is absurd. What if Milos had won the first tie-break? What if he had won the second? Did Milos actually do anything wrong in the tie-breaks? I certainly can’t remember many unforced errors in either, indeed the only memories I have are of Murray’s brilliance.

It may not have been a good spectacle, but it was certainly a good final. Two players, quite evenly matched, pummelling each other and trading blows, not just off a racket, but mentally too. Raonic is currently third in the Race to London (essentially a measure of how good a year a player has had – by the end of the year the Race will equal the rankings), and there was nothing on display yesterday to suggest that is underserved. He’s 4000 points behind Andy, however, and that is only down to Murray’s desire to win the big points.

Yesterday, everything from his confident walk onto the court to his graceful speech at the end, convinced me that Milos Raonic will win a slam in the next few years. At 25, and with the experience of big matches, he’s the one player in a perfect position to win slams when Murray and Djokovic unwind. He might even win one before then. He has the game to, and a clear desire to improve.

If 2013 felt like an ending, 2016 feels more positive. Murray should win another Grand Slam, and being only 800 points behind Djokovic in the Race, the World Number 1 is a genuine aim now. He believes his best tennis is still to come and the signs coming out of his camp are much more positive now than they were in 2013. Yes, he celebrated and cried yesterday, but there wasn’t the over-the-top jumping into his box, or the hugging of a fan that accompanied his two previous final victories on Centre Court. Yesterday saw an Andy Murray ready to win more slams to seal his place in tennis history.

But whatever happens from now on, we will always have this.

There was a time when a Brit winning the Gentlemen’s invitational doubles at Wimbledon would have been back page news. This was a time when any Brit left in after Day 2 was a miracle-worker, a time when Wimbledon was filled more by hope than expectation. Thankfully, for all concerned, this golden era of Brits playing professional tennis continues to place those times firmly behind us.

 


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How 2016 Will Finish (part I)

It is quickly becoming a tradition for my friends and I to predict what men’s tennis will look like in 12 months time, in terms of the top 10 and slam winners. This year we are extending it to include the women’s and olympics winner. This first one is a look at the men’s side, with the burning question – do we think Djokovic’s Dominance will continue?

Doing the men with me are Charlie Marriot, Emma Still, James Doan and Josh Still. Charlie, Emma and Josh have all done this before, James is new to it and is only doing the men’s side. Good luck to all my fellow bloggers. All the graphics were designed by Emma, and I am forever grateful for her photoshop skills in the development of this.

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We’ll start with the top five, and explanations.

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Charlie: 

Pretty much status quo at the top – Federer‘s natural decline will continue but I would imagine he will have at least 1 semi-final appearance at a Slam.

Emma:

Djokovic’s dominance will continue into 2016, highlighted with my picks for the big tournament. Federer seems to be getting better despite his age, with my theory being that it’s purely so he can win the Rio Olympics in 2016. I think he will. Murray is consistently amongst the top four, and three seems to be a perfect position for him. Nishikori has vast potential, and while last year wasn’t great, the next very well might be. His game is still good enough to challenge the best. Wawrinka is on a slight decline, but he’s still good enough for top 5.

Gareth:

I believe the top 4 pick themselves; the only issue for debate is the order. Djokovic will be world number 1 without hell freezing over, and it is likely with his late season form, plus lack of points to defend, that Nadal will be second. Federer and Murray could both quite easily finish third, I’ve plumped for Murray on the basis that I imagine he’ll be more consistent over the course of a year, even if Federer has more individual success. Wawrinka is now a permanent fixture amongst the top 10, and even if he doesn’t win a slam in 2016 (which I don’t think he will), he is still better than the vast majority of tennis players.

James:

Novak Djokovic amassed a record breaking 16,585 ranking points last year after reaching all four grand slam finals, winning a record 11 masters series events before winning the World Tour Finals event in November at the o2 in London. The only major title that eluded him was the French Open where he was defeated by Stan Wawrinka in four sets at Roland Garros. The only certainty about predicting the top 10 in male tennis is that Novak will be number 1. Roger Federer played some of the best tennis of his career in beating Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-final of Wimbledon before losing to Djokovic in the final. He also reached the final of the US Open before losing to Djokovic once again. 2015 was a landmark year for Murray who won the Davis Cup on his own. He also enjoyed his most accomplished year on clay winning two titles and beating Rafael Nadal on the surface for the first time in the final of the Madrid Masters. It is a big year for Murray who is expecting the birth of his first child in February as well as committing to play in Davis Cup competition once again. I expect that Muzza may struggle to replicate the consistency of last season and relinquish his number spot in the rankings. Nadal looked ready to compete with the world’s best once again at the World Tour Finals in London in November. He looked to be back to somewhere near his best form in his demolition of Murray in the round robin stage. A good clay court season could see him retain his place amongst tennis ‘big four.’ Out of all the players in the current top 10, Stan the Man seems the only one capable of trading blows with Novak Djokovic in a best of five sets match. Stan hit Djokovic off the court to win the French Open and if the Swiss could add more consistency to his game he could move even higher up the rankings.

