Expert Tennis Form - Wimbledon
To any tennis player worth his or her salt, Wimbledon is the one. It may be played on a surface that is used for only a handful of events these days, it might be played in a country which always seem to rain during summer, and it might be played in a nation without a Grand Slam champion from either gender for over 30 years, but this is the one with all the tradition and aura of a very special event.
In recent years, the men's title has been the domain of Roger Federer (2.8*). 2002 was the last time he didn't reach the final, and only in that epic clash two years when Rafael Nadal (3.35) emerged victorious, has the Swiss maestro not held the trophy aloft. Is he capable of keeping the run going though?
The last three finals have gone to five sets, so it's like Nadal in Paris. His only tournament win of 2010 was in Melbourne, and he recently lost to Hewitt (34) in the Halle final, breaking a streak that started in 2004. Of course, we saw what happened to him on day one against Falla, so this sounds like a bit of after-timing, but my original tip was lay the one they call the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
Who's going to beat him? Well, if he plays like he did in R1 again, anyone could, but it's more likely that it could in the second week. Tomas Berdych (46) is his biggest danger in that quarter, followed by Djokovic (34), Hewitt or Roddick (13.5) in the semi, and of course, Rafa in the final. The clock is ticking for Federer, very few players win Slams beyond this stage of their career.
Nadal is the obvious main danger, he's won the title here before, his knees seem in good enough condition at the moment and the grass seems slower than ever. His main danger is Robin Soderling (24), who will fancy another shot at him away from the red dirt. While the Swede hasn't done much here in previous years, it has taken Federer or Nadal to beat him and his game is constantly stepping up to new levels.
Also in the bottom half of the draw is Andy Murray (11.5), who has done nothing since reaching the Australian Open final. The grumpy Scot hasn't been enjoying himself on the court for months, but he has recently rekindled the romance with his ex-girlfriend and no doubt he will be laughing inside at the inglorious performance of England at the World Cup. So you never know, it could all click back into gear with a better frame of mind.
The women's French Open was a blowout for the big names, and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that something similar could happen to the men here.
The ladies' championship has me thinking about more of the same though. In the 'Noughties', only twice was the name on the trophy not engraved as a Miss Williams. As the top two seeds, it really does appear to come down to them. Their most likely dangers come in the other quarters - Wozniack (1000), Azarenka (38) and Stosur (19) on the other side of Serena's (3.25) half, and Clijsters (9), Henin (10.5) and Jankovic (46) fighting for the right to play Venus (4.8) in the other semi-final.
On grass, you just think it is the Williams sisters' event to lose. At the better price, I lean towards Venus to go all the way, although Serena does have a 3-1 record over her in the finals here.
First Round Matches
So onto the matches, what upsets or great trading opportunities can we expect on days two and three?
Sam Stosur (1.43) has a very tricky first round against Kaia Kanepi (3.25). The Estonian is a former top 20 player on the way back to her best, and qualified with ease last week without dropping a set. Stosur readily admits that grass isn't her best surface. With her heavy topspin forehand grip, low bounces are hard to play. This is the toughest match for Stosur inside the first week.
Kimiko Date-Krumm (2.7) reached the semis here way back in the 90s and is the outsider against 31st seed Dulgheru (1.58). She has been troubled by calf muscle problems this year, but with a month since her last match at the French Open, should be in fine shape. This is a prime match to follow the scores for a while before getting involved. It's likely to ebb and flow for three sets.
In the men's draw, the Americans love to hype up John Isner (1.71). The guy serves out a tree as they like to say, but hates the ball bouncing below his knees. His record on grass is poor, 1-5 lifetime, and he has lost to today's opponent, Nicolas Mahut, in the past. Mahut (2.38) served strongly to come through qualifying and this match is likely to involve tiebreakers and maybe even a fifth set.
Marcos Baghdatis (1.4) is renowned for his scrapping abilities in Grand Slams, reaching a Melbourne final and a Wimbledon semi, but it has been a while since those glory days and his record on grass over the last couple of years is pretty poor. Slovakian Lukas Lacko (3.4) is capable of taking it to him, at least for a couple of sets, so don't expect this one to be a whitewash.
Watch out for trading opportunities on Lleyton Hewitt's matches. He should fancy his chances from this quarter of the draw. He dropped the first set against M.Gonzalez on day one, but then motored home to win easily. The mind games will be very interesting in round three if he gets to face Gael Monfils, who now works with Rusty's old coach, Roger Rasheed.
I'll be back early next week with a look at matches as we head into the business end of proceedings.
* All odds taken at 10am 22/06/2010