History beckons Nadal in his search for a decent pair of shorts

* A curtain-raiser for Wimbledon on which the curtain has already gone up

London, July 6: SW19 is no ordinary address in the tennis world. It is the pincode for inviolable traditions, which is another name for insufferable snootiness that is Wimbledon.

This year, in a break from the tradition, the Wimbledon tournament has started later than the usual June last-week beginning. In keeping with this new tradition we have also delayed our traditional ‘curtain-raiser’ on the tournament by around four days. Left to us, we will delay the piece even further till the tournament gets over so that we can straightaway pick the winner so that you need not have to read about other losers who we generally write about in the grand newspaper tradition of having to fill space on the news page.

Here is a quick round up of the favourites for the tournament.

Men:

Andy Murray: A British man winning the Wimbledon seemed an impossible dream till he came on the scene, and when he won two titles, in 2013 and 2016, it pushed the entire country to such a dazzling daze in pride that they went ahead and voted themselves out of the continent. If he wins once more, they will probably vote themselves out of the globe, and a world without England cannot be a bad thing.

Murray has had some injury concerns this season, and has had a patchy preparation. But he seems fully fit now and all raring to go, except the fact that despite his return to strength he always looks tired like a person who has just finished the mountain stretch of Tour de France.

Rafael Nadal: His stunning comeback to top-flight tennis and winning the French Open in June has to be the biggest comeback story in a long long long time since January when Roger Federer won the Australian Open with a even more impressive comeback.

Nadal’s ground strokes are back to their missile-precision. His on-court mobility and the (troublesome) wrist are close to their best. He has re-found his tennis mojo. Now he has to find that one thing his glittering career has missed so far: A decent pair of shorts that actually fit him, so that he doesn’t have to forever reach for his undies and pull them out from his butt crack before every serve.

Roger Federer: That a 35-year-old father of two sets of twins managed to win the Australian Open this year reveals his skill and mental fortitude even while revealing the shallow standards of world tennis. To be sure, Federer could not have won during the heydays of Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Gerulatis, especially because Federer was not even born then.

Federer has a tough draw, but if his knees, which had suffered extensive damage probably due to repeated falling to them after victories, can hold up, he can go all the way till the finals, after which win or lose it doesn’t matter, because he will anyway cry.

Novak Djokovic: The Serb’s loss of form has been the biggest talking point in the tennis world because the alternative to it will be to discuss Robin Soderling’s missing his touch recently, Djokovic did win the Eastbourne title on grass ahead of the Wimbledon, which is a good sign, because of many previous winners at Eastbourne have gone on to be discussed as a favourite for the Wimbledon.

Stan Wawrinka: The French Open finalist is in good form, but our tennis expertise suggests that he must consider himself extremely lucky if he survives the first week of Wimbledon. Ha. Hah. Ha. We know he is already knocked out of the tournament. Our intellectual honesty is such that since we had marked him down as one of the favourites we have included him here.

Women:

Serena Williams: For the first time in a long time, Serena Williams is not starting a tournament as a favourite. But this may be also due to the fact she is not playing it as she is pregnant. But still, statistically at least, she has a better chance of winning than some of the players who are in the fray.

Venus Williams: The elder of the Williams sister at 37 years of age is still going strong. The five-time champion knows the court and conditions here, and on her day, she can take out any top player, especially because — McEnroe mode on and casual sexism alert — women’s tennis is not known for any great depths.

Jelena Ostapenko: Before the French Open, you would have had to Google her name. But now, well, you have to just ask for French Open champion 2017, Google will throw up her name. The 20-year-old Latvian was fearless in Paris. But at Wimbledon, she may not be so, especially what with the several terror attacks in London.

Elina Svitolina: The Ukranian is the woman in form all through the year, and you know what a woman in great form can do: Lose from a position of 6-3, 5-1 up. At least that is what she did at Roland Garros as she contrived to a defeat at the hands of Simona Halep, who using the inspiration from this match went all the way to the finals and — this is where the inspiration kicked in —  lose from a similar position of strength.

Apart from these, Angeline Kerber, Victoria Azarenka, Garbiñe Muguruza, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Karolina Pliskova or any other such names that you will find if you carefully follow women’s tennis tour all year or if you care to Google for a few seconds, can win the Wimbledon this year. But no matter who wins, she has her place in history sealed as the one who won in the absence of Serena.

         

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