Sunday, June 22, 2008

TWA goes green -- for Wimbledon preview

Having a great time watching the Wimbledon classics on the Tennis Channel -- in their entirety. That includes, of course, the news updates which originally aired in 1978, along with pleasant features about creepy-old-man-looking fashion designers. Again, have you considered, Tennis Channel, the possibility of editing these matches?
Anyway, here we go.


1. Roger Federer: All right, I admit it. It's not just a slump. When Fed started the year slowly, including a semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic, you think "The man can't win everything, right?" But when you lose a match, 6-0 in the third set of a Grand Slam final, something is officially up. Yes, Nadal is a beast on clay. But although the surface changes, the game doesn't. The French Open fiasco should be of great concern to Fed, simply because he can't beat Nadal or Djokovic that badly on grass, or any surface. So, is Fed going to win Wimbledon? Well, let's seek the opinion of two of his closest competitors:
2. Rafael Nadal: "Well, I feel my chances of winning Wimbledon are very good, no? I have very tough second round against Ernests Gulbis, but if I can get through it, I think I can handle Radek "Stud Muffin" Stepanek and Andy Murray to get to semifinal. Might play Andy Roddick, and I beat him already this grass season, so I think I can make final again, no?"
3. Novak Djokovic: "I think it's obvious that Roger's days as number one are ending. There are a lot of strong contenders out there, like Gael Monfils, Lleyton Hewitt and David Ferrer. And of course, me. I beat Roger already this year in Australia, and I've been close with Nadal all year. I will probably win Wimbledon, and at Centre Court, I plan to unveil my new imitation of a modest tennis champion."
4. Nikolay Davydenko: How did Nikolay Davydenko prepare for Wimbledon? By winning a tournament on clay. So, Davydenko's not a grass guy. The other thing working against him is Ivan Ljubicic, who beat him at the French Open, looming in the third round.
5. David Ferrer: Ferrer won a grass tuneup in the Netherlands last week. That'll help him when he's got to face Fernando Verdasco in the fourth round. Not so much when he's playing Fed in the quarters.
6. Andy Roddick: Roddick's third round match could be against one Dmitry Tursunov. How convenient. On one side, we've got Roddick, who was spotted this weekend on a practice court screaming about how much he can't stand himself. (That's true, by the way.) On the other is Tursunov, just kicked out of a Wimbledon warmup after he stormed off the court in a snit after a line-call dispute. I would suggest keeping the mikes down during that match.
7. David Nalbandian: Nalbandian has never matched his first performance at Wimbledon, when he made the final in 2002. His season has also been spotty of late, but he's still a threat. But so is Ivo Karlovic, who'd face Nalbandian in the fourth round. And it's not fair, but apparently being able to serve your way through a match and doing little else can win you some matches. Karlovic is seeded 18th here. Sigh.
8. Richard Gasquet: Right now, Gasquet is staring up at his ceiling, clenching his bedsheet under his chin and thinking, "Why do I get Mardy Fish in the first round? It's not fair." By the way, you could replace Fish's name with anyone else's right now, and he'd still be terrified. He's in a very fragile place right now, and a Grand Slam is not quite the place for him yet. Perhaps an office of a sports psychologist?
9. James Blake: My sneaking suspicion about Blake is that he reads his own press. He knows he's favored to advance to the fourth round and play Roddick. It seems, though, that he tends to flake out when he's expected to win. How many times have we seen Blake lose to a lesser player in final matches? I'd be surprised if Blake doesn't find some way to lose early. For him, it's a question of whether is mind is willing, because his game, especially on grass, is definitely able.
10. Marcos Baghdatis: Even if he didn't have to face Karlovic on grass in the third round, he'd probably still have a shaky tournament. Man's having a tough season.

Oh, the possibilities:
Mardy Fish: Very nice and rare opening for Fish, methinks. Gasquet's vulnerable right now, and I think Fish will win that match. If he does, he has a fairly clear path to the fourth round, although Kevin Anderson, another serving giant, could offer some resistance.
Ernests Gulbis: I thought he'd have a good Wimbledon when he was playing the French. If that's going to be true, he'd have to take on John Isner in the first round and Rafael Nadal in the second. Well, he can consider this a learning experience -- or a chance to make a name for himself.