Josh:

There’s no debate about the no. 1 position – Djokovic has become a ‘Big 1’ within the ‘Big 4’, and it’s hard to imagine what, barring a serious injury, could stop him finishing top of the rankings for the 5th time in 6 years. Indeed, I think he has a serious chance of completing the Grand Slam for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969; his physicality is such that I just don’t see who will beat him over 5 sets, and as a patriot, I fully expect him to win Olympic gold in Rio too. Behind Djokovic, I predict that Nadal will bounce back from a lacklustre year ’15 just as Federer did from ‘13 and Murray from ’14. Murray’s consistency will see him at no. 3. Federer, who will be 35 next summer, will drop down to 4 as I’m not sure he’ll be able to produce his best every week – but he should still have a couple of Slam runs left in him.

It may seem a little harsh not to include Stan Wawrinka in the Big 4 – after all, he has won a Slam and finished in the top 4 in each of the last 2 years. But while he’s a threat to any of them on his day, he will never have their unrelenting consistency and, thanks to Djokovic’s dominance, I don’t think he’ll win a Slam this year. Assuming he doesn’t, no. 5 is actually generous – he wouldn’t have been ranked that loftily for the past 2 years without a Slam win.

 

And now the bottom half

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Charlie:

Goffin is showing more promise so a good run at some 500 rank tournaments could see him slip by Tsonga, Dmitrov et al into that 10th place.

Emma:

Tomas Berdych lives at number 6. I don’t see Nadal’s body holding up for a year. He looked good at the end of last year but I don’t think that’ll last. Ferrer is getting older but still seems to always be in and around the top 10 so you’d be stupid to bet against him being there again. Raonic and Cilic, with age and experience, are too good not to return to the top 10.

Gareth:

The second half of my top 10 highlights the severe lack of depth in men’s tennis. It essentially hasn’t changed in the last two years. I think Berdych and Nishikori will stay, Raonic and Cilic will return with Goffin being the sole debutant. Why Goffin? His match against Murray in the Davis Cup proved he can play, and genuinely threaten, the best. Goffin’s place could quite easily still go to Ferrer, even at 34.

James:

2015 was not a great year for Japanese star, Kei Nishikori. Losing in the first round of the US open and withdrawing from his second round match at Wimbledon through injury. However at 26 Nishikori should be entering his peak years as a professional tennis player and playing injury free I expect him to cement his place in the world’s top 10. Berdych has been a consistent performer on the male tennis circuit for nearly a decade. A regular beyond the fourth round of grand slam tournaments I expect the Czech to remain between 6-10 in the rankings throughout the year. For Kevin Anderson, 2015 was something of a breakthrough year. The big South African reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon for the first time in 2015 as well as reaching his first quarter final in a grand slam at the US Open culminating in reaching a career high world number 10 in October 2015. The indomitable Ferrer will almost certainly finish the year inside the games top 10. He does every year. If Nick Kyrgios can keep his head together, the talented Aussie can be a top 10 player for many years to come. However, that is like saying that if Daniel Sturridge can stay fit England can win the Euros. Nonetheless, Kyrgios is a huge talent and a good run at his home Slam in Melbourne could set the tone for a big year for the big mouth.

 

Josh:

I could easily have put Nishikori ahead of Wawrinka, as he has the potential to develop into a genuinely world-class player, who has also shown that he can trouble all of the Big 4 – but will his injury-prone body ever be able to get through a full season?! I could have put him in the top 5, or judged that his injury record merited leaving him out of the top 10 altogether, but in the end I compromised by putting him at no. 6.

