Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wimbledon Preview

Thank God for Wimbledon and tradition. The French Open now starts their tournament on a Sunday, which means the draw comes out Friday and in less than 48 hours play begins. That's not very much time to write up a proper preview -- especially when other things are happening.

Before I dive in, I just want to say something about the media's reaction to Roger Federer being seeded number one even though Rafael Nadal is rank number one. To me, this was a no-brainer. Federer has won six of the last seven Wimbledons. Granted, Nadal beat him in the final two years ago, but Nadal didn't play a single match on grass last year. The Wimbledon seeding committee contends that they use grass court results from the previous year (maybe even two years) in their seeding process. If that's the case, they really had no choice but to seed Roger number one.

One other thing. The tennis writer from made the comment about Roger Federer to the effect that he is still a force even though "his days of winning three slams a year are over." Now, maybe they are. But as of this moment, he is still on track to win three majors this year. He won Australia; he is the defending champion here; and he lost a five-set final at the US Open last year -- to a guy that is almost certain not to be back from wrist surgery in time to defend. I wish the prime of my career was even one-tenth as promising as the decline of his is.

Oh, one last thing before we start. For no reason other than the obvious.

The Men

1.Roger Federer -- Well, I guess I've already said a lot about him. His ridiculously remarkable streak of 23 consecutive semi-final or better finishes at a major tournament was finally snapped at the French Open -- somewhat poetically since his vanquisher was the same guy that handed Rafael Nadal his only loss (that's right -- only) at the French Open in his career. With Robin Soderling in the other half of the draw from Fed, he can breathe fairly easy. His first tricky match might be in the round of 16 against Jurgen Melzer -- only tricky because Melzer is left-handed and they've never played each other before. In the quarters, he would play either Nikolay Davydenko or Tomas Berdych. He's a combined 21-4 against them. Barring some sort of catastrophic moment during the first week, I can't see him not making the final.

2.Rafael Nadal -- Rafa just had a 24-match winning streak stopped by Feliciano Lopez in the quarter-finals at Queen's Club. Of course, 22 of those matches were on clay. He ran the table during the spring season, winning four tournaments in a row after not winning any for more than a year. He's played five tournaments on surfaces other than clay this year, making the final only in his first of season in Doha. He has losses to Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Murray, Ivan Lubicic and Andy Roddick this year. His section is littered with guys with lots of erratic results -- James Blake, Ernests Gulbis and John Isner could all pop up before the quarters. His toughest match could be a quarter-final showdown with Robin Soderling. Still, I wouldn't bet against another Fed/Rafa Wimbledon final.

3.Novak Djokovic -- Anyone other than me wondering how Nole is still ranked number three? So far this year, he has losses to both Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus. Seriously? Did we somehow end up back in 1999? I wouldn't be totally shocked if he loses to Taylor Dent in the second round; even less so if it's Lleyton Hewitt in the fourth round. If he staggers past them, Roddick should end his run in the quarters.

4.Andy Murray -- Since losing to Federer in the final of the Australian Open in January, he hasn't even made the semi-finals once. If he gets past Sam Querrey in the round of 16, he might snap that streak. But that's a big IF. He just doesn't seem like much of a threat these days.

5.Andy Roddick -- Last year Roddick came into Wimbledon playing the best tennis of his career. It still wasn't enough to get him past Roger Federer in the final. He'd have to beat Federer just to equal last year's result. Unlikely.

6.Robin Soderling -- He's got a mildly tough first round match against Robby Ginepri, then after that he should cruise to the last eight. And stall there.

7.Nikolay Davydenko -- Davydenko beat Roger Federer twice in a row, at the end of 2009 and the beginning of this year. But then at the Australian Open he collapsed like a house of cards during a windstorm. No reason to think it will be different here.

8.Fernando Verdasco -- If you have any idea how he might play from one week to the next -- or even from one day to the next -- let me know. He's a complete mystery to me. In Monte Carlo he beat Djokovic 6-2, 6-2 in the semis, then lost to Nadal 6-0, 6-1 the next day. But he looks great in his Calvins.

9.David Ferrer -- Ferrer has underperformed at every major, but particularly at Wimbledon. Add to that fact that Marcus Baghdatis and Robin Soderling are in his section and it's safe to conclude that he will certainly not do any better than living up to his seed.

10.Jo-Wilfried Tsonga -- If Tsonga is ever going to go deep in a major again, this one could be one of his best opportunities. He's got Fernando Verdasco and Andy Murray in his section. If he plays up to his full potential, it would be no surprise to see him in the semi-final.

11.Marin Cilic -- All I really know about this guy is that he's 21, 6'6" tall and has hovered just outside the top ten for the last 18 months. If he gets to the fourth round, he could potentially face Andy Roddick. Roddick may be feeling some pressure to repeat last year's success and he has typically had trouble with big-serving big guys. That match could be the upset special of the fortnight (and I feel justified in using the word fortnight when discussing Wimbledon).

12.Tomas Berdych -- Berdych has shown some flashes of great tennis this year, with wins over Andy Murray and Roger Federer. Still, however, he hasn't shown an ability to tough out a big five-set match in a major. He could upset Davydenko and get to the quarter-finals, which would be a good result for him.

13.Mikhail Youzhny -- Youzhny has never really lived up to his potential. If he has to face John Isner in the third round, he will probably continue that career arc.

14.Juan Carlos Ferrero -- Expect a third-round exit at the hands of Sam Querrey.

