Baseline Buzz: Big Four Forecast


LONDON -- Winning this little annual gathering at the All England Club changes a life.

"Sometimes people ask me, 'Who are you?'" Marion Bartoli, the 2013 champion here, said Sunday. "I just say, 'I'm the Wimbledon champion.' It just speaks by itself. I don't even need to mention my name."

Andy Murray, the first-time men's champion a year ago, also recounted his past year in a Sunday news conference.

"I feel in terms of handling the pressure -- there was a lot of it -- and I think I did OK," Murray said. "Tomorrow, I need to enjoy that moment when I go back on the court.

"But as soon as I start playing the match, yeah, it's about trying to win."

This raises the looming elephant-in-the-room question as Wimbledon 2014 unfurls Monday: Who on earth is going to emerge from the 128-man draw as champion? The consensus of our dozen experts is, well, there is no consensus.

While Serena Williams is the overwhelming choice on the ladies' side -- only one of our fearless prognosticators (Brad Gilbert) went with someone else -- the men's choices are all over the map. There are five votes for No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic, three each for seven-time champion Roger Federer and defending champ Murray and only one for newly minted French Open champion Rafael Nadal, the No. 2 seed.

Where do the experts come down on this one? One day before the fur starts flying, we asked them to kick it around in the first edition of Baseline Buzz of the British fortnight.

Greg Garber: Usually, you have a gut feeling going into these Slams. A month ago, it was Djokovic -- who drilled Rafa in the final at Miami and Rome -- who was the preeminent choice, but Nadal was a close second. Here? Honestly, I have no idea. Djokovic won four of five majors in a span of 54 weeks. Since then? He's 1-for-9 and was not convincing in this year's Slams, losing to eventual champions Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open and Nadal in the Roland Garros final. Rafa has crashed out early here two years in a row, and Federer hasn't won a major since he took home the gold Wimbledon trophy two years ago. Murray hasn't won a tournament of any kind since winning here. How are we supposed to make sense of that?

Melissa Isaacson: We aren't. But absent of sense, I like Djokovic here. He has been to the semis every year since 2010, winning his only Wimbledon title in 2011, and is on a sick roll in Grand Slams, making it to 15 of the past 16 major semis (with five titles). No one else can touch that, so Djokovic is always a solid bet to win it all. I like that he took a break after his French Open run to the final. Not surprisingly, he said Sunday he is "very motivated" to play Wimbledon. I like that he says he played "pain-free" (from a wrist injury in April) in Rome and Roland Garros. I like that he is not distracted by the angst of World Cup viewing since Serbia is not among the competitors.

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