A Look Ahead to Queens: Who are the Main Contenders

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Where as Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray reigned supreme as the top two players in the world at the beginning of the year, both have stumbled in 2017 as the legendary Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal have made incredible comebacks from injury. This has set up a fascinating second half of the year, particularly with Federer set to return for the grass court season and Nadal seeking further glory after claiming his 10th French Open title last week.

Next up is the Aegon Championship at the iconic Queens Club, which starts on Monday, 19th June and finishes a week before Wimbledon. In this article, we will look at the key contenders and ask how this tournament is likely to shape the outcome of Wimbledon 2017?

A Strong Field, but Two Names Are Noticeably Absent

While they may have dominated the ATP Tour so far this year, neither Federer or Nadal will compete at Queens in two weeks time. The absence of the Swiss star should not come as a surprise, of course, as while he is returning from a self-imposed hiatus during the clay court season he is following his old routine by playing at the Halle Open in Germany as preparation for Wimbledon.

Some may also have predicted Nadal’s absence, as despite his excellent form and completing ‘La Decima’ at Roland Garros he has struggled with the transition from clay to grass in recent years. He has therefore taken the decision to rest after his exploits in France, in the hope that he can overcome exhaustion and compete aggressively for a third Wimbledon title.

Despite these high profile absences and the decision of Novak Djokovic not to compete, however, the field for Queens is still noticeably strong and arguably the most impressive ever recorded for the event. World number one Andy Murray will look to follow up a robust performance in France by reclaiming the title at Queens, for example, while world number three and French Open runner-up Stan Wawrinka will also appear as the second seed.

In total, four of the top seven will compete at Queens, with Marin Cilic and last year’s beaten finalist Milos Raonic also in attendance. With stellar names and renowned grass performers such as Nick Kyrgios, Grigor Dimitrov and the mercurial, former Grand Slam winner Martin Del Petro also registered to appear, the eventual winner will have to beat an array of talent on their way to the lifting the trophy.

Who Are the Main Contenders, and What Will it Mean for Wimbledon?

It is almost impossible to reference the Aegon Championship without relating it to Wimbledon, as whoever wins here can build serious momentum ahead of SW19. This was certainly the case with Andy Murray last season, while the stellar and competitive nature of the field means that years’ tournament will take on ever greater significance.

Andy Murray remains the favourite for both tournaments at present, despite a stuttering start to the season that has seen him struggle with injury and win just one tournament. His game is certainly suited to grass, while home advantage also affords him a competitive edge. Make no mistake; however, his rivals may never have a better chance to overcome the Scot on grass, particularly at such an exalted level.

Of the remaining Wimbledon 2017 favourites, one player who will particularly optimistic is the Canadian world number six Milos Raonic. The big server lost out to Murray at both Queens and SW19 last year, and will be keen to leverage this experience and his affinity for grass to his ultimate benefit this time around. The same could arguably be said for Marin Cilic, but the Croat has been struggling for form and confidence so far this season.

The Last Word

While the winner of Queens will always carry an advantage into Wimbledon, this year is unique in the recent annals of history. After all, the resurgence of Federer and Nadal (who each have one Slam apiece so far in 2017) has turned the modern game on its head, while creating a fascinating draw and re-establishing the standard for others to follow.

Another interesting consideration is the decline of Djokovic, who has slipped to fourth in the world and could face Murray in a mouth-watering semi-final.

Regardless, those competing at Queens must see this as a tremendous opportunity to build momentum, form and confidence ahead of Wimbledon. Whether this is enough to beat an inspired old guard is an entirely different question altogether, and one that we will only be able to answer in time.

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