Canada’s Milos Raonic makes a backhand return to Spain’s Rafael Nadal during their quarterfinal at the Australian Open tennis championships, in Melbourne, Australia. Wimbledon play begins Monday. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

WIMBLEDON ‘17: Could anyone end the Big 4’s title streak?

Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have ruled Wimbledon for the past 14 years, combining to win the tournament every time in that span.

No real surprise, given the way that Big 4 dominates the sport of tennis. Still, at some point, that group’s run of excellence at the All England Club must end.

It’s just hard to find folks who think that’ll happen this year, when play at the grass-court major begins Monday?

Somewhere, there is a man who one day will win Wimbledon — and other Grand Slam titles, too.

John McEnroe recalls knowing early on in the careers of players such as Nadal or Djokovic that they would break through. Lately, though, the seven-time major champion said, “I don’t see that person right now that’s got it all, where you’re like, ‘OK.’”

McEnroe’s brother, Patrick, agreed the most likely winner will again be one of the usual quartet. And he went a step further.

“We’re going to be likely talking about two of those four guys on ‘championship Sunday,’” said Patrick, who joins John as an ESPN analyst during the fortnight.

If someone else is going to take home the title, here is a look at some candidates:


Why he could do it: He’s won each of the other three major tournaments, so knows how to grind through seven best-of-five-set matches. He also owns a superb one-handed backhand that can control a match.

Why he might not: He’s never had much success at Wimbledon, going 18-12 with two quarterfinal appearances. His footwork on grass needs help; he could go to the net more.

What a championship would mean: Completing a career Grand Slam, something only eight other men have done (including Federer, Djokovic and Nadal).


Why he should be taken seriously: He is 6-foot-6 (1.98 metres), with big shots and tennis smarts. He recently beat Djokovic in the Italian Open final to become the youngest champion at a Masters event since — wait for it — Djokovic.

Why it’s too soon to take him seriously: He’s only 20, and never been past the third round at a major. Here is how John McEnroe put it: “I’m pretty sure he’s going to win multiple majors. He’s about as close to (that) guy as I get. But … he’s a little frail.”

What a championship would mean: The true arrival of a member of the next generation.


Why last year should not be considered a fluke: His first run to a Grand Slam final, before losing to Murray, was not his only success at a major. He also reached the 2014 Wimbledon semifinals, and the 2016 Australian Open semifinals, and his serve is among the game’s best.

Why last year might have been a fluke: His semifinal victory over Federer lost a little lustre because of Federer’s surgically repaired left knee. More cause for concern is that Raonic has shown little inclination to take another step forward over the past year.

What a championship would mean: It would be a first for Canada, but more importantly, it could signal that Raonic is ready to really flourish and unveil the promise he’s long shown.


Why fans and foes should keep an eye on him: He’s got as stylish and entertaining a brand of tennis as there is nowadays, full of big serves and forehands, trick shots, athleticism and more. He is capable of beating Nadal — as he already has at Wimbledon — or Federer or anyone, really, when he puts his mind to it.

Why it’s OK to look away: He can lose his way suddenly in the course of a match, leaving fans frustrated.

What a championship would mean: A bright new face, a bold character, a brash champion, all rolled into one. He’s young and charismatic and could rule the sport if he is able to pull together his game — and his mindset.


Why he should be included in the conversation: Like Wawrinka, he’s an older member of this group who already knows what it takes to win a major (2014 U.S. Open). Unlike Wawrinka, he seems to have a style suited to grass.

Why perhaps he shouldn’t: He’s never been past the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, losing at that stage each of the last three years.

What a championship would mean: A second major and validation as no one-hit wonder.

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