The “Big Four” have dominated for years, as much in recent times as any, considering they've claimed 44 of the past 49 Grand Slams. Yet somehow, this week at Wimbledon, tennis fans will have an opportunity with the Big Four that fans haven't enjoyed in more than two years.
For the first time since 2015 Roland Garros, the entire quartet – Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – will play in the second week of a Grand Slam. Who will be the favourite, and who will be No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings next week? ATPWorldTour.com looks at the Big Four's week ahead.
On paper, Murray has the easiest route to the Wimbledon semi-finals. The two-time champion meets Benoit Paire in the fourth round, and the Frenchman has never reached a Grand Slam quarter-final. Should Murray dispatch the right-hander and make the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the 10th consecutive time, he would face either 24th seed Sam Querrey or former Top 10 player Kevin Anderson of South Africa.
While the two big servers may be well under the radar so far, both Querrey and Anderson have experienced playing the underdog against a member of the Big Four at a Grand Slam. Querrey, of course, knocked out Djokovic in the third round of Wimbledon last year, and Anderson reached his Grand Slam quarter-final in 2015 when he beat Murray at the US Open.
Survive Anderson or Querrey, though, and Murray's path will get trickier without a doubt. Fourth seed Rafael Nadal and seventh seed Marin Cilic are the highest seeds remaining in Nadal's quarter. Murray will remain World No. 1 if he reaches his fourth Wimbledon final.
Is the Djokovic back? With new coaches Mario Ancic and 1992 Wimbledon champion Andre Agassi courtside, the Serbian certainly has looked like the Djokovic who won three Wimbledon titles. But the tests will continue for Djokovic, who next faces Adrian Mannarino, a tricky left-hander who's playing with nothing to lose.
The Frenchman has reached the fourth round at a Grand Slam only once before – 2013 Wimbledon – but Mannarino has to be feeling confident on the grass after reaching the Antalya Open final last week in Turkey (l. to Sugita).
If Djokovic, who has yet to lose a set this fortnight, denies Mannarino his first quarter-final appearance, the second seed will meet either 2010 finalist Tomas Berdych or World No. 8 Dominic Thiem. Djokovic knows Berdych well – the Serbian leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 25-2.
But Thiem could be much more complicated. Last month, the Austrian knocked out Djokovic in the Roland Garros quarter-finals, running away with the straight-sets win 6-0 in the third. Thiem, who hadn't made it past the second round at Wimbledon before this year, has said he's feeling more comfortable on the grass as well.
Djokovic will return to World No. 1 by winning his fourth Wimbledon title, but only if both Murray and Nadal lose before the semi-finals.
The start of his quest for title No. 8 at SW19 could hardly have gone smoother. Federer didn't drop a set during his first three wins. But the seven-time champion might have the most intriguing fourth-round opponent in Grigor Dimitrov, a 2014 Wimbledon semi-finalist who has shown flashes of the play that brought him to the last four on the grass.
In the past, Federer has had no trouble with the Bulgarian – Roger leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 5-0 – but Dimitrov has been nearly as smooth as Federer thus far. Consider the scorelines of Dimitrov's past seven sets: 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
Stay unbeaten against Dimitrov and Federer will stroll into the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the 15th time. There, Federer's path could become even more enticing, for fans, anyway, with either last year's finalist Milos Raonic or 10th seed Alexander Zverev waiting in the quarter-final.
Raonic came back from two sets to one down to beat Federer in the 2016 Wimbledon semi-finals, the last time they played. Federer beat Zverev last month in the Gerry Weber Open final in Halle. If Federer advances to the semi-finals, we could see a re-match of the 2014 and 2015 Wimbledon finals, with Federer meeting Djokovic for a spot in the final.
What could have been described as an enigma before the tournament – Nadal's 2017 Wimbledon fortune – has become abundantly clear to anyone who has watched the Spaniard during his first three matches at SW19. Nadal has looked very much like the player who reached the final five times between 2006-2011 and much less like the player who hasn't returned to the Wimbledon quarter-finals since 2011.
The Spaniard faces the confident and big-serving Gilles Muller in the fourth round, and another confident and big-serving player could lurk in the quarter-finals. If the seeds play out, Nadal will meet seventh seed Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals. Cilic faces 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round.
The 6'6” Croatian, who reached the Aegon Championships final (l. to Lopez) last month, has been aggressive and scary good on serve this season on grass. He's averaging 21 aces a match during this Wimbledon fortnight.
In the semi-finals, fans could be in for another treat as Nadal could meet Murray for the first time since the 2016 Mutua Madrid Open, when Murray won in straight sets. If it occurs, that semi-final will decide who is No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on 17 July. Nadal will return to No. 1 by reaching his sixth Wimbledon final.