There was fierce competition for the remaining 4 places. Berdych at no. 7 – does any more need to be said? My wildcard is Kyrgios at no. 8! He’s into his twenties now, and assuming he’s maturing both on and off the court, there’s no reason not to consider him a future Grand Slam champion. He has a temperament perfectly suited to the big stage, so I’m expecting at least one run to the semi-finals or even the final of a Slam in 2016; probably Wimbledon, or his home slam in Australia. My list finishes with Ferrer and Cilic – I keep predicting Ferrer’s demise, but even though I think the days of him going deep into the second week of Slams are over, he should win enough 250 and 500 tournaments to stay in the top 10.   Cilic actually could contend for Slams, and now that he seems to be over his injuries, is too good not to be there or thereabouts after a full season on tour.

Ending with a look at the grand slam, and other major tournament, prospects, and it’s fair to say one man from Serbia dominates … 

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Charlie has given a little note on the pattern amongst our slam winners: Normal service to be resumed at the main tournaments after a couple of unexpected years, the newer names seem to be settled in now so while they’re all likely to challenge, I think this year will (sadly) be a return to the more conventional list of champions.

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Josh provides us with a tip of the player to watch:

JUAN MARTIN DEL POTRO

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I know I said this last year and ended up with egg on my face, but if the giant Argentine attempts another injury comeback, he will remain the most exciting player in tennis, and if he retains only a fraction of his awesome abilities, one of the very best. I’ll be following his progress closely. On the domestic front, Kyle Edmund’s burgeoning career is worth watching after an encouraging Davis Cup debut. Borna Coric, Alex Zverev, Hyeon Chung and Thanasi Kokkinakis are all hugely talented youngsters now firmly enmeshed in the world’s top 100, so hopefully they can continue their development this year.


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Djokovic Dominance

Personally, I usually love the ATP World Tour Finals. I think that it’s the greatest week of tennis on the calendar. Players can lose and still lift the trophy, doubles and singles get equal footing and the level of play is, usually, superb.

Last year was a massive let down. The first singles match to go to three sets was Nishikori’s victory over alternate Ferrer. Three more matches went the distance, and the tournament looked to be heating up but then Federer withdrew from the final and Djokovic won by default.

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Djokovic won last year, the year before and the year before that…

I fear a similar fate one year on. Djokovic might have to actually play the final this time, however there is almost no question that he will win. Can Federer really beat him on current form? Does Murray care about the tournament enough with a bigger tournament later this month? And are the rest even worth talking about?

Djokovic blew Kei Nishikori off the court on Sunday, the only man who took a set off the Serb a year ago. He will almost certainly beat Federer tonight, in their last 6 meetings; the Swiss only has 2 victories. Berdych will offer no resistance. Then, following that – who can stop him in the other group?

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If no-one can beat Djokovic in his group, how will the other fare?

Nadal is having a resurgence of sorts; however beating Wawrinka is hardly a precursor for impending success, especially when considering both his record against Wawrinka and his record at Tour Finals (the first being excellent, the second being dreadful).

I’ll be surprised if Ferrer gets out of the group and even more surprised if he ever beats Djokovic again.

Wawrinka could and indeed does do well against the Serb however he probably has to beat Ferrer and Murray to have a shot at taking him on, which on Monday’s showing is very unlikely.

As I’ve already mentioned, Murray has bigger fish to fry this month and should Djokovic beat Federer, the Brit will finish the year at number 2 regardless of this week. Andy will soon lose interest in this tournament.

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Wonderful players, but one stands head and shoulders above the rest

What am I trying to say? I love the ATP Tour Finals. I think that they are such a wonderful concept as a round robin format in a tennis competition is simple yet compelling.

However, it’s with a tad of lethargy that I await Sunday’s final this year. There’s no question who will win, there is no question what will happen. The intrigue has left men’s tennis, and until someone can consistently topple Djokovic, it will not return.

In fact, if you want empires falling then I suggest you watch the doubles tournament. Not only could any of the 8 teams win it this year, it’s looking likely that the Bryan Brothers will lose their grip on the number one crown. Should they retain their status as the best in the world, it will be through unbelievable play from an unconvincing position.

Maybe then, I am still as excited by the Finals, just by the doubles tournament for a change.

