Wow, the start of play is just hours away! This is a special time, the twilight hour of a tournament, before the players actually take to the court and mess up all of our theories, expectations, hopes and dreams (well hopefully not too many of our hopes and dreams will be dashed during the first couple rounds, right Roger?)
My top six (couldn’t stick to just five) favorite little things about Wimbledon:
6. Using the word fortnight. When else does a red blooded American have the excuse?
5. Keeping up with Daily Mail headlines like this recent one “Djokovic prepares for Wimbledon by taking girlfriend to Murray’s Scottish region.” HA!
4. Rafa cooking! It seems like usually-nomadic tennis players enjoy going all Martha Stewart while at Wimbledon, where they are more likely to rent a house in the village instead of staying in a hotel. It’s like if Tennislandia really did exist!
Pasta with gambas? Photo via Rafa’s facebook page
3. The dress code controversies! Personally, I think the “all white” dress code is a nice change of pace and a comforting nod to tradition. It’s also a fun way for the players to buck authority – remember Tatiana Golovin’s red underpants? Loved that! This year, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova’s new ‘do may be the talk of A.E.L.T.C.
Is the ‘do a don’t? Via Wimbledon.com
2. The spectators. Sure the surface change between red clay and green grass is pretty extreme, but what about the change in the stands? As much as I love the, uh, personality of the Roland Garros mob, its always welcome relief to move to greener pastures, and the restrained, empathetic enthusiasm of the Centre Court crowd.
1. Roger on grass. No Wimbledon list, great or small, would be complete without him!
This picture = visual “Ahhhhhhh!” Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images via Daylife
So now that the fun stuff is out of the way, I though I should take a look at the draw before the players get in there and mess it all up.
Will lightning strike twice for Nole at Wimbledon? MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/GettyImages via Daylife
The basics: Federer vs. Djokovic and Nadal vs. Murray in the semis. Yes, there should be a law.
Summary: Even though the arrangement of the top four in the draw makes it appear to be business as usual, the men’s draw is chock-full of potential upsets, dramatics and just flat out fun stuff. And none of the top guys will have it easy.
Djokovic’s quarter: The defending champ gets Juan Carlos Ferrero in the first round. How’s that for first on Centre Court? His second round could be a humdinger against young American Ryan Harrison and the third round could serve up serve and volley specialist Radek Stepanek. Monaco is his seeded Round of 16, though countryman Viktor Troicki is another possibility. From there, I’d say Djokovic got the top four’s least favorite quarterfinal opponent: Tomas Berdych. All that to take on Federer in the semis.
Federer’s quarter: After the struggles Roger had against qualifiers and no-names at Roland Garros, it’s tough to look at any draw with confidence. And just as his run to the Halle finals gave Fed Fans a mini surge, he went down in flames to Tommy Haas. That said, the New York Times has declared him the favorite and Roger, himself, won’t shut up about how healthy he feels, how much he is “dreaming” of the title, and how he’s looking to break the Nadal/Djokovic stranglehold like some fiery up and comer with a bee up his butt.
Objectively, Roger’s draw ain’t that bad. He faces an unfamiliar Spaniard, Albert Ramos, in the first round and his likely second round is against a capable, but comfortable opponent in Michael Llodra. He could face Julien Benneateau or qualifier Michael Russell in the third and the winner of Verdasco vs. Simon in the fourth. Things could get trickier against Isner (or Tipsarevic) in the quarterfinals, but I think he’d take of either of these guys over the more experienced big hitters like Berdych, Del Po or Tsonga. Then it’s onto showtime, with yet another chance to waggle that finger at Novak Djokovic in the semis. Game on Roger!
Top Half Highlights:Djokovic’s draw, in general, has some fantastic early round match ups, including Ferrer in the first round. Other mouth watering first rounders include: James Blake vs. Benjamin Becker in the first round, Stakhovsky vs. Stepanek, Almagro vs. Rochus, Glubis vs. Berdych and the best one of the bunch: last weekend’s big, bad, Nalbandian vs. Tipsarevic.
Murray’s quarter: As if Murray, burdened with home crowd expectations and injury worries (he admitted to needing eight pain killing injections in his back before the French) needed more problems: His Wimbledon draw sucks! It’s the toughest of the top four, in my opinion, starting with a pleasant warm up against Nikolay Davydenko in the first round and Karlovic (!) in the second, Baghdatis in the third, Raonic in the Round of 16 and Del Potro in quarters – assuming Del Potro beats David Ferrer and David Ferrer beats this weekend’s Eastbourne champ, Andy Roddick (way to go, Andy!). All this drama just to face his reoccurring semifinal nightmare, Rafael Nadal, in the semis. Great for tennis fans, but pure torture for the Scot.
By the way, if you want to get to like Andy Murray, read this. Love his honesty.
