• Wimbledon

Murray will be up there, but expect these guys to ruffle some feathers

Chris Wilkinson June 20, 2014
Will there be more Wimbledon glory for Andy Murray? © AP

ESPN's resident tennis expert and former British No.1 Chris Wilkinson previews the 2014 Wimbledon Championships, giving a rundown of his players to keep an eye on at SW19, as well as his thoughts on Andy Murray's chances to retain his title.

Grigor Dimitrov

Grigor Dimitrov heads into Wimbledon on the back of victory at Queen's © Getty Images

Ranking: 13
Age: 23
Wimbledon best: Round 2 (2011, 2012, 2013)
Unibet odds: 20/1

The tour's most recent winner, edging a hard-fought final on Sunday at Queen's - a tournament with a good record of producing winners that go on and do well at Wimbledon the following week.

Dimitrov has won tournaments on every surface this year - in Mexico on hard and Romania on clay before the grass of Queen's - and he made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open, so we know he has it in him to go deep at a grand slam.

He is one I consider to be amongst the most exciting players around. He is only 23 and ranked 13th in the world, he has a good all-court game and his movement around the court is a joy to watch.

And then there's the Maria Sharapova factor. His relationship with the French Open champion is a great influence on him. Sharapova is competitive and, most importantly, a winner - and that has to rub off on Dimitrov. He also has a new coach, Roger Rasheed, a tough Australian who will push him along.

He's got the right people around him.

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych has impressed this season © Getty Images

Ranking: 7
Age: 28
Wimbledon best: Runner-up (2010)
Unibet odds: 40/1

Berdych is quietly going about his business this year, but did not play well at Queen's - though this is forgiven when it's your first tournament of the year on grass.

What he has got is the experience. He has been in the final at Wimbledon in 2010, where he was beaten by Nadal, and he has reached the semi-finals at all of the other three slams.

He plays a flat, aggressive game with a good serve and you can never count him out.

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic is tipped for big things © Getty Images

Ranking: 9
Age: 23
Wimbledon best: Round 2 (2011, 2012, 2013)
Unibet odds: 60/1

One of my favourite players to watch. Raonic has such a big game, with a huge serve and a lot of big weapons in his arsenal. On his day he can hurt anyone and he's proved that with his results.

If you are looking at where he might come unstuck, then his movement on grass could be an issue, as could his return of serve. But he is going to hold serve quite often and he can be very dangerous.

Ranked No.9 in the world now, he will definitely be in with a shout.

Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis saw off Roger Federer to reach the last four at Roland Garros © Getty Images

Ranking: 10
Age: 25
Wimbledon best: Round 3 (2013)
Unibet odds: 60/1

Ah, the crazy Latvian! Gulbis, who made the semis at the French Open which has seen him into the top 10, is one of those players who has always had potential but is just a bit flaky mentally.

For the first time in many, many years he seems to be getting his brain together. Two titles already this year suggest he is getting better in this area. Physically, his forehand can let him down a bit, but someone with such a monster serve will do well on grass.

Kei Nishikori

Kei Nishikori will be looking to better his third-round appearances of the past two years © PA Photos

Ranking: 12
Age: 24
Wimbledon best: Round 3 (2012, 2013)
Unibet odds: 70/1

Up to No.12 in the world having got to a career-high 10 a few weeks ago, Nishikori has done well this year and has already won two titles - one on indoor hard and one on clay.

What I like about Nishikori is he plays the way Djokovic does - with swift court movement and getting the ball away early. Nishikori has the game to get through players.

His biggest issue, though, is his fitness. He's prone to injury and has already pulled out of four events this season, including the Miami Masters semi-finals and the final of the Madrid Open against Rafael Nadal, as well as the Davis Cup.

He has the game to do well at the slams, but best of five over two weeks is a different beast.

Want more of a surprise?

If I was looking at a real outsider, I would have to say Jerzy Janowicz again. Ranked 24th and a semi-finalist last year, Janowicz has a good game for grass. He is not having the best year and is struggling to put back-to-back matches together, but when he's on his game he is lethal.

My semi-final predictions

Is 2011 champion Novak Djokovic your pick for Wimbledon glory this year? © Getty Images

Andy Murray will be there or thereabouts - he's too good a player not to be. It will be tougher for Murray, who opens against world No.104 David Goffin, to defend his title because of how difficult it is to live up to what you did the previous year.

His preparations have been a bit different because he went deep in the French Open, reaching the semi-finals, whereas last year he didn't play at Roland Garros. He also won Queen's last time out so had a bit more momentum heading into Wimbledon. I'm not overly convinced he will win this year but I fancy him to reach the last four.

Picking my four semi-finalists for Wimbledon this year is the toughest it's been in a while. Along with Murray, I'm going for Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and one of my guys to watch - Milos Raonic.

I can see Rafael Nadal struggling again. He went out in the first round last year and he doesn't seem to enjoy the transition from clay to grass. The impact on his knees takes its toll and he lost early on in Halle last week.

If you are pushing me for a winner - then it's Djokovic's year for me.

Women's draw

Eugenie Bouchard has broken her WTA title duck this season © Getty Images

There are four players in the women's draw who I fancy to cause a bit of a stir at this year's Wimbledon.

Simona Halep, who just made the final of the French Open, has been playing amazing tennis this year. She's very solid, very fit, and hits the ball well. If there is any weakness, it's getting over the finishing post at a slam - but her experience at Roland Garros will have put her in good stead.

Next up is Eugenie Bouchard. The young Canadian made the semi-finals at the French Open, and took a set off Sharapova before being edged out. She is a great mover and very, very aggressive - and don't forget she's won Wimbledon too, having triumphed in the juniors here, so she has great memories of the tournament.

You always have to keep an eye on those playing well going into a tournament, and Ana Ivanovic is going into Wimbledon having won her first tournament on grass at last week's Aegon Classic.

And, lastly, this might sound a bit bizarre, but I'm going for Victoria Azarenka to be a bit of a surprise package. A two-time Australian Open champion, and a semi-finalist at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012, Azarenka has suffered from persistent injuries this year that have seen her fall to eighth in the rankings. She will be a lot fresher than many of the other players and the more time she spends on court the better she will get. Watch this space.

Forget the tears from earlier this year, Victoria Azarenka is back and ready to cause a stir at SW19 © Getty Images

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.

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Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.