Saturday, 18 June 2011

Wimbledon 2011 Preview

Neutral Omes:

The tennis world seems to be in a slight state of confusion as to which of the men, or should I should say, gentlemen will lift the golden marvel that is the Wimbledon trophy – the 125th edition. But who can blame them? Don’t get me wrong, the conversation isn’t whether outsiders, i.e. anyone outside the top four, will have a shot it; no this confusion is restricted to the likes of the Spaniard, the Swiss, the Serb and the Scot. Observe:

Novak Djokovic must be holding some record for the amount times people have referred to him as “unbelievable” or “incredible” thanks to his unbelievable and incredible streak. Surely a 41-match winning streak would be more than enough to go by for Djokovic to be considered a possible winner at the All England Club. But just in case we needed a reminder that he will from here on in be one of the world’s best, he kindly treated us to a frightful demolishing of Simon at an Exhibiton match in the Boodles, Stoke Park. However, you say, he’s just had a shot at number one and his first Slam outside of the Australian open against someone he’d beaten three times prior. But the occasion got to him, and he’s made no secret of the fact that a win at Wimbledon is a life-long dream of his. A final here would be the mother of all occasions.

Rafael Nadal is a man who benefits a lot from confidence. And red hot from winning his record-equalling sixth Roland Garros title, his confidence must be higher than sky high. You only have to look at his 2010 season to see what a big win on his favourite surface does for him. And as he's showed us, once again moving straight on from victory to practice at Queen’s - he’s more than willing. On the flipside his French Open ride had more turbulence than we’re used to seeing and he did reveal that schedule demands were starting to get to him. Lest we forget Wimbledon and Roland Garros overlap in June – how’s that for demanding?

Roger Federer silenced his critics – and let’s face it, a still, small part of all of us – when he ended Djokovic’s freak-streak to make yet another Grand Slam final. What’s more is that during those finals he showed some masterful signs (including a version 2.0 backhand) that would indeed work very well on the grass.  Nevertheless the Maestro is getting older, no matter how much his impeccable movement hides this fact. And he hasn’t held a Slam for a "Federer-while". That could definitely play a part.

Andy Murray seems to be a more relaxed, more focussed version of himself. It was this new attitude that allowed him a second win in Queen’s. And this combination of positivity and confidence gives him the best chance he’s ever had at Wimbledon; bearing in mind that he is an ever-present semi-finalist. But, for as long as he remains British, his shoulders will remain laden with British pressure. And contending with all of it could be just difficult as winning the darned thing.

So with their pros and cons in equal measure, it seems that the top four are all as favoured as each other. We wait with bated breath and sweaty palms.

Some have argued that the men’s draw won’t start to heat up till the semi-finals, but may I kindly remind them of the (my) pick of contenders: Tsonga – King of Queen’s, Kohlschriber – winner of Halle, and Baghdatis who’s showing some good form. It’s also worth keeping an eye on Roddick who always comes alive at this tournament (and by the way hasn’t retired yet!). And for the young guns: Milos Raonic who you’ll no doubt have heard about now. Otherwise...

Click "Read more" for my neutral take on the ladies.

By now I doubt anyone would bat an eye-lid if we had a new ladies champion at SW19. Such has been the state of women’s tennis for about a year now. (Not that that’s a bad thing.) But noticeably absent during that year was none other than champion-to-the-world, nightmare-to-the-players, Serena Williams. Yes she’s only going into Wimbledon with two matches under her belt, only one of which she won. But if someone said to you: “Who will definitely not win Wimbledon?”, you wouldn’t say Serena would you? And it’s not only cretins that have picked her to win the title.

So the question for the rest of the ladies is: will they let Serena bully them into submission or will they take advantage of her relatively vulnerable state? Vera Zvonareva certainly did. And speaking of, she may well be a threat – using the confidence that she can beat Serena despite the circumstances. Circumstances (– namely that the last time Serena competed in a Slam was a year ago,) that will still remain during the tournament.

Then there’s Serena's rival Maria Sharapova who, serve-permitting, is only looking onwards and upwards. The two are on course for a semi-final showdown which will surely be an appetite-wetter.

Other contenders are: the ever improving and delightful Petkovic; injury recovered Wimbledon wild card Sabine Lisicki; Marion Bartoli who’s a set and a break up at the Aegon final as I speak; and of course, hot off the Slam trail, Li Na.

Whatever happens, it’s going to be an interesting time to say the least, and may even be a stepping stone for consistency in the women’s game if the talked about names put their stamp on things. And speaking of consistency, there’s no doubt Serena will be back to winning ways soon. But if not now we’ll make do with the rollercoaster ride the ladies seem to love taking us on. And hey, roller coasters are fun.


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