Five grass court storylines to watch ahead of Wimbledon
With less than two weeks until the third major tournament of the year at the All England Club in Wimbledon, the top ATP and WTA players are tuning up their grass court games at lead ups in London, Halle, Germany and more. Here are five storylines to watch in the weeks until Wimbledon:
Serena Williams goes for the Serena Slam
After winning her third French Open title two weeks ago in Paris, Serena insisted everyone shelve all the talk about the possibility of completing the Calendar Grand Slam this year at the U.S. Open. "I don't want people asking me all these questions," Serena said in Paris. "I'm telling you, at Wimbledon the monkey is off my back because I have not done well there in a couple of years considering how well I have done there for so many years." Indeed, Wimbledon has been her least successful major over the last two years. Since winning her fifth Wimbledon title in 2012 she has failed to make it past the fourth round.
Serena may be halfway to a Grand Slam but she's just one Wimbledon win away from the so-dubbed "Serena Slam", i.e. the non-Calendar Slam. Serena accomplished the feat in 2002 and 2003 when she became the fifth woman to hold all four Slam titles simultaneously after winning the 2002 French Open, 2002 Wimbledon, 2002 U.S. Open and 2003 Australian Open.
Over a decade later, at 33-years-old, Serena continues to dominate the women's tour. She has won the last three majors and a win at Wimbledon would give her 21 major titles, just one away from tying Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22.
Novak Djokovic looks to rebound at Wimbledon
He's the defending champion and coming off a heart-breaking loss to Stan Wawrinka at the French Open. How quickly can Djokovic snap back into competition mode for Wimbledon? His first dalliance on social media since leaving Paris without the title he so desperately wanted was a lengthy quote about character and integrity.
The Serb is playing no official lead-up tournaments before Wimbledon, a tactic that has worked fine for him in the past. He is currently scheduled to play The Boodles exhibition at Stoke Park the week before Wimbledon.
Can Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal ready themselves?
While Djokovic limits his grass court preparation, Federer and Nadal are racing to get their grass games in order. After losing to Djokovic in the French Open quarterfinals, Nadal wasted no time getting onto his second-best surface, winning his first grass title since 2012 last week in Stuttgart. But unless he takes an unlikely wildcard next week, his grass preparation will be limited to practicing at Aorangi Park. Nadal lost in the first round of the Aegon Championships to Alexandr Dolgopolov on Tuesday.
As for Federer, his Wimbledon preparation once again centers around Halle, where he narrowly escaped with a first round win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Monday. A Wimbledon finalist last year, Federer's best chance to win his 18th major title remains at the All England Club.
Pressure is high for slumpers Bouchard and Dimitrov
Two of the brightest players from the 2014 season made their mark on the grass season last year, but a year later they return to the surface as non-factors. Eugenie Bouchard backed up her string of strong Slam performances last year by making her first Slam final at Wimbledon. Since that run she is 16-21, including a 7-11 mark in 2015. After taking a first round loss last week as the top seed in s'Hertogenbosch, she has now lost nine of her last ten matches.
Grigor Dimitrov's 2015 woes haven't been as headline grabbing, but there's no doubt he has failed to build on his breakout season. Dimitrov tore through the grass season last year, winning the Aegon Championships and beating Andy Murray to make his first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon. In 2015, Dimitrov hasn't taken a slew of bad losses, but he's failed to make progress. After cracking into the Top 10 at No. 8 last August, he has hovered just outside the Top 10 this season.
Who will lead the youth surge on grass?
Nick Kyrgios and Bouchard led the charge last year, with Kyrgios upending Nadal to make his first Slam quarterfinal and Bouchard rolling to her first Slam final. Can Kyrgios back it up this year? And who will lead the younger set into the second week?
With grass being a truly specialized surface, it's dangerous to rely on recent results. Jack Sock had a fantastic run through the clay season to make the second week of the French Open, but his strokes have yet to line up well on grass. Borna Coric, 18, doesn't like the surface either. The same goes for Dominic Thiem.
The best chance for a youngster going deep could go to Madison Keys. The 20-year-old loves the surface and her powerful game, which is built on short rallies and big hitting, flourishes on grass. She won her first WTA title in Eastbourne last year and has played well at Wimbledon, despite having not progressed past the third round.