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You should definitely watch the doubles if you get a chance


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Brit Watch

Britons don’t tend to do well at Wimbledon. Year upon year we throw wildcards at various young, and older, players only to see them fail at the first hurdle. It reached the point where we had to stop handing out wildcards to certain players (Bogdanovic!) and this year the likes of Dan Evans, Dan Cox and Tara Moore all had to qualify. That isn’t to say that wildcards weren’t handed to British players – indeed Liam and Naomi Broady, Kyle Edmund, Brydan Klein, James Ward, Jo Konta and Laura Robson all received one. Throughout this tournament I plan to update this page with how each one of them does, including a little section on what I know about each. As well as them, I will include sections on Andy Murray, Aljaz Bedene and Heather Watson as well, all of whom qualified automatically due to their ranking.

Qualifying:

No Brits made it through qualifying, although some won morale boosting matches. It’s worth mentioning everyone, just so you have an idea of some names for the future (or not, as the case usually is in British tennis!)

Women’s:

Eight British women entered the qualifying tournaments, all of them on wildcards. Amanda Carreras, Gabriella Taylor, Emily Webly-Smith, Lucy Brown and Naomi Cavaday all failed to win a match and fell at the first hurdle. There was better news, however, for Tara Moore, Katy Dunne and Katie Swann who each reached the second round. Of those, watch out for Katie Swann in the future – she’s a 16 year old who reached the Australian Open junior final this year and a win in Wimbledon qualifying should give her the confidence to kick on.

Men’s:

There were seven representatives of Britain in the male qualifying, with only one qualifying on ranking alone. Richard Gabb, Dan Cox, Alex Ward and Richard Bloomfield failed to make it past the first round, all losing to higher ranked opposition. Edward Corrie, who qualified rather than being given a wildcard, made it to the second round along with Josh Milton yet neither made it any further. Dan Evans got closest to qualifying, winning 2 matches and making the final round before losing in straight sets to Yuichi Sugita of Japan.

Main Draw Brits:

Aljaž Bedene:
WR: 75, Age: 25, Best Wimbledon: 1R (2013, 2014)

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Britain’s newest recruit; the Slovenian born Bedene is representing Britain for the first time at Wimbledon. A decent player always knocking around the world’s lower 50 of the top 100 means he will qualify automatically for every slam – even if he is yet to win a match at any! At 25, he needs to make the step up now but I’ve always liked the look of him when he plays and I’m glad to class him as a British player. In the first round, he took the first set off former top 10 Radek Stepanek before the Czech outclassed him for the next 2 sets. Bedene recovered to pull off a terrific win in 5 sets.

R1: b. Stepanek 7-5, 1-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
R2: l. Troicki [22] 4-6, 6-3, 2-6, 4-6

Liam Broady:
WR: 182, Age: 21, Best Wimbledon: first appearance

Broady, the younger sibling, from Stockport was one half of the junior doubles winning side of 2011 and has progressed nicely into the senior tour, if not spectacularly. Britain’s number 6 is at a prime age to make an impact and push his way into the world’s top 100. He had a tough but winnable start and on the first day of Wimbledon, he came from 2 sets down to beat Matosevic. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to repeat that success and fell to 16 seed, David Goffin of Belgium.

R1: b. Matosevic 5-7, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-3
R2: l. Goffin [16] 6-7, 1-6, 1-6

Naomi Broady:
WR: 200, Age: 25, Best Wimbledon: 2R (2014)

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The older Broady sibling has already tasted Wimbledon victory with a first round win over Babos last year, before losing to Caroline Wozniacki. She hasn’t always made the most of wildcards; losing in the 2 previous times she had been granted one. Seemingly destined to spend most of her career in the world 100 and 200’s, if she is going to make the jump it needs to be soon. Unfortunately, she lost on the first day to Colombian Duque Marino.

R1: l. Duque Marino 6-7, 3-6

Kyle Edmund:
WR: 101, Age: 20, Best Wimbledon: 1R (2013, 2014)

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A lot of things have been expected from South Africa born Edmund for a while now and the 2 times junior grand slam champion (admittedly both doubles) has been knocking on the door of the world top 100. He looked set to break into it following a first round victory at the French Open a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, that victory came at a cost – an injury that has kept him out until Wimbledon. With the talented Dolgopolov in the first round and that injury, don’t expect fireworks this year.

R1: l. Dolgopolov 6-7, 1-6, 2-6

Brydan Klein:
WR: 177, Age: 25, Best Wimbledon: Q2 (2014)

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Another Brit not born in Britain, this time in Australia, Klein has seemingly popped out of nowhere to feature in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon. He’s had a relatively solid year, entering qualifying for a few ATP tournaments but is yet to make an impact at any. It will be interesting to see how he fares against seeded and talented Andreas Seppi.

