Taking a deep breath and diving into the 2010 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s draw. . .
Defending champ Roger Federer remains at the top, seeded No. 1 though ranked a lowly No. 2. Rafael Nadal, the World No. 1 and Wimbledon No. 2 seed, is at the opposite end of the draw. Yes, a Federer vs. Nadal final is possible. Is it likely? Well. . .
Round of 16 by seedings (top-to-bottom):
Roger Federer (1) vs. Jurgen Melzer (16)
Tomas Berdych (12) vs. Nikolay Davydenko (7)
Novak Djokovic (3) vs. Lleyton Hewitt (15)
Marin Cilic (11) vs. Andy Roddick (5)
Fernando Verdasco (8) vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (10)
Juan Carlos Ferrero (14) vs. Andy Murray (4)
Robin Soderling (6) vs. David Ferrer (9)
Mikhail Youzhny (13) vs. Rafael Nadal (2)
TOP QUARTER: Roger Federer and the field
I’m not saying this is a cakewalk draw for Roger, but he should be feeling pretty good about his first week. He gets Alejandro Falla in the first round, perhaps an aging Nicolas Massu in the second, and then, well, it takes an especially paranoid Fedophile to get worked up about a possible meeting with Tommy Robredo or even this weekend’s Unicef Open finalist, Janko Tipsarevic, who lost 3-6, 0-6 to Sergiy Stakhovsky in the final. The Round of 16 could offer up Feliciano Lopez, who beat Rafael Nadal on grass in Queen’s, or surprise French Open semifinalist, Jurgen Melzer. Roger’s biggest worry is probably Tomas Berdych, who is more likely than Nikolay Davydenko to get through to the quarterfinals.
Look out for: Stan Wawrinka and Igor Andreev in the Berdych/Davydenko section of the draw.
SECOND QUARTER: Can Andy Roddick finally do it?
In the perfect world, Andy Roddick would be on the other half of the draw, allowing fans to fantasize about either a Nadal vs. Federer or a Roddick vs. Federer final, depending on their tastes. But the Tennis Gods weren’t in the mood, putting Roddick in Roger’s half and Novak Djokovic’s quarter. (I’m looking forward to that quarterfinal!) This is a tough section for all concerned. Nole gets Olivier Rochus in the first round, and could meet the huge serving Taylor Dent in the second. 2002 Wimbledon champ and Halle Federer-slayer Lleyton Hewitt is Nole’s seeded Round of 16, though talented guys like Gael Monfils, Philipp Petzschner* and Evgeny Korolev float dangerously about. In Roddick’s eighth, he plays friend and countryman Rajeev Ram in the first round, and could take on this weekend’s Eastbourne Champ, Michael Llodra – who is currently coached by Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo – in the second round. Then it’s Philipp Kohlschreiber or the guy who beat him in this year’s French Open, Teimuraz Gabashvili, in the third round. All that for the pleasure of playing Marin Cilic or even highschool roommate Mardy Fish in the Round of 16.
Look out for: Mardy Fish vs. Aussie teen Bernard Tomic in the first round.
THIRD QUARTER: “Mount”ing pressure
Andy Murray has struggled since reaching the Australian Open final at the start of the year. Perhaps the slightly lowered expectations of the British public coupled with a gentle draw will help the Scot find his mojo again at Wimbledon. Juan Carlos Ferrero is the next highest seed in his eighth of the draw, though Sam Querrey, who Murray’s beaten all three times they’ve played, may be the bigger threat. His seeded quarterfinal is Fernando Verdasco, who he enjoys an 8-1 head-to-head against. Then all he has to do to become the first home grown gentleman to win the title in “100,000 years” is beat Rafael Nadal in the semis and maybe Roger Federer in the final. Cake.
Look out for: Bobby Kendrick vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in an all-showboating first round, Almagro vs. Tsonga in the third round, Ferrero vs. Malisse in the first round.
BOTTOM QUARTER: A new challenge for Rafael Nadal
Well, no one said winning another Roland Garros/Wimbledon double would be easy. Rafa’s got a tricky draw at SW19 this year, starting with a first round against young rising star Kei Nishikori and a second round against his old nemesis James Blake. If Gulbis* is healthy in mind and body, he could put up a fight in the third round, and then it’s Mikhail Youzhny or perhaps the big serving John Isner in the round of 16. Everyone has already put a big red circle around the possible Soderling vs. Nadal quarterfinal.
Look out for: Soderling vs . Ginepri, Kiefer vs. Ferrer, Youzhny vs. Sela and Mahut vs. Isner in the first round, Baghdatis vs. Chardy in the second round.
Who’s missing? Radek Stepanek (knee), Ivo Karlovic (Achilles), Richard Gasquet (back), David Nalbandian (hamstring/Davis Cup/World Cup) and Mario Ancic (back) all pulled out of the Grand Slam tournament on Thursday.
*Ernests Gulbis has pulled out with that hamstring injury. Philipp Petzschner takes his spot in the draw and Santiago Ventura of Spain comes in as a lucky loser.