15.Lleyton Hewitt -- Hewitt has to have more confidence heading into Wimbledon than he's had since about 2003. He's got a pretty good draw as well, so don't be surprised to see him playing Andy Roddick or Marin Cilic in the quarter-finals.

16.Jurgen Melzer -- I only recently noticed how hot he is. He's played some pretty good tennis of late, having the best major result of his career at the French Open. If he were playing Federer in the second or third round, he'd probably have a good shot at the upset. By the fourth round however, Federer will probably be playing well enough to not be worried by him.

Federer def. Roddick
Nadal def. Querrey

Rafael Nadal

The Women

1.Serena Williams -- Never bet against Serena at a major. That said, she's got both Maria Sharapova (incidentally, the only woman other than Venus to beat Serena in a major final) and Sam Stosur, who just beat her at the French Open. She should have more confidence on grass than she had on clay however, so she will probably find a way to win those matches.

2.Venus Williams -- When was the last time Venus came into Wimbledon ranked number one or two? Hard to believe, but that hasn't happened since 2002. There's virtually no chance that she won't make the semi-finals, and she's the favorite to win it as far as I'm concerned.

3.Caroline Wozniacki -- If she gets to the quarter-finals (and that's very iffy), I can't see her even taking a set from Sam Stosur.

4.Jelena Jankovic -- It's good to see her firmly back in the top five, because she absolutely is a top 5-7 player. She will probably have to play either Kim Clijsters or Justine Henin in the quarter-final though, so it's not likely she'll live up to her seed here.

5.Francesca Schiavone -- French Open champion. How weird is that? The only player since Steffi Graf to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year was Serena Williams in 2002. Schiavone probably makes it to the quarter-final, but she won't worry Venus Williams there.

6.Sam Stosur -- Here's the woman with the absolute best shot at breaking up an all-Williams final. The only thing likely to prevent that is that Serena will be gunning for her after losing a very tight match at Roland Garros. It's definitely possible, but I think doubtful.

7.Aggie Radwanska -- Surprisingly, this is Radwanska's best major -- she's made the quarters two years in a row. With Svetlana Kuznetsova and Na Li in her section, it's certainly no lock that she'll threepeat there. Even if she does, Serena is waiting in the quarter-finals.

8.Kim Clijsters -- Clijsters is the first of three outliers with a real shot at doing some damage here. After winning the US Open last fall, it seemed like Clijsters would be back in the top five by now. Spotty play and injuries have slowed her climb but there's no reason she can't be there by this year's Open. Here she has Justine Henin and Venus Williams in her half of the draw so an appearance in the final is a stretch, but the semi-final isn't out of the question.

9.Na Li -- Way back in 2006, Li (or Na, I can never remember how they do it) made the quarter-finals here but she's gone out early the last two years. She's always a threat to pull off a surprising upset or to crash and burn unexpectedly. Your guess is as good as mine which it will be this year.

10.Flavia Pennetta -- She may make the fourth round; she may not. I can't gather any interest either way.

11.Marion Bartoli -- Ditto.

12.Nadia Petrova -- One year before she retires, Petrova is going to relax and let it rip (a la Jana Novotna here in 1998). I'll be rooting for her when it finally happens. It's unlikely to be here and now.

13.Shahar Peer -- Essentially more cannon fodder. She also has potentially the toughest first round match of all the seeds, facing Ana Ianovic. No matter what happens there, it all ends in the fourth round against Venus Williams.

14.Victoria Azarenka -- Azarenka has had a miserable year, but she has to be happy with her win over Kim Clijsters this week on her way to the final at Eastbourne. If she holds her nerve, she's got a real shot to get back to the quarter-finals. Once there, the match-up with Sam Stosur could be a really good one.

15.Yanina Wickmayer -- After reaching the semi-final at the US Open last year, she has regressed a bit this year. She's got a decent draw, with the possibility of meeting Jankovic in the round of 16. A quarter-final showing wouldn't be a shocking result.

16.Maria Sharapova -- With all the comebacks from retirement and injury in the past 12 months, the draws at the majors have been a little wacky. Sharapova on a path to meet Serena in the fourth round is an unfortunate result for them, but possibly a great day of television for us. Sharapova took Henin to three sets at the French Open (her worst surface vs. Henin's best), so there's no reason to think she can't at least put a scare into the number one seed here.

17.Justine Henin -- Henin has said that she decided to come out of retirement because she wants to win Wimbledon. She certainly has given herself a decent chance by winning a grass tune-up this week. Still, she'll have a lot of work to do just to get to the semi-finals. After that she might have to beat both Williams sisters. On grass. Back to back. If she does win it, she'll most definitely have earned it

Serena Williams def. Stosur
Venus Williams def. Clijsters

Venus Williams


  1. Ok, let's see: I agree w/the use of 'fortnight' =)
    Is that Roger Federer? Oh my...the pix he posts on FB are so tame compared to this one! And I LOVE the Calvin guy...
    Can you tell I'm a big tennis fan? Come on-the World Cup is on and the Tour deFrance begins in less than two weeks!
    (the nice thing about the internet is that I don't have to keep a straight face =))
    You may have piqued my interest enough to watch Wimbledon this year! Thanks!

  2. Actually, the first pic is Feliciano Lopez, but don't you think I should put that picture in every blog post? ;-)

  3. You should absolutely put the pic of Feliciano Lopez in every post. Even if you're blogging about American Idol. No one can get tired of looking at him. YUMMY!