Rafael Nadal Rafael Nadal of Spain serves during his Quarter Final match against Robin Soderling of Sweden on Day Nine of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 30, 2010 in London, England.

Nadal:  Losing in a Queens Club quarterfinal for the second straight year, Rafa would relish repeating his Wimbledon result as well.  His only recurrent nemesis in the last several months, Djokovic, does not pose as formidable a threat on this surface, which has grown friendlier to Nadal’s baseline-bound style with every season.  Since the low bounce undermines the heavy topspin on his groundstrokes, he must prioritize depth over spin as he did during last year’s title run.  Although his arduous service games raise some concern, Nadal has reached the final in his last four appearances and can expect to accelerate into the tournament as he did at Roland Garros.  His greatest test might come in the first week, like last year

Federer:  Surely eager to avenge a deflating loss to Berdych in last year’s quarterfinal, the six-time Wimbledon champion burst into vintage form at Roland Garros by snapping Djokovic’s streak.  Still full of self-belief, Federer may have lost a fraction of his speed but retains the reflexes and timing essential to winning on grass.  The best server in the ATP when confident, he benefits from a low bounce that mirrors his low contact point and dulls the topspin that troubles him.  If Nadal confronts him in the final again, though, don’t expect Federer to overcome both the Spaniard and his mental demons in a rematch of their 2008 classic.

Djokovic:  Freed from the burden of The Streak, the Serb can pursue his Wimbledon campaign without the specter of his own perfection looming above him.  Despite a dented aura of invincibility, he can capture the #1 ranking by reaching the final at a Slam where he has reached two semifinals notwithstanding his uneasiness on the surface.  An improved serve will bolster Djokovic this year, but his net skills comprise the Achilles heel in an otherwise complete game.  Still, Nadal won Wimbledon largely from the baseline, while the Serb’s symmetrical groundstrokes and seamless movement will aid him in adjusting to the vagaries of grass.

Murray:  In every English summer, strawberries and Murray-mania ripen into signature elements of the season’s third major.  Pulsating with un-British drama is at least one of the Scot’s matches at each Wimbledon, whether a five-set victory over Wawrinka under the roof or his comeback from a two-set deficit against Gasquet in 2007.  Murray has ridden the wave of their fervor to two semifinals here, and his invigorated forehand could propel him to greater heights than before.  But he folds like origami in Slam finals and probably must win another of the majors before he can win here.

Soderling:  Sporadically brilliant but often disappointing in 2011, the world #5 has knocked on the door of the ATP elite less firmly than in recent years.  His lanky, stiff-legged frame adapts better to a higher bounce, and the slick surface can expose his awkward footwork.  Nor is Soderling deft around the net, preferring to approach only in the most advantageous situations.  But his serve will win him ample free points, while only the best defenders can withstand his mighty first strike when he claims control of a rally from the outset.

Berdych:   Defending semifinal points at Roland Garros, he squandered a two-set lead against a qualifier in the opening round.  Will this next defense end so inauspiciously?  After a shaky start in Halle, Berdych recorded a cluster of confidence-building victories.  The player who defeated Federer and Djokovic en route to last year’s final has looked dormant throughout the past year, however, as the head-scratching shot selection and competitive lethargy has returned.  One struggles to believe in a player who clearly doesn’t believe in himself at crucial moments.

Del Potro:  Even in his splendid 2009 season, the US Open champion struggled on grass with a straight-sets loss to Hewitt.  Encountering many of the same obstacles experienced by Soderling, Del Potro does move more effectively than the Swede and possesses the similarly lethal capacity to create an abrupt terminal blow from a rally shot.  Inconsistent during his comeback, his serve may hold the key to his fate, although Wimbledon for him represents mainly a chance to build momentum for the North American hard courts where he most shines.

Roddick / Fish:  Winless between Indian Wells and Queens Club, Roddick may have peaked with his historic defeat in the 2009 Wimbledon final, for his appetite and self-belief have flagged since then.  Last year, a trace of mono contributed to a stinging fourth-round loss against Yen-Hsun Lu.  Nevertheless, one cannot entirely discount a player who has reached three Wimbledon finals, despite the one-dimensionality of his game when compared to the top four—and illustrated by Murray at Queens Club.  Similarly one-dimensional and almost equally dangerous is recent top-10 entrant Fish, who has stumbled at previous Wimbledons but should find his net-rushing style rewarded as well as his aggressive mentality on returns.  Rewarded with a higher ranking and consequently a softer draw, he could become the last American man standing at the All England Club.

The giants:  Whether a sunglass-clad Karlovic or a wearily lumbering Isner, the season’s third major repeatedly has showcased the distinctive talents of players who construct impenetrable fortresses around their serve.  Opponents as notable as Nadal grow anxious and defensive when facing the prospect of tiebreak after tiebreak (or worse, if the match reaches a final set).  Fortunately, one stroke alone does not suffice to win a title.  The latest exponent of the serve-centric style, Milos Raonic, will brand his impact onto these lawns only if he can temper his avalanche of aces with the rough-hewn yet promising groundstrokes that he displayed on the indoor hard courts.