Bold Tennis Predictions for Olympic Glory at the All England Club

JA AllenSenior Writer IJuly 18, 2012

Bold Tennis Predictions for Olympic Glory at the All England Club

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    As fans of the great game, we love to speculate about winners and losers at any major tennis event on the horizon.

    Moreover, 2012 gives us the Year of the Summer Olympics—in addition to the regular four Grand Slam tennis extravaganzas.

    During the last summer Olympics in 2008, Federer fans suffered through his unexpected loss to American James Blake at the Summer Games in Beijing. This defeat, however, made them thrill even more to Federer’s win on the doubles court with countryman Stanislas Wawrinka.

    Also during the Beijing Games in 2008, the Williams sisters each lost in singles in the quarterfinal round—but they also teamed to come back to win gold in doubles.

    At the Olympics, unlike the four majors, the pay is the same whether in you win in singles or in doubles. All winners take home a gold medal. Therefore, at least during the Olympics, the two events are equal.

    So, you ask, who will win gold medals in 2012? Who will surprise the rest of the field? Who will be upset early to find redemption elsewhere? The storylines for 2012 promise to be every bit as compelling as those in Beijing in 2008.

    Check out the following “bold” tennis predictions.

1. "Rain" Remains a Major Storyline at the All England Club Locale

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    If you watched the tournament concluded earlier in July at Wimbledon, you were aware of the overabundance—not of strawberries and cream—but of rain.

    It made fans appreciate the wisdom of the All-England Club for installing the retractable roof over Centre Court. Without it, we might still be waiting for the conclusion of the 126th Wimbledon Tournament.

    Unfortunately, the forecast for the 2012 Summer Olympics suggests more of the same as London suffers through one of the wettest summers on record.

    Rain has been so persistent that it prompted an editorial in the Times of London on Saturday, July 14, denouncing the rain—demanding it stop soon!

    Even for a country used to soggy weather with natives who treat umbrellas as an additional appendage, the weather this summer has been abominable.

    Expect the rain to continue to be a major storyline during the tennis competition held at the All-England Club.

    Luckily for them, Wimbledon officials have graciously stepped aside to leave the ITF (International Tennis Federation) with their own major headache—trying to schedule matches between downpours.

2. Post Olympics: Tennis Governing Bodies Schedule a Masters Tourney on Grass

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    It is time this injustice was addressed.

    Finally, the WTA and the ATP (the ruling bodies of tennis) will see the fairness of scheduling a masters level event on grass, since currently not one exists. 

    Hard-court masters tournaments are held annually at Indian Wells, Miami, Toronto/Montreal, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris.

    The summer hard-court season ushers in the U.S. Open held at Flushing Meadows in New York City in late August, while the indoor hard-court season inevitably concludes with the WTA and ATP season-ending championships.

    Clay Masters level tournaments are held at Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome. The clay-court tournaments all lead up to the French Open held on the grounds of Stade Roland Garros in Paris.

    But there is nothing to prepare players for the grass season and Wimbledon. It would be equitable to wedge a grass court Masters level tournament into the season. It could preferably replace Eastbourne or the Gerry Weber Open in Germany—making one of these two warmup tournaments a full-fledged masters event.

    It means shaving a month off the hard-court season, moving clay up to March and moving the French Open to the start of May rather than the end.

    At one time, all tournaments were played on grass courts. It seems a shame that the grass-court season lasts a month at best, with only the grand Wimbledon to mark its passing.

    The WTA and the ATP will agree to do this at the conclusion of the summer games at the Wimbledon site now that they understand what a powerful addition grass is to sterile hard courts and to dusty clay.

    The calendar will be updated with this change in 2015 or when Hell freezes over, whichever comes first.

3. Defending Gold Medalist Rafael Nadal Will Not Repeat the Glory of 2008

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    In order for Rafael Nadal to produce powerful spins and blistering ground strokes, the terra firma must remain firmly underfoot.

    This illustrates why Nadal lost on the cursed blue clay of Madrid and why he remains susceptible in the opening rounds on grass.

    Early on, not sensing the ground rock solid beneath his feet, Nadal remained reticent to move on grass. It shredded his confidence and caused him to make uncharacteristic mistakes.

