Monday, June 25, 2007

Wimbledon preview

There are a million questions for which there seems no answer.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Why doesn't Barack Obama ever wear a tie?
Will Rafael Nadal ever win Wimbledon?
More perplexing still: Why hold Wimbledon during the one time of year it seems guaranteed to rain?
As usual, no easy answers, and of course, more questions. Let's check in with the ladies and gentlemen of the All-England Club.

The Gentlemen:
1. Roger Federer: Yikes. His first match against Teimuraz Gabashvili's gonna be a tough one. No doubt the Rog is turning over in his sleep thinking: How can a name with so many vowels sound like it has none? Seriously, it's always hard to root against the Fed, and it's even harder now that he's knocked the dried clay off his shoes. Now, the early round match that could be entertaining is the 3rd round against Marat Safin. "Could be" because Safin's enormously talented. The reality is, though, that Safin's never done too well on grass, and he's flaky as all hell.
2. Rafael Nadal: He proved last year that he could be dangerous on any surface by reaching the final at Wimbledon. I think he could do it again. It's a different surface, but Nadal just kept escalating his game at the French Open. He's so young, and so eager to keep improving. Mardy Fish will be a test for him in the first round, but I think he could pull it out in four. Other names looming in his quarter are Wayne Arthurs, (who says retirement waits for no one?) fellow tennis senior citizen Jonas Bjorkman, and Tomas Berdych. The problem for Nadal is the semis, where Novak Djokovic is most likely his opponent. I like to see people embrace their challenges, so it'd be great to see Nadal back in the final.
3. Andy Roddick: OK, you don't expect much out of Andy on clay, but now, it's go time for the American. He got a boost when he added Jimmy Connors to the coaching team, but consistent success is not quite there yet. OK, it sucks that he's in the same half as Federer, but the good news is that Andy Murray called off sick, so he's a near-lock to clear his quarter.
4: Novak Djokovic: He's shown some real game this year, beating Nadal in Miami this year. But he's not shaken that inconsistency off his game, that ability to just throw out two games in sheer errrors. He hasn't had great grass-court results, but if he can get as far as Nadal, he'll probably be a bit more comfortable than the No. 2 seed.
5. Fernando Gonzalez: Well, the man's got a forehand. At Wimby, it's wham, bam, end o' point. For the same reason he flamed out in the first round of the French, he might do some damage at this tournament.
6. Nicolay Davydenko: He's not too tough on grass. In fact, he's never made it past the second round at Wimbledon. He's my pick for the first seed to fall, and possibly at the hands of Gael Monfils or Thomas Johansson.
7. Tomas Berdych: He comes in with confidence, having won a warmup in Germany. Plus, nice draw. If you're going to be in the same half as a No. 2 seed, he must have prayed, let it be Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, and don't let them have decided to change to clay.
8. Andy Murray: Wow, Tennis magazine. Way to put a guy on your cover who isn't playing the event. It's not like he just got injured, either. Sheesh. Well, get better soon, Murray.
9. James Blake: It's hard to keep those thoughts at bay about James, the ones that say, "Y'know, maybe he's plateaued again." Without a solid result here, he's going to be a serious candidate for Janet Jackson's school of "What Have You Done For Me Lately 101."
10. Marcos Baghdatis: Fun to watch, mostly because you just don't know what you're gonna get. He's been all over the map this year, but he had a nice Wimbledon last year. Round three against Nalbandian? More fun.

Marat Safin: God knows.
Tim Henman: Yes, he's still around. Apparently, he and Wayne Arthurs are still drinking that delusional purple Kool-Aid. "I can do it. I can win Wimbledon." It's kind of sad to see someone who really could have been a contender try to hang on, looking for a Goran Ivanesevic miracle. And how bad would it suck to lose to clay-court tough guy Carlos Moya in the first round of Wimbledon?
Max Mirnyl: If I'm not mistaken, Mirnyl is looking suspiciously more like a doubles specialist at every Slam. Big serve, nice groundies, solid net game, and first-week exits. You know, if your 80-year-old doubles partner Bjorkman is advancing in singles draws and you're not, that's got to hurt a little bit.
Ivo Karlovic: Not fair, dude. What would happen if your opponent served the entire match and put you only on returns? Think about it.

