Wimbledon 2012: 5 Storylines Heading into the Championships
As the first week of the world's oldest tennis tournament approaches, several players have been in the news.
Early exits in preparation tournaments, key injuries and weather conditions are just a few of the stories highlighting the tennis news.
Here's a list of the top five storylines with the most crucial impact heading into the Championships at Wimbledon.
Early Exits at Gerry Webber
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The impact of these losses will only be told by time.
For Rafael Nadal, out of the first six tournaments he has played this year, he has made it to at least the semifinals in all six, winning four. Gerry Webber is only the second one where Nadal has not reached the semis.
All four wins have happened within the last two months, including his seventh French Open title, so Rafa's momentum heading into Wimbledon is built up quite well. Besides, he still has about a week to work out any kinks.
In five out of the last six years, Nadal has reached the Wimbledon finals, and twice, he has won the title. Grass is easily the Spaniard's second-best surface, and Wimbledon has been his second-most consistent tournament.
The most probable explanation for the world No. 2's loss at Gerry Webber is the quick transition from clay to grass. The only thing standing between Nadal and a second consecutive championship is Novak Djokovic.
On the other hand, the early loss for Roger Federer, once again, shows why the former world No. 1 may be on the downslope of his career.
Granted, he has won four singles titles this year and has reached the semifinals in both Grand Slams. However, he has struggled against Nadal and Djokovic, posting a 3-10 combined record over the past two years.
For years, Roger Federer was the man who owned Wimbledon and dominated the championships every year. Now, he does not even seem to be in the same elite class anymore and exited the All England Club in the quarterfinals the past two years.
Grass is still the Swiss's best surface, so he cannot be completely discounted, but with the strength and confidence that both Nadal and Djokovic are playing with right now, he will have to do a lot to prove he's still at the top of his game and in the same group as the other two.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's Injury
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During his eventual defeat at the AEGON Championships, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga almost put his Wimbledon dreams in question.
In his match against Ivan Dodig, the Frenchman slipped and severely sprained his finger. He has had several tests and scans to confirm it's indeed sprained and not broken.
The world No. 5 is very much expected to play at the All England Club, and by some, is even regarded as a tournament favorite. After holding four match points against No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic in the French Open, Tsonga is certainly a player on everyone's radar to watch for.
Grass is arguably his best surface, having made it to the quarterfinals and semifinals in his past two Wimbledon appearances. The Frenchman is no stranger to pulling off an upset, and after his heartbreaking loss at Roland Garros, look for him to come out with vengeance.
However, his success will now ride on the health of his right index finger. As long as his hand is not bothering him, Tsonga will be able to challenge the elite. As soon as his dominant hand and finger begin to cause him discomfort, he could quickly go downhill and see himself exiting the lawns early.
David Nalbandian's Default at AEGON
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David Nalbandian was on his way to winning the 2012 AEGON Championships when disaster struck.
He was up a set in the final match over Marin Cilic. After Cilic broke serve, Nalbandian expressed his frustration by kicking a sign on the side of the court. However, it struck a linesman, causing minor injury, and before he knew it, the referee had defaulted the Argentine.
This decision has more of an impact than anyone realizes. As a result of the unsportsmanlike conduct, Nalbandian loses all of the ranking points he had earned in the tournament and forfeits any prize money he would have won.
While the AEGON Championships are only at the 250 level on tour, the ranking point loss is quite significant because if the currently ranked 39th player in the world had won the title, he would have picked up 250 ranking points and jumped over 12 players to be ranked 27th. There are only 32 seeds awarded at Wimbledon, which makes a difference in where a player can fall in the draw.
Now in order to gain a seed at the All England Club, Nalbandian would need seven players ranked higher than him to withdraw from Wimbledon, which is highly unlikely to happen. Instead of not meeting a Top 32 player until at least the third round, he could face Djokovic or Nadal in the first.
An unseeded Nalbandian would be dangerous on the men's side. He's a strong grass court player, and if he keeps his composure in check, he can easily knock off some top-seeded players early.
Expected Weather Conditions
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According to AccuWeather.com, temperatures are expected to climb and cause hot, dry conditions for the 2012 Wimbledon Championships.
Average temperatures for this time of year in England are in the 70s, but AccuWeather.com expects the weather to be 15 degrees above normal in the mid-to-high 80s. The only chance for rain is said to be Sunday, which is a mid-tournament break with no matches scheduled.
Despite these early predictions, no one actually knows what will happen. The All England Club was forced to close the Centre Court roof for the first time during last year's outing.
As for the weather's effect on the court, it's not exactly ideal but good enough. The Wimbledon website says in order to ensure a consistent bounce of the ball, the court must be hard and dry. This is easy to achieve when the atmospheric conditions are just that.
However, this can cause significant damage to the court. When the courts are damaged, they begin to develop a yellow and soft area, which can cause slippage and irregular bounces. This will be a huge factor to look at as the week goes on, and it also serves as a huge test of the groundskeeping crew.
Maria Sharapova's Resurgence
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After her French Open victory, Maria Sharapova completes her career Grand Slam and takes over as the world's No. 1 from Victoria Azarenko. She becomes only the 10th women's player to win all four major titles.
The win at Roland Garros is easily just what the Russian needed to regain the dominance she once had on the sport. So far, she has continued to look good, and as Wimbledon approaches, she looks almost unbeatable.
Sharapova will look to make the most out of her opportunity and prove to the women's tennis landscape that she's still on the upside of her career, showing that her game, mentality and career are revitalized—a far cry from the finishing line. This is a kind of new beginning for her as she proves she's once again a major force to contend with.