It feels slightly bizarre to call Andy Murray a dark horse, but that is undoubtedly what he is ahead of this year's Championships. Until his comeback match in the first round at Queens, the two-time Wimbledon Champion had not played in almost a year, and it was unclear what could be expected of him. His return went better than many expected, as he lost in three tight sets to Nick Kyrgios, despite winning the first.
His movement looked good, and he looked even better in defeating fellow three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka in Eastbourne the following week. However, he was beaten fairly comfortably in the second round by Kyle Edmund. Murray going all the way would be a massive shock, but with his history, talent and a home crowd's support, you never know. It certainly looks like there is hope on the horizon for Murray, who may be grumbling charmingly in interviews for a few years yet.
Again, more than a bit odd to see a 12-time Grand Slam champion on a dark horse list. But the Serbian great has not won a Major for over two years and is ranked 17th in the world having struggled with a serious elbow problem, and finds himself outside the top four seedings at Wimbledon for the first time since 2006. His star does, however, seem to be on the rise again. He played some fine tennis to make the final at Queen's and pushed Marin Cilic, last year a finalist at Wimbledon, to the very limit.
He held a match point and looked to be the more likely winner for most of the match. Earlier in the tournament, he had dispatched Grigor Dimitrov, the world’s fifth best, with a minimum of fuss. Like his friend and long-time Murray, it would be a shock to see Djokovic win Wimbledon, though a much smaller one. With Djokovic much further along the comeback trail than the Scot, if his game really starts to click, well, you’d be a fool to write him off.
The All-England Club has seen Nick Kyrgios insinuating unmentionable acts with a water bottle, shouting at the umpire, his box, himself, hitting tweeners galore and carrying his towel in his mouth like it's his baby cub. But it has also seen him play some thrilling tennis. Could he one day win it? Many would say that the Australian #1 does not have the mental fortitude to go the distance at a Slam. They may be right. But with Kyrgios, you really do never know.
His grass court form thus far has been solid. He took Roger Federer the distance in Stuttgart and beat Murray, Kyle Edmund and defending champion Feliciano Lopez at Queen's. In his match against Lopez, he broke the record for the number of aces in a two set match, hammering down 32. His game is tailor-made for a grass court with his thunderous serve, soft hands at the net and stinging groundstrokes. And whilst those mental weaknesses remain unaddressed, whatever happens is sure to be entertaining.
Borna Coric may be a defensive baseliner, but recent years have shown that’s not the disadvantage it once was, with Djokovic, Nadal and Murray all winning multiple Wimbledon titles in recent years. The young Croatian has never advanced further than the second round at Wimbledon but there are signs that could be about to change. At the Halle Open, Coric won a three-set final against none other than Roger Federer.
And whilst Federer is old enough to be Coric's dad, it was an impressive performance against the then-world #1. The Swiss legend is the frontrunner for the SW19 title, but Coric dealt with him at a tournament he has won nine times. Coric is still perhaps too raw to go all the way at Wimbledon, indeed, he is yet to reach the second week of a Slam. But his excellent defensive skills make him a tough opponent for anyone, and he’s certainly one to watch this year.
Definitely the darkest of the dark horses assembled here. Indeed, the Frenchman may seem like a pick entirely out of left-field, but there’s method behind this madness. With a career-high ranking of world #18 and an appearance in the fourth round at Wimbledon under his belt, losing to Murray in straight sets at that stage last year, Paire has no shortage of talent. He has also had a decent grass court season thus far in 2018.
Roger Federer required a third set tiebreak to beat him in Halle where Paire held two match points. The Frenchman's flashiness, touch and a lethal two-handed backhand make him a dangerous grass court foe, one most will want to avoid. Although it is unlikely in the extreme that the showman from Avignon will go all the way, with his powers of concentration weak at the best of times, watching him try will be enjoyable, even if it's just for a glimpse of that glorious beard.
Who do you think could make an unexpected run at Wimbledon? Let us know in the comments!