By Ashley Marshall
Wimbledon 2017 gets underway Monday, as the game’s elite performers hit the peak of the grass-court season at the perfectly manicured lawns of the All England Club in southwest London. Among the stars competing this year are the winners of the US Open Series tournaments in 2016.
Let's take a closer look at the Series champions' history in London and how they could fare at the penultimate Grand Slam event of the year:
The 2016 BB&T Atlanta Open champion has historically fared well on the grass of Wimbledon, reaching the quarterfinals in 2014 and the fourth round in each of the two subsequent years. His run to the final eight in 2014 marks the deepest he has been at a major, equal with his quarterfinal appearance in Melbourne in 2015. His three Wimbledon losses have been at the hands of No. 8 seed Milos Raonic (2014), No. 21 Richard Gasquet (2015) and No. 2 Andy Murray (2016), but he has also recorded impressive wins over the likes of Rafael Nadal and Feliciano Lopez.
The 2016 Rogers Cup champ is a three-time winner in southwest London and he has claimed two of the past three titles. Djokovic has failed to reach the semifinals just once in his past seven trips to the English capital, falling to American Sam Querrey in the third round 12 months ago. He has won 34 of his past 37 matches at Wimbledon, and he will be considered among the favorites again this year. To fine-tune his preparation, Djokovic played in the warmup grass-court event in Eastbourne, a rarity for the Serb.
Cilic, who triumphed in Cincinnati last year, has been a second-week mainstay in London in recent years. He has reached the quarterfinals in each of his past three trips to the All England Club, despite preferring the slower hard courts of the Australian Open and US Open. Cilic has played some of the most memorable matches in Wimbledon history, including a five-set marathon win over Querrey that finished 17-15 in the final set (2012), a thriller with John Isner, which he took 12-10 in the decider (2015), and a nail-biting five-set quarterfinal loss to Roger Federer (2016).
Pablo Carreno Busta
The 2016 Winston-Salem Open champion was forced to pull out of Wimbledon with an abdominal strain suffered at Roland Garros. His game is not suited particularly well to grass, so it’s little surprise that his three previous trips to London have resulted in three consecutive first-round defeats. Part of that, however, is a result of the luck of the draw. He faced seventh-seeded David Ferrer in 2014, No. 18 Gael Monfils in 2015 and No. 6 seed Milos Raonic last year. He would have been seeded at Wimbledon for the first time had he been healthy enough to compete.
The 2016 Stanford champion is one of the pre-tournament favorites in London, where she will enter as the No. 6 seed and top-ranked British female. But while she has reached the semifinals in Melbourne and the fourth round in consecutive years in New York, grass-court success has largely eluded her. Expectations of an enthusiastic host nation will be squarely on the shoulders of Andy Murray, which may take some of the attention away from Konta, who has won just one match at Wimbledon in five years.
Last year's Rogers Cup champion is coming into Wimbledon on the heels of some of the best tennis of her life. The No. 2 seed reached her second French Open final earlier this month and has been to the quarterfinals in three of her last four majors. With a scrappy all-court game that rewards grinding, Halep reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in her breakthrough year in 2014 and the quarterfinals in 2016.
Pliskova, last year’s Cincinnati winner, is the third seed at Wimbledon this year. She has exited in the second round in her previous four appearances in London, but the Czech star is seemingly a different player than 12 months ago. Having never won a third-round match at a Grand Slam, Pliskova reached last year’s US Open final and then started 2017 with a run to the quarters in Australia and the semis in Paris. Her grass-court preparations are going well, and she is currently through to the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon tune-up event in Eastbourne.
Radwanska, who won the 2016 Connecticut Open, is always a threat on grass, and there’s every reason to expect another deep run from the 28-year-old ninth seed. A finalist at Wimbledon in 2012, Radwanska (pictured above) has also reached two semifnals (2013 and 2015) and consecutive quarterfinals (2008 and 2009), making grass her best surface. She suffered an unexpected loss to Lauren Davis in Eastbourne this week but will still be considered one of the favorites when play begins Monday.