Silverberg: What a Wimbledon title would mean this year

By Joel Silverberg / @JoelSilverberg

The best Monday in tennis is here.

Every year Wimbledon skips play on the middle Sunday of the tournament and plays all 16 fourth round singles matches on “Manic Monday.” It’s the tournament’s way of rounding the corner and heading down the home stretch.

The event has looked more like the South Region of this year’s NCAA basketball tournament than a Grand Slam. Of the 32 singles players remaining in the men’s and women’s draws combined only six of them are seeded in the top ten of their respective brackets. Five of the top ten seeds remain in the men’s draw, but only No. 7 Karolina Pliskova remains of the top ten seeded women.

Still, there are many familiar names on both sides remaining in the field outside the top ten seeds (Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic to name a couple) that could very well win another Wimbledon title.

The story angles that could be told about this event are many, but what are some of the more notable ones? What would this Wimbledon title mean to each player remaining in the field?

Let’s dive right in. Ladies first.

Serena Williams: She’s the 25th seed, but there’s nobody else remaining in the bracket who’s looked at as the favorite the way Williams is, especially with the way the draw has played out. A title for her here would mean a very quick ascension back to the top of the women’s game and a message to the rest of the WTA that she’s not going away anytime soon. Most importantly it would tie here atop the list of most Grand Slam singles titles with Margaret Court at 24.

Karolina Pliskova: The highest remaining seed in the women’s bracket. A win in London would be her first major, but also show she can play on all surfaces as Wimbledon is the only major she’s never advanced past the fourth round at (before this year, she had never been past the second round). Most importantly it would solidify her place among the game’s current elite and keep her out of the conversation of notable players to attain the world No. 1 ranking, but never win a major.

Angelique Kerber: She has two majors to her name and made the finals here two years ago, losing to Serena. Both Serena and Pliskova are on the other side of the draw, meaning it’s wide open for Kerber to get back to the final in London. A title at Wimbledon would mean the French Open is the only tournament between Kerber and the career Grand Slam. It would propel her back into the top ten and show a return to form after a disappointing 2017.

Jalena Ostapenko: She made the quarters here a year ago after winning the 2017 French Open. Outside of last summer she’s been terribly inconsistent, failing to make the fourth round of any major before this weekend and defending her French Open title by bowing out in the first round a few weeks ago. A second major here just a month after her 21st birthday could be a turning point towards stability, especially in majors, and show that her remarkable run at Roland Garros last year wasn’t a fluke.

Everyone else: No other woman remaining in the draw has won a Grand Slam. One potentially intriguing storyline is Dominika Cibulkova, who would make a statement after she was left unseeded following Serena being granted the 25th seed. She voiced her displeasure about the decision, but has backed it up with solid play and the former world No. 4 should be favored in her fourth round match.

After all of the early upsets on the women’s side it would be easy to assume order will be restored in the second week, but if week one is any indication no player should be counted out too soon.

Now for the gentlemen.

Roger Federer: A 21st major crown and a ninth at Wimbledon. A win this week (a month before he turns 37) would further establish Federer’s legacy as the greatest to ever play the game.

Rafael Nadal: The head-to-head comparison between Federer and Nadal would be the closest ever if Nadal wins Sunday’s final. Federer won four majors before Nadal claimed his first and the margin has never been less than three. If Nadal wins the conversation of who will have more majors will be sparked for the first time in a long time.

Novak Djokovic: Winning Wimbledon would give him sole possession of fourth place on the all-time list for most major singles titles with 13 behind Federer, Nadal and Pete Sampras (14). It would also show that he’s mostly recovered from the injuries that sidelined him for much of 2017 and give him his first Grand Slam since the 2016 French Open.

Juan Martin del Potro: Wimbledon would be his second major after winning the U.S. Open nine years ago. After multiple surgeries to help his chronically ailed wrists that plagued a fair amount of his career a second title would be quite the feel good story.

Milos Raonic: The big serving Canadian made the finals here two years ago after upsetting Federer in the semifinals. Injuries derailed his 2017 season. He lost in the opening round in Melbourne and missed the French Open this year. A title here would be his first Grand Slam and could put him on the fast track to return to the top tier of the ATP for the former world No. 3.

Kei Nishikori: Speaking of wrist injuries, the 2014 U.S. Open Runner-Up and former world No. 4 missed a lot of time with a torn tendon in his right wrist last year. Winning The Championships would make him the first Asian man in history to win a Grand Slam.

Ernests Gulbis, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon: Three former top ten players, all with high expectations at the beginning of their careers, but none with a title to their name. Simon made the quarters at the grass court major back in 2015, but this is the farthest Gulbis or Monfils have ever advanced at Wimbledon.

Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Mackenzie McDonald: Should any of these three win the tournament, he’d be the first former NCAA player to win a major singles title since John McEnroe. Anderson played at Illinois and made the finals at the U.S. Open last year. Former Georgia Bulldog Isner has never been past a Grand Slam quarterfinal. McDonald won the NCAA singles title while at UCLA and is into the second week of a major for the first time.

Adrian Mannarino, Jiri Vesely, Karen Khachanov, Stefanos Tsitsipas: None of these players have reached a Grand Slam quarterfinal. Mannarino is 30 and has never won an ATP title, let alone a major. Khachanov and Tsitsipas are two of the games potential rising stars with the 19-year-old Tsitsipas being seeded at this event. Vesely made the fourth round at Wimbledon two years ago and broke into the top 40 in the world, but his ranking dropped outside the top 100 earlier this year before putting together a nice run this week in London.

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