Wimbledon Tennis 2012: Essential Guide to Top Contenders and Longshots

David Daniels@TheRealDDanielsSenior Writer IJune 26, 2012

Wimbledon Tennis 2012: Essential Guide to Top Contenders and Longshots

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    Stars shine brightest in London.

    The host city of the 2012 Summer Olympics will first highlight the world’s greatest tennis players at Wimbledon in the 126th edition of the tournament. There, history will be made and legacies will be molded.

    While Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitová attempt to defend their 2011 Wimbledon titles, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova will look to win back-to-back grand slams after triumphing in the French Open. And there are plenty of talented players that will do everything in their power to prevent them from doing just that.

    Here are some of those players—the men’s and women’s favorites and big-name underdogs—that’ll compete for the Wimbledon crown.

Men’s Top Contender: Roger Federer

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    World Rank: 3rd

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Final of the Gerry Weber Open

    If He Wins

    Federer’s career would be resurrected a bit.

    Despite being 30 years old, he definitely still possesses the ability to beat with anyone in the world. He just hasn’t done it. His last grand slam victory came in the 2010 Australian Open.

    If Federer claims his seventh Wimbledon title, it wouldn’t only prove that he’s still a major grand slam threat, but it’d distance himself from Rafael Nadal in the all-time singles titles race.

    If He Loses

    Wimbledon is Federer’s stage. Having already won four tournaments this year, this is his best shot at knocking off Nadal and Novak Djokovic in a grand slam. If Federer fails, he’ll never have a better opportunity.

Men’s Top Contender: Rafael Nadal

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    World Rank: 2nd

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Quarterfinals of the Gerry Weber Open

    If He Wins

    Nadal would be in position to regain his world No. 1 ranking.

    He hasn’t won a grand slam outside of the French Open since 2010. Back-to-back slams after Novak Djokovic dominated the 2011 campaign would shift the balance of power in Rafa’s favor. It would also put an end to the can-only-win-on-clay talk.

    If He Loses

    It depends who wins. If anyone but Djokovic wins, his world ranking shouldn’t be in danger. If Djoker wins, though, the Serbian’s stranglehold on the game will only get stronger.

Men’s Top Contender: Novak Djokovic

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    World Rank: 1st

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Final of the French Open

    If He Wins

    Despite just losing to Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, a win at Wimbledon would distance Djokovic from the rest of the men’s pack. He would reaffirm Rafa’s label of being a clay-court specialist and that the surface is the only reason why he boasts three straight wins against him.

    It’d also mark Djokovic’s fifth title in two years and put him on a historic pace to climb the all-time titles list.

    If He Loses

    Again, it depends who wins. If Nadal wins, Djokovic’s hot streak that lasted over a year will be in jeopardy as the Spaniard snatches the title of best in the world from his grasp. But if an upset occurs, Djokovic shouldn’t be affected.

Women’s Top Contender: Petra Kvitová

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    World Rank: 4th

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Semifinals of the French Open

    If She Wins

    Kvitová would cement herself as a Wimbledon force. She won the tournament last year at the age of 21. Another victory would send a clear message that she’ll be around for the next half-a-dozen years.

    If She Loses

    No big deal; she’s only 22. After falling short in the semifinals of the Australian and French Open, though, it’d be nice to see her equal those performances.

    Time is on her side and because of that, any progress is positive even if it isn’t a win.

Women’s Top Contender: Victoria Azarenka

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    World Rank: 2nd

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Fourth Round of the French Open

    If She Wins

    An Azarenka victory would signal the start of a new era for women’s tennis. As the Williams sisters decline at a depressing pace, the 22-year-old will step into the spotlight. It’d be her second grand slam title of the year and the second of many more in her career.

    If She Loses

    Like Kvitová, it wouldn’t be a big deal. Azarenka is too young to be taken back by a loss. And having already claimed the No. 1 ranking earlier this year, she isn’t going anywhere.

Women’s Top Contender: Maria Sharapova

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    World Rank: 1st

    Previous Performance: Win in the French Open

    If She Wins

    Sharapova would be the first woman since 2002 to follow a French Open victory with a Wimbledon title. It’d also solidify her standing as the best female tennis player in the world.

    She overcame career-threatening obstacles to climb back to the top. Another win would keep her there for a while.

    If She Loses

    She would risk losing her No. 1 ranking to Victoria Azarenka. While Azarenka doesn’t have the resume that Sharapova boats, she’s improving rapidly and defeated Sharapova in the 2012 Australian Open final. The two could form a fierce rivalry for years to come.

Men’s Long Shot: Andy Murray

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    World Rank: 4th

    Previous Performance: Loss in the Second Round of the AEGON Championships

    If He Wins

    The Big Three would potentially turn into a Big Four.

    Murray has been a top-notch tennis player for a while now, but he’s never broken through to that elite class. Winning his first grand slam would do wonders for his career.

    If He Loses

    No one would be shocked. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are in a league of their own, while Murray headlines “the rest of the field.” Murray just grew up in the wrong era.

Men’s Long Shot: Andy Roddick

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    World Rank: 25th

    Previous Performance: Win in the AEGON International

    If He Wins

    The world would explode. Sure, Roddick is coming off of a win, but he’s 29 years old and has just one career grand slam title under his belt, which came in 2003.

    Roddick is still a big name and he’s had success in London, but it’d be absolutely shocking if he was the last man standing.

    If He Loses

    The world wouldn’t explode. Roddick didn’t advance past their first round in the French Open. He’s a shell of his former self and the definition of a long shot.

Women’s Long Shot: Serena Williams

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    World Rank: 6th

    Previous Performance: Loss in the First Round of the French Open

    If She Wins

    Forget retirement. Williams would officially be back as a grand slam threat on the women's scene. Considering that she’s won 13 of them, that’s a terrifying thought for her competition.

    If She Loses

    Williams would inch closer to retirement. While she’s won two tournaments in 2012, grand slams are the only thing that matter at this point in her career. Another letdown wouldn’t be surprising because she hasn’t won one since 2010.

Women’s Long Shot: Kim Clijsters

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    World Rank: 47th

    Previous Performance: Withdrew in the Semifinals of the Rosmalen

    If She Wins

    It would give Clijsters the fifth grand slam victory of her career. It wouldn’t do much for her future, though. She’s retiring after the U.S. Open.

    If She Loses

    Clijsters would just be one grand slam away from the end of a storied career (of course, that’s what would happen if she wins, too). The legend rose to No. 1, retired, came back and rose to No. 1 again.

    At 29 years old, Clijsters will leave the game on her terms no matter how she leaves London.

    David Daniels is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and a syndicated writer.