First round matches to watch:
Gulbis v. Isner
Fish v. Gasquet
Murray v. Fabrice Santoro

The way it'll go down:
Quarterfinals: Federer v. Ferrer, Djokovic v. Nalbandian, Roddick v. Davydenko, Murray v. Nadal
Semifinals: Federer v. Djokovic, Roddick v. Nadal
Final: Djokovic v. Nadal
Winner: Nadal (barely)

1. Ana Ivanovic: Hail to the new queen of the hill. Now, how long will it last? Her game translates well to grass and her draw's pretty cupcake, too. She could have a tussle with Serena Williams in the semis, but I'd favor Ivanovic -- if Serena gets that far.
2. Jelena Jankovic: Do you know where Jelena Jankovic has been for the last couple of weeks? Oddly enough, she hasn't been at a tournament. Jankovic, like all the top contenders for this tournament, have opted out of the warmup tournament routine. When we last saw her, she was struggling with an injury (an utter shock, I know) at the French Open against Ivanovic. The question about Jankovic is still whether she can keep it together for an entire Grand Slam.
3. Maria Sharapova: One thing that makes her a favorite in every tournament is her mental toughness. How many times has Sharapova been down 0-40 in a game, just to come back and win it? Her never-say-die 'tude, however, is going to have to neutralize her very iffy serve. If she can cut down the double faults, she's got a fine chance to make the final, although it won't be an easy road. Possible opponents include Victoria Azarenka, Lindsay Davenport and Jankovic.
4. Svetlana Kuznetsova: So, what happened to Kuznetsova at Roland Garros? There she is, in the semifinals against Dinara Safina, and heavily favored to win. Five games was all she managed. Now, the scene changes to Kuznetsova's least-favorite surface. I could see Aggie Radwanska taking advantage of any flaky behaviour.
5. Elena Dementieva: Yay, Dementieva must have thought, I'm fifth seed! Her reward for such a nice seed? Oh, just Lindsay Davenport in the third round.
6. Serena Williams: See No. 7.
7. Venus Williams: I am sorry, but it's time to establish a new rule here at TWA. There will be no more picking the Williams sisters to win tournaments unless they show us the goods. I don't care if you are the defending champion, Venus, or if you have 8 Grand Slams, Serena. And no one cares if you are on opposite sides of the draw. I think we all know how unlikely it is that you two will meet in the final. Although they are practically giving you a ticket to the semis, Venus, with that draw. Oop, but there's Flavia Pennetta in your half.
8. Anna Chakvetadze: It's been a tough year for Chakvetadze, especially off-court, with the home invasion situation. Don't expect much from her, because she hasn't done much. Samantha Stosur definitely has a shot against her in round four.
9. Dinara Safina: Now that all eyes are on her, how will Safina react to her success? Since the French, she won a warmup tournament, which is a start. How will she deal with a potentially tricky draw which includes early matches against Lucie Safarova and Davenport?
10. Daniela Hantuchova: Bet she's had a little trouble forgetting the fact that she had a front-row seat to the Serena Williams cramping melodrama last year at Wimbledon. This year, she's the one dealing with injury coming into the tournament, and yet another potential encounter with a Williams sister.

Oh, the possibilities:
Amelie Mauresmo (29): Big threat on grass, assuming she's not melting down on court. Could play Serena tough in round three.
Lindsay Davenport: Yes, it's cool that she is back after having a baby. And, yes, Jagger is a very cute baby. And, yes, she is a role model for us all. But, no, she is not going to be at Wimbledon for long, so let's get the warmfuzzies out of our system, um-kay?
Aggie Radwanska (14): Radwanska needs a couple of things, stat. One is a shorter first name, although you have to admit that Agnieszka just rolls off the tongue. The other thing is a second serve. That said, she has an excellent shot in Serena's section of the draw. She's beaten Kuznetsova before at a major and she isn't the kind of player Serena wants to see on an off day.

First-round matches to watch:
Patty Schnyder v. Casey Dellacqua

The way it'll go down:
Quarterfinals: Ivanovic v. Stosur, Radwanska v. Serena, Safina v. Sharapova, Venus v. Jankovic
Semifinals: Ivanovic v. Radwanska, Sharapova v. Jankovic
Final: Ivanovic v. Sharapova
Winner: Sharapova. But can we please have an interesting final match for a change?


van said...

Hey Naf, what's up? Great preview, and great comments from Rafa and Djoko! : )

I just don't think it's time for both of them to be vying for the title against each other yet. Granted, Nadal destroyed him in Paris, but this is Roger's turf. I don't know if it'll be the last time he does it, but I really expect him to take out Nadal and Djokovic back to back.

With the women, I'm always tempted to pick against a Williams sister, particularly for the reasons you listed. I just think this surface is so tailor-made for Venus that I just had to go with her. It would be nice, though, if they could possibly come close to living up to the pre-tournament hype.

Naf said...

You know, Van, I had to admit to myself that my heart's not in the women's draw. Even if it were, I still couldn't go with Venus. There's something physically wrong with her. I really believe that. She is not recovering from her matches. When she has to play three sets lately, she's done.
As for the big 3, we shall see. Fed looked good today, and Djokovic hiccuped a bit. I also think Gulbis could give Nadal a handful or two.
Let's see how our predictions hold up. Race you to the finish!