    As the grass gets beaten down and the ground becomes harder, Nadal’s confidence as well as his ability to hit the ball properly return. This usually happens during the second week at Wimbledon but will never happen on the much-maligned blue clay (which is why it will disappear from Madrid next year).

    Currently, Nadal is healing both his knees and his pride as he prepares to defend his 2008 Olympic title.

    But this year's Summer Games will be held on the grass courts at Wimbledon with newly planted and lush green courts, plus tough competition from the start.

    With only nine days of competition, Nadal will not find his way back to the podium to accept another gold medal in men’s singles in 2012.

4. Canadian Milos Raonic Will Enjoy a Career Best at the 2012 Summer Games

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    The tennis world has been waiting for the big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic to make some waves. 

    His problem continues to be his lack of aggression.

    Certainly his serve is a major weapon. It remains one of the strongest on tour.

    Even though Raonic prefers hard courts, his game should adapt well on the grass because he possesses all the ingredients for success on the regal green lawns.

    Yet his record on grass has offered little promise. Even though he made the quarterfinals at the Gerry Weber tournament at Halle, losing to Roger Federer, Raonic lost in the second round of Wimbledon to Sam Query. He also lost in the second round to qualifier Benjamin Becker at Newport earlier this summer.

    When his serve is not working, Raonic tries to become a defensive counter-puncher. But so far, playing in a defensive posture has not proven to be his strength.

    Raonic needs to push ahead, moving forward even when his serve is on. Trying to win in tiebreaks time after time does not always work to his advantage. 

    The Canadian has shown some brilliant moments on court. At this point in the season, Raonic will ratchet up his aggression meter a notch or two at the Olympics to find some true success.

    Raonic will make his mark at the 2012 Summer Games.

5. A Player from Germany Will Medal in Tennis at the Summer Olympics

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    Following in the footsteps of Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, German players who had tremendous success on grass, Germany is once again producing players who exhibit real flair and tenacity on the green lawns.

    These players will be contesting in London for their chance to take home a medal from the Summer Games. At least one of them will do so.

    Angelique Kerber and Sabine Lisicki made considerable inroads at Wimbledon earlier this month.

    Kerber finally went out in the semifinals to eventual finalist Agnieszka Radwanska after defeating countrywoman Lisicki in a tough quarterfinal match.

    Julia Goerges also offered up some strong competition on the grass, eventually losing in the third round to former world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.

    Additionally, you cannot overlook the quality play of Philipp Kohlschreiber, whose admission into the Olympic field was hotly contested for a time. Kohlschreiber plays better on grass than on any other surface. He advanced to the Wimbledon quarterfinals, losing in that round to the fifth seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

    Returning to the tour after a long bout with injury is Germany’s Andrea Petkovic, who was previously ranked in the women’s top 10 before her long absence.

    While Petkovic cannot possibly hope to win gold, her return should generate some entertaining tennis for as long as she lasts.

    Germany has a great chance to medal in tennis at the summer games.

6. Russian Maria Sharapova Will Capture Her First Olympic Medal

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    After winning the French Open title in 2012, Maria Sharapova hoped to capitalize on her new No. 1 ranking by winning a second title at Wimbledon.

    Unfortunately for Sharapova, she was bounced in the fourth round at the All England Club by German Sabine Lisicki, whose game comes alive on the green lawns.

    Sharapova has never won a medal at the Summer Olympics—in fact, this year will mark her first time to participate. She missed both 2004 and 2008 with injury. 

    Like all the top players, Sharapova had adequate time to warm up on grass since her competition at the All England Club ceased a mere three weeks ago.

    But during the Olympics, there will be no byes and no chance to “ease” into the tournament. The opposition should be very tough from the onset of the tournament.

    For Sharapova to win, her serve must be spot-on and her ground strokes struck with pinpoint accuracy.

    No one, however, handles pressure better than the world No. 2. Therefore, expect her to advance far into the tournament, where she will score a silver medal or a bronze medal for her efforts.

7. Expect a Bronze Medal for Team USA's John Isner

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    Hot off his victory at Newport on the grass, John Isner will arrive in London ready to rumble.

    He enters the 2012 Summer Olympics as the No. 10 ranked player in the world,

    Once play begins, Isner will take full advantage of his power game.