R1: l. Seppi [25] 3-6, 2-6, 2-6

Johanna Konta:
WR: 126, Age: 24, Best Wimbledon: 1R (2012, 2013, 2014)

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The second of three players representing Britain born in Australia, Konta’s stock has been steadily rising these past couple of years. Recently, she reached the quarterfinals in Eastbourne and Nottingham, meaning she went into Wimbledon full of confidence and form. Sadly, she was drawn against Maria Sharapova and only won four games. Watch out for her next year!

1R: l. Sharapova [4] 2-6, 2-6

Andy Murray:
WR: 3, Age: 28, Best Wimbledon: W (2013)

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Do I really need to write something explaining who Andy Murray is? Wimbledon champion, 2-time Grand Slam winner, Olympic champion and all round wonderful bloke, his reputation precedes him. Neither grumpy nor hates the English, as some unfortunately uneducated people believe, expect him to go far this year.

1R: b. Kukushkin 6-4, 7-6, 6-4
2R: b. Haase 6-1, 6-1, 6-3
3R: b. Seppi [25] 6-2, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1
4R: b. Karlovic [23] 7-6, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
QF: b. Pospisil 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
SF: l. Federer [2] 5-7, 5-7, 4-6

Laura Robson:
WR: unranked, Age: 21, Best Wimbledon: 4R (2013)

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Australian born Robson comes into this tournament without a ranking as a result of a terrible period in which she’s only played one match since the start of 2014 (a 6-0, 6-1 loss). It’s a terrible story for the 21 year old who looked a couple of years ago like she could compete, and possibly win, a few slams in her life. It’ll require a lot of catching up but the 2012 mixed doubles silver medallist still has more than enough time to recapture some of her 2012/2013 form. It would be a huge surprise to see her winning many matches at Wimbledon following that injury, however one would be nice.

1R: l. Rodina 4-6, 4-6

James Ward:
WR: 111, Age: 28, Best Wimbledon: 2R (2012)

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For years the British number 2, Ward has recently been overtaken by Bedene and Edmund yet he’s still the only British male, besides Andy, to have won a match at SW19 coming into this year. He was originally scheduled to play David Ferrer until the Spaniard pulled out – leaving Ward with an opponent ranked below him and therefore a winnable match. We are all urging him to do it, Ward has so much talent and power that the world’s top 100 should be well within his grasp, yet he’s never made it. Davis Cup has been where his potential has shone the brightest and hopefully he can show that this week.

1R: b. Vanni 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3
2R: b. Vesely 6-2, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3
3R: l. Pospisil 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-8

Heather Watson:
WR: 59, Age: 23, Best Wimbledon: 3R (2012)

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Heather Watson has had a fascinating career already, even at 23. She’s been inside the world top 50, outside of the top 100 and struggled with glandular fever for a long period of time. Now that illness seems to have disappeared, she’s beginning to string together form and victories, taking her back to the brink of the top 50. Her first match, against the talented Garcia of France was suspended at 1 set all on the first day due to lack of Hawkeye. She came back the next day, saved match points and went on to win 8-6 in a thrilling final set.

1R: b. Garcia [32] 1-6, 6-3, 8-6
2R: b. Hantuchová 6-4, 6-2
3R: l. S.Williams [1] 2-6, 6-4, 5-7

Verdict:

This Wimbledon has been undoubtedly positive for British players. Konta and Klein had very tough opening matches and performed admirably against much higher quality opposition. Robson and Edmund also lost in the first round, although both of those can be put down to injuries. The Broady family will be particularly proud of how this year went, with Liam winning his first ever Grand Slam match (and coming back from 2 sets down to do it!) before almost taking the first set off David Goffin, who’s reached the fourth round, whilst Naomi was close to beating a higher ranked opponent in both sets. The real highlights were Ward, Bedene and Watson. Bedene beat a former top 10 player to win his first match at a Grand Slam, while Ward beat a top 50 player and then took another to 5 sets to break into the World’s top 100 and reach the 3rd round of a slam for the first time. There is no shame in either losing to Troicki and Pospisil. Heather Watson beat a seed, then comfortably beat a former Wimbledon quarter-finalist before almost beating the world’s greatest player. She’ll be annoyed that she couldn’t see it through against Serena but must take heart from how she stuck with Williams throughout, and came close to beating her. Whatever happens with Murray, this year can only breed positivity for the British contingent.