Patrick Mouratoglou

Djokovic the favourite in open men’s draw

Patrick Mouratoglou

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The men's draw at Wimbledon looks one of
the most exciting for a long time, with the top four players playing as well as
they are. Each is maximising his abilities, while playing a different style of tennis
from the others. The situation seems more open than ever before: Novak Djokovic
is undeniably the best player in the world so far this season, but lacks success
on grass; Federer is back in shape and rules the place with six previous titles;
Nadal has just won the French Open and re-found his confidence; and finally
Murray, who has overcome his Melbourne disappointment and will be more
motivated than ever at home.

THE FAVOURITES

Novak, the big favourite

For me, the Serbian is the favourite.
Ultra-dominating since the start of the season and the true No.1, he has only
lost one match - in the Roland Garros semi-finals against Federer. During the
first quarter of the season he proved he was the best player on hardcourts;
during the second one, his wins in Madrid and Roma over Nadal, the boss on clay,
demonstrated that he was a step ahead of the field. His loss in Paris can be
explained by both Federer's comeback and him choosing the wrong strategy on the
day. But he hasn't had one really bad day for seven months. To those who say he
hasn't ever won anything on grass, I counter that today he is a new player. He
owns all the abilities to shine on this surface: a good first serve, a top
slice, perfect footwork, a huge ability to counterpunch and the way he takes
the ball so early. If he reaches the final and is facing Rafa, he'd be in a
great position against a player he has beaten four times in finals in the last
four months.

Nadal, light-hearted

Nadal arrives at Wimbledon with a light
heart. He has won the most important tournament of his season already in Roland
Garros - he believed that the title was beyond him, but he was wrong. He went
through four tough months mentally, facing a totally new situation: between
January and March, he had to accept that Djokovic had become the boss as he won
the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami. Those two Masters final losses hurt
him but not as much as the two that followed, on the clay of Madrid and Rome -
a surface that the Spaniard had dominated for so long. Nadal now faces a real
issue: the Serbian has the tactics to beat him and the mental edge. Yet despite
its stresses this Roland Garros triumph, Grand Slam number 10, will allow Rafa
to breathe a little bit. Sure, he is also the Wimbledon title holder, but he
will give himself a bigger margin for mistakes because he is fully aware of the
Serbian's level of play at the moment and because he has fulfilled his contract
by winning the French. So he should re-find his length of shot, mandatory for
his game, and play freely. And he is once again on the opposite side of the
draw of Federer - better for him that the Swiss and Serb battle it out before
the final and not him.

Roger, back on top

The Swiss comes into this event looking
better than he did last year, when he was struggling. He has arrived reassured having
played some great tennis during Roland Garros on a surface that is not the best
for his game style. Once more he is that great mover, and playing on a court which
suits his game down to the ground. He is taking the ball early again and turning
more often on his backhand to hit his big forehands. His serve seems to be back
too after a few months where it suffered. What he did in Paris, with that key
match against Djokovic - despite the loss in the final - should give him a lot
of confidence at the tournament that suits him the most. The variety and the
accuracy of his serve and groundstrokes, the way he can play with the ball
heights and with his slice, added to the fact that this surface gives speed to
low balls, will accentuate his natural abilities and his love of playing fast.
He should face Nole in the semi-finals in a battle I'm already impatient to see.

Murray at home

Should I once again speak with regret
that Murray is not taking full advantage of his potential - his unique talent, great
hand, ability to speed up the ball, take it early, returning ability, serve and
defence? Once again this year Andy has been through a small crisis, following his
Australian Open loss, but it was shorter than last year because at Monte Carlo
he was already back to a great level - reaching the semi-finals and going down
fighting against Nadal. He then achieved his best result at Roland Garros with
a semi-final appearance. He will arrive at Wimbledon with a title at Queen's in
his pocket, confident in his game and motivated for 'his' Grand Slam. What are
his chances against the top three? Andy is close to them but I don't think
that, for now, he is able to beat them in a semi-final or final of a Grand
Slam. He's still lacking that little something, an accurate gameplan for the
whole year. He will have to take all his chances.

THE OUTSIDERS

Nowadays the top players in the world hugely
dominate the rest of the field, meaning it seems more and more difficult for an
outsider to reach the semi-finals of a major. Despite this I have picked three
players who are the most able to prove me wrong on this point.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Jo-Wilfried is playing terrific tennis
at the moment. At Roland Garros, despite his early exit, I really enjoyed his
game and the desire you could see going with it. A five-setter on clay against
a player like Wawrinka is still too hard for Jo to deal with physically but the
grass should see him realise the potential in his game. Going forward and
playing serve and volley, Jo is enjoying his tennis again.

Tomas Berdych

He is having a less successful year than
last, when he played the best tennis of his career. Having reached the final at
SW19, there will be the pressure of defending all those ranking points - and he
went out early in France. However his game is suited to this surface: an
excellent serve, a good return, flat and quick shots and strong footwork. So
he'll try to repeat his performance of 2010 - but it seems that his chance to
achieve it is tiny.

Robin Soderling

The Swede has struggled since the start of
the year and already changed coaches twice. He has looked better since working
with Frederik Rosengren right before the French Open. But he hasn't won enough
matches to build his confidence again and, if his game can be adjusted to all surfaces,
his lack of speed is a real issue against the top players. However his serve
and heavy groundstrokes still make him a dangerous player.

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