    Aided by a wicked first serve and a power-house forehand, Isner remains the U.S.’s greatest hope in men’s singles for a medal. 

    On the other hand, big-serving Isner was upset in the opening round of this year’s Wimbledon tournament by Columbian Alejandro Falla. In fact, Isner has never advanced beyond the second round at the All England Club.

    Yet anyone who has observed the big man knows that he has one of the best serves in the game. Nothing aids victory more on grass than a potent first serve, so Isner has an excellent chance of advancing a long way—assuming he can get through the first two rounds. 

    Isner can play on grass, as his record at Newport attests. Winner in 2011, Isner worked himself into the 2012 Newport finals, where he faced veteran Lleyton Hewitt for the championship.

    Expect Isner to redeem himself on the green grass at Wimbledon by coming home with the bronze.

8. Andy Murray Will Be Upset Early but Medal in Doubles with His Brother

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    Andy Murray’s tears at the conclusion of his runner-up performance at this year’s Wimbledon championship match moved a nation.

    Murray had lost again to Federer in a major final—this one in his homeland with a stadium full of people cheering him on.

    There was so much hope riding on the Scot’s shoulders during the Wimbledon fortnight—but especially so in 2012, when Rafael Nadal was upset early, clearing the way for Murray to advance to the finals relatively unscathed.

    Once there, all he had to do was dispatch the 30-year-old Federer.

    That, of course, did not happen. But Murray did make the Wimbledon finals for the first time and did show everyone how much the tournament meant to him. That should inspire his countrymen to stay behind him.

    Even though the Summer Games will be played on the courts at the All England Club, it is not Wimbledon. It is, rather, the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    Murray will be upset in an early-round match but will warm the hearts of all Brits by coming back to win a medal in doubles with his brother—much as Roger Federer did in 2008 with his countryman Stanislas Wawrinka.

    It will give the Brits another bonding moment in 2012.

9. Defending Swiss Champions Federer and Wawrinka Will Not Find Gold Again

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    After being upset in the 2008 Beijing quarterfinals of men’s singles competition by American James Blake, Roger Federer concentrated all of his efforts into winning gold in doubles.

    Federer and Wawrinka made their way through the Italians and the Russians, plus the vaunted Indian duo of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes in the quarterfinals.

    The Swiss met the American team, Bob and Mike Bryan, in the semifinals, winning 7-6, 6-4.

    In the finals, they defeated the Swedes Simon Aspelin and Thomas Johansson 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to win the gold medal. 

    It represented salvation for Federer’s season, restoring his confidence enough to allow him to win the 2008 U.S. Open later that summer.

    But in 2012, fresh off winning his seventh Wimbledon championship, filled with ambition to win gold in singles, Federer’s focus will not center on doubles.

    A repeat performance from the Swiss duo will be highly unlikely. 

    Simply put, Federer and Wawrinka will not repeat the magic of 2008.

10. Serena & Venus Williams Will Be Denied Gold in Women’ Doubles

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    As much as the world will be cheering for a Williams sister repeat in doubles at the Summer Games in 2012, it will not happen.

    Unless both sisters are eliminated early in singles competition, their chances in doubles diminish, making gold unreachable.

    Losing early in singles seems unlikely to happen for Serena Williams.

    The schedule of play means that often the players in singles and doubles will be playing twice in one day, repeatedly on back-to-back days.

    This will be extremely difficult for Venus, who suffers from Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that robs her of energy and stamina. She will need these ingredients in huge doses in order to survive the upcoming eight days of strenuous competition.

    Because of the intense schedule, the Williams sisters, without much match play, will suffer.

    Having won two gold medals in doubles in 2000 and in 2008, Serena and Venus will fall short before reaching the gold medal round.

11. Bob Bryan & Lisa Raymond Will Win the Inaugural Mixed Doubles Gold Medal

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    The Games in 2012 mark the first year since 1924 that mixed doubles will be included in the Summer Games as an official part of the tennis program.

    This expansion in tennis signals the Olympic Committe's acceptance of tennis as a permanent part of the Summer Games.

    The mixed doubles field will include 16 teams that will only be selected once the players reach London and look at their respective schedules. The teams will be chosen from the pool of tennis players already on-site.

