While Andy Murray remains the No.1 player in the world, the majority of those ranking points were accumulated in the second half of 2016 and this year has been far more of a struggle. He has had several niggling fitness issues, including a bout of shingles, and his only title came in Dubai. However, after a series of early exits during the spring, he showed signs of a return to his best form as he progressed to the semi-finals of the French Open.
Stan Wawrinka knocked Murray out in five sets in the last four of the French Open, before falling to Rafa Nadal in the final. The Swiss powerhouse also won the Geneva Open right before heading to Roland Garros and is now firmly established in the world’s top three, although he has never made much of an impact at Queen’s and Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam he has yet to win.
Unlike Wawrinka, Milos Raonic is a big fan of playing on grass and reached the finals of both the Aegon Championship and Wimbledon last year. However, he has not had an especially impressive year on the hard and clay courts so far and a fourth-round exit at the French Open left him 14th in the Race to London standings.
Fourth seed Marin Cilic reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and has fond memories of Queen’s, having won in 2012 and made the final in 2013. Sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov is another former winner in the draw who is enjoying a decent season, while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Jack Sock, Nick Kyrgios and Juan Martin del Potro are among the other hopefuls.
Murray got better and better with each round at the French Open and, although he finally ran out of steam against Wawrinka in the semi-finals, his improvement will imbue him with confidence ahead of the Aegon Championship and Wimbledon. He has a stunning record at Queen’s and is the class act in the field, following Rafa Nadal’s withdrawal and considering Wawrinka’s inconsistency on grass.
Raonic is a serious contender, although he has been below his best so far this year and Murray is such a good returner that his huge serve is often neutralised when the pair meet up. The likes of Cilic, Tsonga, Kyrgios and Del Potro all have good grass-court games and could be dangerous with favourable draws, but if there is to be a threat to Murray it could just come from Dimitrov. The Bulgarian has a well-rounded, all-court style which is not purely reliant on brute force, and he has the defensive skills to take down some of the big hitters. He may be the one to watch, although it would be unwise to bet against Murray at Queen’s.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Murray to win the title