Tennis: A look at the 'Big Four' and their chances at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, returns on June 29. Since 2003, it has been won by the "Big Four" of men's tennis, namely Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray.

Here is a look at the players, and their chances of being crowned the champion on July 12.

Novak Djokovic (Serbia), 28, world No. 1


Novak Djokovic at the Boodles Tennis Challenge in Stoke Park. PHOTO: REUTERS

The defending champion would have been the overwhelming favourite to win a second straight title if not for his shock French Open loss to fourth seed Stan Wawrinka in the final earlier this month.

The Serb, seeded No. 1, has not played a competitive match since then, and was drawn against Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber in the first round. Questions will be asked of his mental strength, but Djokovic has a good track record at the All England Club, reaching at least the semi-finals in his last five appearances.

However, if he does make the last four, a potential meeting with Wawrinka awaits him. He will need to hope that his extra rest this time around will prove the difference between the two.

Roger Federer (Switzerland), 33, world No. 2


Roger Federer returning a ball against Andreas Seppi at the ATP Gerry Weber Open. PHOTO: AFP

The seven-time Wimbledon champion will be bidding to become the oldest Wimbledon champion of the modern era, after coming close to doing so last year when he lost to Djokovic in the final.

The undisputed master of the grass - having won a record 15 grass-court titles and a career record of 136-19 on the slick surface - was drawn in the opposite half as Djokovic, and will be seen as the Serb's top challenger at Wimbledon.

His latest grass-court title came last weekend at the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, so he is entering the tournament on good form, but the semi-finals pose a potential banana skin in the form of home hope Andy Murray, the 2013 champion.

Andy Murray (Britain), 28, world No. 3


Andy Murray celebrating after winning the Aegon Championships. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Scot ended a 77-year wait for a British Wimbledon champion when he beat Djokovic in the 2013 final, but he has been handed a tough path to the final this time around.

If he progresses through the earlier rounds smoothly, he could face dangerous Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the round of 16, two-time champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals and Federer, the king of SW19, in the semi-finals, before finally meeting Djokovic in the final.

Fresh off a fourth Queen's Club title, he is in a rich vein of form, similar to Federer, and will be looking to get off to a good start against Mikhail Kukushkin in the first round.

Rafael Nadal (Spain), 29, world No. 10


Rafael Nadal in action at the Boodles Tennis Challenge. PHOTO: REUTERS

The Spaniard has had a topsy-turvy year thus far, when he suffered his second career loss at the French Open this year, before bouncing back to win the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup final, his first grass-court tournament victory since his 2010 Wimbledon win.

However, he then tumbled to a first-round loss to Alexandr Dolgopolov at the Queen's Club Championships to suggest that his problems with injuries and form are not behind him yet.

Known for his grit, he will need plenty of it to emerge as champion at Wimbledon, where his last three visits have ended in second-, first- and fourth-round defeats.

isaacneo@sph.com.sg