    It seems very likely that the team of Mike Bryan and Lisa Raymond, who won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon, will be one of the pairs entered in this year’s field.

    Having tasted victory on the green lawns, they would appear to be strong contenders for the gold.

12. Novak Djokovic Brings Home Silver.

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    After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals to Roger Federer earlier this month, Novak Djokovic consequently found himself stripped of this No. 1 ranking.

    He reached that sought-after pinnacle of being No. 1 almost one year ago at that same Grand Slam tournament held at the All England Club. It was his proudest moment.

    Djokovic in 2012, however, has not been quite the same player he was in 2011, which explains how he lost that top spot.

    Still, even at second-best, Djokovic is a dangerous opponent with potent weapons to win on grass.

    Playing in singles and in doubles, the Serb will redeem himself on the grass courts of Wimbledon during an eight-day campaign to win the gold.

    Still, Djokovic will fall one step short, taking home a silver medal to complement his bronze medal awarded four years ago. 

13. The Bryan Brothers Will Finally Score a Gold Medal

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    Team USA will field the doubles team of the highly successful twin Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, who captured Olympic bronze four years ago in Beijing.

    The brothers were upset in the Beijing semifinals by the Swiss duo of Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka, who went on to win gold.

    In fact, the only time Team U.S.A. captured the gold in men’s doubles was in 1988, when Ken Flach and Robert Seguso defeated the Spanish team of Emilo Sanchez Vicario and Sergio Casal in five grueling sets.

    Bryan and Bryan are the No. 2 ranked team in men’s doubles behind the ATP No. 1 ranked team of Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor, who, of course, will not be playing together since they hail from different countries.

    This gives the Bryans a distinct advantage at this year’s Olympics.

    The best tennis players in the world will be competing together for a gold medal, but Bob and Mike Bryan bring years of experience playing together with them onto the fabled grass courts of Wimbledon.

    They will capitalize on that by winning the gold for themselves and for Team U.S.A.

14. Serena Williams Finally Completes Her "Golden" Slam

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    Serena Williams must be regarded as one of the favorites to win gold in women’s tennis going into the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    After all, she just recaptured the 2012 Wimbledon title less than a month ago, both in singles and in doubles with her sister, Venus.

    The gold medal is the only thing left for Serena to accomplish in women's tennis.

    Although she holds two Olympic gold medals in doubles, strangely enough, the younger Williams sister has never won a medal in singles.

    In 2008, Serena lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Elena Dementieva of Russia, with sister Venus also going out in the same round. Together, however, they won the gold in doubles.

    One must suspect that this will be the Williams sisters' last act on the Olympic stage. Age and health would appear to dictate that.

    With the dramatic flair that has highlighted Serena’s tennis life, going out in a blaze of gold would be a fitting end.

15. Roger Federer Wins His Gold Medal at Last

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    Most of the talk about the Summer Games and its tennis competition held this year at Wimbledon have centered on Roger Federer—who appears to be the men's favorite to win gold.

    The reason for such lofty expectations lie in his recent success on the storied green lawns of Centre Court, where Federer just won his seventh Wimbledon title in 10 years.

    To say that Federer plays well on grass is a bit of an understatement.

    Perhaps, finally, Federer’s perfect timing will allow him to win that elusive gold medal in men’s singles. This is a title he has sought since first entering the Summer Games in the year 2000. 

    Playing in the Summer Games at Sydney, teenager Federer made it to the semifinals, where he lost to German Tommy Haas 6-3, 6-2.

    In 2004, as the No. 1 seed, Federer lost to Tomas Berdych in the second round 6-4, 5-7, 5-7. Finally, in 2008, Federer lost to American James Blake in the quarterfinals 4-6, 6-7, again as the No. 1 seed.

    It remains the one iconic symbol missing from Federer’s trophy-laden mantle. Even though Federer won a gold medal, it was in doubles.

    Doubles is not the sport where Federer has excelled all of his professional life. His main arena is in men’s singles, and he needs a gold medal to reflect that achievement.

    Plus, this year tennis at the Olympics will be played on grass, far and away Federer’s best and favorite surface.

    The stars seem to have aligned for Federer to secure his gold medal in his fourth attempt.