Milos Raonic senses a chink in the ‘big four’s’ armour at Wimbledon and is confident he can be the man to take advantage.
Raonic was 11 years old the last time someone other that Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray lifted the men’s singles trophy.
The Canadian got closer than most last year when he stunned Federer in the semi-finals before losing in straight sets to Murray.
Murray and Djokovic, the winner in 2014 and 2015, have struggled for form this year, while Federer and Nadal have dominated.
Nadal swept all before him at the French Open in winning his first grand slam title for three years, but has only won five matches in Wimbledon in the last five years.
Federer, meanwhile, skipped the clay season altogether and then lost his first match on grass in Stuttgart earlier this week to 39-year-old Tommy Haas.
Raonic told Press Association Sport: “I think there’s definitely an opening. The two stand-out players this year were not really at that level last year. Rafa’s playing better than maybe ever in his career.
“Andy the last few weeks has been playing much better, but he hasn’t had a start of the season up to his standard and it’s obviously something new to have the pressure of being number one and staying number one. And obviously Novak hasn’t been where he was.
“The person that’s going to win it is going to be the one who steps up and takes it.”
Raonic could also be included among the players for whom 2017 has been a letdown so far, with a hamstring injury wrecking his spring.
Having finished last year ranked third, he has now dropped to sixth, but he began preparations for the grass-court season this week feeling very positive about his game.
The Canadian said: “I feel it’s up there. I feel like I’m doing things better than I did last year.
“I think it’s going to take some matches and dealing with some frustrating and tough, important moments just to get that sharpness. That’s the only thing I really feel I’m missing.”
There have been changes behind the scenes, with Raonic splitting from coach Carlos Moya at the end of last season and hiring former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek.
But that partnership ended after his fourth-round loss at the French Open and Raonic has now begun working with former world number one doubles player Mark Knowles.