Nadal’s quarter: “Thinking about winning another title here in Wimbledon is arrogant and crazy,” the two time champ told the press this week. I wonder if he’s worrying about anything in particular in his draw? It’s nowhere near as bad as Andy Murray’s, but there are still some tricky matches on the horizon for Rafa this fortnight. First up is Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil, a big server and no tomato-can of a first rounder. his next challenge would come in the third round, where he could face lat weekend’s Halle Champ, wildcard Tommy Haas, or Philip Kohlschreiber, who’s no slouch on the green stuff. Then it’s onto Feliciano Lopez (who’s beaten him on grass) or the unpredictable Dolgopolov in the Round of 16. The tastiest match-up of the tournament could be an on-form Tsonga vs. Nadal in the quarterfinals.
Bottom Half Highlights: It’s an embarrassment of riches on this side of the draw. First rounders include Kevin Anderson vs. Grigor Dimitrov, Davydenko vs. Murray, Tsonga vs. Hewitt (wildcard), and Kohlschreiber vs. Haas (what an unlucky draw for the Germans.) The potential early round highlights continue with Querrey vs. Raonic (it will at least be an interesting one for Querrey watchers) and Karlovic vs. Murray in the 2nd round. The third rounds are uniformly great, with Ferrer vs. Roddick, Nishikori vs. Del Potro, Cilic vs. Raonic, Baghdatis vs. Murray, Tsonga vs. Wawrinka, Tomic vs. Fish (who is making his post heart-problem comeback), Lopez vs. Dolgopolov and Haas vs. Nadal. See what I mean? This is the half to watch.
Wimbledon’s past and present at a pre-tournament party. AP Photo/Joel Ryan via Daylife
The basics (as if anything’s simple): Sharapova vs. Radwanska (or Li or Stosur or Venus???) and Serena OR Kvitova vs. Azarenka (I guess) in the semifinals.
Summary: I admit my eyes are crossing a bit at this draw, which is tantalizing wide open to surprises (Clijsters! Venus!) and chock full of real contenders (Serena! Sharapova! Azarenka! Kvitova! Stosur! Li!) You gotta love it.
Sharapova’s quarter: Maria is living in a “sky’s the limit” world right now, having tucked the No. 1 ranking, Roland Garros title and career slam all under her tasteful Cole Haan belt a few weeks ago. Why not shove another Wimbledon title in there, too? Her draw’s tricky but hardly insurmountable, with former semifinalist Tsvetana Pironkova an intriguing second round and a (hopefully healthy and together) Lisicki a possible big hitting opponent in the round of 16. From there, Zvonareva’s Masha’s seeded quarterfinal, but really, anyone from Mona Barthel to Kim Clijsters is just as likely.
Radwanska’s quarter: Yikes. Venus Williams, who is entering Wimbledon unseeded for the first time since her debut at the tourny in 1997, could face (and lose to) Agnieszka Radwanska in the second round of consecutive majors. I have no idea what form we’ll find Venus in as she takes to her favorite surface, and she may be just as clueless. I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise, but will keep Radwanska on my draw through the quarters, where the No. 3 could face the winner of a Li Na vs. Sam Stosur Round of 16.
Top Half highlights: You can’t get much better than Clijsters vs. Jankovic in the first round. The unseeded Clijsters, playing in her last Wimbledon, remains a dangerous floater at this tournament, despite recent injury woes. I’m looking forward to Sharapova vs. Pironkova, Radwanska vs. Venus and Petrova vs. Oudin in the 2nd round and Li vs. Stosur in a “this could be a semi” Round of 16.
Serena’s/Kvitova’s quarter: This should belong to Kvitova alone, as she’s the number four seed and defending champ, but who are we kidding? All eyes will be on the potential Serena vs. Kvitova quarterfinal, assuming Serena doesn’t have a Razzano in her draw. A Round of 16 vs. either Safarova or Errani is about as dicey as it gets for the American. Kvitova could face Pavlyuchenkova in the third round and the winner of Dominika Cibulkova vs Francesca Schiavone in the Round of 16.
Azarenka’s quarter: Had anyone else forgotten all about Vika Azarenka after she bowed out of Roland Garros? I saw her name at the bottom of the draw with a little “2” next to it and thought “Oh, yeah, until recently the media was calling her the Novak Djokovic of the WTA.” Funny. But maybe that’s just me.
I certainly hope Vika does well this tournament, as there are a number of able and entertaining opponents in her section of the draw. Ana Ivanovic is a possible Round of 16 and the winner of Wozniacki vs. Bartoli could lurk in the quarters.
Bottom Half Highlights: Look out for wildcard Laura Robson vs. Schiavone and Wickmayer vs. Kuznetsova in the first round. Wozniacki could get last weekend’s Austrian Open champ, Alize Cornet in the second round and the always unpredictable Sveta Kuznetsova in the third. Wozniacki’s draw continues to intrigue with Marion Bartoli a potential round of 16.