I just got off an ESPN2 conference call this afternoon with commentators Mary Carillo and Brad Gilbert, who were both asked the inevitable “Federer or Nadal?” question in advance of next week’s Wimbledon.
“The last couple years we’ve had two guys in both Federer and Nadal both pull off the hardest feat in tennis, going from winning the slowest surface major at the French and then Wimbledon.” Carillo said. “That’s obviously the overwhelming storyline again: Will Rafa win another (French-Wimbledon) double or will Roger defend?”
So is it going to be 2008 all over again, with Rafa riding a huge wave of confidence and Roger doing his damnedest to keep a grip on the silver pineapple? Brad says: not so fast:
“I think there’s more work to be done for the two of them. That’s 36 sets they gotta get – 18 sets each to get to the final. In 2008 you’d be hard pressed to think they weren’t gonna play in the final. I don’t think it’s going to be an absolute slam dunk like in 2008 that they’re both going to play the final. Something can happen in the draw. Where’s Andy Roddick going to fall? Who has the roughest quarter? I definitely don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion. If you asked me the same question in 2008, I thought it was overwhelming that those two would get there and they did.”
But when asked to make a “gun to the head” prediction, both Mary and Brad predicted that Rafael Nadal would be the 2010 Wimbledon Champion, with Roger Federer having the next best chance.
The commentators’ picks seem to have more to do with Rafa’s current form than Roger’s recent loss to Hewitt in the finals of Halle:
“Fed has beaten Hewitt 15 times in a row and obviously had a great win streak at Halle. He was a little un-opportunistic in that match (on Sunday).” Gilbert said. “If he goes on to win Wimbledon, no one remembers he lost to Hewitt in Halle. The fact that he got some (grass court) matches in, his record is superlative on grass, I wouldn’t worry about him.”
A few programming notes, while we’re talking about ESPN2. The network is promising “all live” coverage this time around (assuming that there is actual live tennis being played during the broadcast). Here’s ESPN’s Senior V.P. of programming and acquisitions Len DeLuca:
“Tennis fans demand Wimbledon and the Grand Slams live, and when anyone tries not to deliver the action live and hold it back for whatever business reasons, it’s a disservice to the fans and definitely not 21st century tennis.”
We’ll hold you to that ESPN! And can you give someone at NBC a call? Other notes: Chris Fowler will be in South Africa for World Cup (dang!) and the always popular Hannah Storm will be in the Wimbledon studios, I’m assuming subbing for the nice blond woman from Connecticut. ESPN’s online streaming has changed names from ESPN360 to ESPN3.