First-round matches to watch: (and no, it's no accident that there won't be any for the women)
Nadal v. Fish
Roddick v. Justin Gimelstob: It's fun to watch Gimelstob give it his all when he plays, but he's actually one of the player/commentators on The Tennis Channel that worked out. So, what I'm saying is: Quit your day job.
Moya v. Henman: Oops, found these dentures on the floor. Whose are they?
Wow. That's a good question.

The way it'll go down:
Quarterfinals: Federer v. Blake, Roddick v. Gasquet, Baghdatis v. Djokovic, Berdych v. Nadal
Semifinals: Federer v. Gasquet, Djokovic v. Nadal
Final: Call me crazy: Federer v. Nadal
Winner: Federer, taking full advantage of the home court.

The Ladies
1. Justine Henin: So divorce is working for the forehand, I see. Would someone beat her already?
2. Maria Sharapova: She feels pretty ... pretty pressured. Since she won Wimbledon in '04, it's been a mixed bag for her at All-England. Well, not mixed. The next year, she loses a slugfest to Venus Williams, and then in 2006 to Amelie Mauresmo. Overall, she's got a bad shoulder, and not the most brilliant year on the resume to boot. The French Open semis was a good result for her, but she's been taken to the woodshed by Serena Williams twice this year. But it's the other Williams sister she could meet in the fourth round.
3. Jelena Jankovic: She knocked that defending champion glow off of Venus last year when they played, and she's just been getting better ever since. She seems to be stuck in semifinal mode in big tournaments, and guess who she draws in the semifinals again? At least it's grass.
4. Amelie Mauresmo: Two breakthrough Grand Slams later, still as fragile as a top seed comes. Mauresmo + pressure = meltdown. Just say "Defending champion" to her. Do it.
5. Svetlana Kuznetsova: She has a real shot in her half, whether she ends up playing Venus or Sharapova in the quarters.
6. Ana Ivanovic: Now that she's had some time to clear her head after that French Open final choke job, let's see how she handles the big matches now, such as Mauresmo in the quarterfinals.
7. Serena Williams: All right, everybody. Get your lips off Serena Williams' ass. Yes, she won the Australian Open this year. But let's not forget the piss-poor performance at the French against Henin. And, back on the topic of repeat performances, she could get Justine in the quarters.
8. Anna Chakvetadze: Just took home a warmup tournament trophy, beating none other than Jankovic in the final. Hmm. Let's see what happens when you put that match on Center Court Wimbledon in the quarterfinals. Although, I have to admit I'm favoring another matchup.
9. Martina Hingis: That's right, Chucky's back. I'd love to see what would happen if she plays Jankovic in that quarterfinal instead. Both players are smart, and lack a formidable serve, but of course Jankovic has that power.
10. Daniela Hantuchova: Now that someone finally gave her a burger, Olive Oil's showing that potential that first surfaced a few years back. But it's really hard to see her getting by Serena in the fourth round.

The stragglers:
Nadia Petrova: What happened? Two years ago, you were looking like a threat for permanent top 3. Now? Not a whole lot going on. Game's passing you by, Nadia.
Nicole Vaidisova: Clearly, she forgot to send her bribe in to the seeding office down at Wimbledon. 14th seed?
Bethanie Mattek: Never a threat, but you know that show, "What Not to Wear?" As they say in Hollywood, "Based on a true story."
Tatiana Golovin: Another player with the talent for a breakthrough.
Elena Dementieva: That serve's going to hurt her here, more than just about anywhere.
Venus Williams: Lucky to make the straggler list. You can't expect much out of her at Roland Garros, but this is apparently her surface. If she can't do any damage here, then she can't do it anywhere.

The way it'll go down:
Quarterfinals: Henin v. Serena, Jankovic v. Hingis, Ivanovic v. Vaidisova, Kuznetsova v. Sharapova
Semifinals: Serena v. Jankovic, Ivanovic v. Sharapova
Final: Jankovic v. Sharapova
Winner: Jankovic

1 comment:

Karen said...

I know this is ancient, but what were you thinking in 2007 when you thought Jelena Jankovic could possibly beat Serena and Sharapova on grass without a serve. LOL