15 Players Who Proved at Wimbledon They're Ready to Chase Olympic Medals

JA AllenSenior Writer IJuly 20, 2012

15 Players Who Proved at Wimbledon They're Ready to Chase Olympic Medals

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    At this year’s Summer Olympics, players who excel on grass will have an advantage because the tennis matches will be played on the storied grass courts of Wimbledon.

    Tennis players who win on grass have a special skill set that allows them more freedom to play their game full out on a surface replete with low skids and bounces.

    Such aggression requires the opposition to move quickly to the ball—quicker than they are accustomed. This is especially true if the opposition’s forte is clay, where the player is used to having adequate time to move to the ball.

    Some players, who prefer grass because of their natural speed and quickness, produce their best tennis of the season on the green lawns.

    Recent success at the All England Club points out several players who have an excellent chance to put themselves in the hunt for Olympic medals at the Summer Games, which get underway for tennis on Saturday, July 28.

    These are players who finished in the final eight and who are, of course, scheduled to compete in the Summer Olympics in London.

1. Sabine Lisicki of Germany

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    In 2011, Sabine Lisicki made it into the Wimbledon draw on a wing and a prayer after being out for several months with injury. Luckily, with the help of the All England Club, Lisicki found herself in the main draw granted a wild-card entry.

    Proving she was worthy of the decision to include her in the 2011 field, Lisicki made it all the way to the Wimbledon semifinals where she was defeated by Maria Sharapova, who went on to play in the 2011 finals.

    Grass remains Lisicki’s favorite surface, and Wimbledon provided the stage for her greatest success at the Grand Slam level.

    In 2012, she did not advance quite as far as her run in 2011, but nevertheless Lisicki did make it to the quarterfinals.

    In the first round Lisicki defeated unseeded Petra Martic, 6-4, 6-2, ending a five-match losing streak. The victory sent her into the second round, where she faced a qualifier, Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia. Lisicki won the hard-fought contest 3-6, 6-2, 8-6 to set up a third-round encounter with Sloane Stephens of the United States

    It was another brutal battle, but Lisicki pulled through with a score of 7-6, 1-6, 6-2. In the fourth round, she upended top seed Maria Sharapova—the same Sharapova Lisicki lost to in the 2011 semifinals.

    In the subsequent quarterfinal round, Lisicki met fellow German Angelique Kerber. After losing to Kerber in their last four matches, Lisicki fell into line by losing the first set, 3-6. Lisicki, however, bounced back to take the second set to a tiebreak.

    In the process of winning this second set, Lisicki saved two match points. After a strong start in the third, Lisicki was unable to hold on, losing 3-6, 7-6 (9-7), 5-7.

    The young German Lisicki showed great form on the grass and should be able to find that same impetus to put herself on the podium for an Olympic medal.

2. Mikhail Youzhny of Russia

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    You may remember Mikhail Youzhny for his smart four-corner military salute at the end of any match that he wins.

    Or you may recall him because of the YouTube explosion he caused when he whacked himself so hard in the head that he bled, after losing a point to Nicolas Almagro in Miami in 2008.

    Mainly, Youzhny is a hardworking tennis pro from Russia who has dedicated himself to the great game since 1999.

    Now at age 30, Youzhny is finding new inspiration as the Summer Olympics prepare to get underway in London. 

    The reason? The past two seasons at Wimbledon have been two of Youzhny’s best.

    During the 2011 Wimbledon Championships, Mikhail Youzhny advanced to the fourth round, before losing to Roger Federer, 7-6, 3-6, 3-6, 3-6.

    Earlier in 2012, Youzhny reached the semifinals of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle on grass before losing to Federer, 1-6, 4-6. 

    Recently, Youzhny extended his run to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 2012, losing once more to Federer 1-6, 2-6, 2-6.

    Life would certainly be a lot sweeter for the Russian if he could stop meeting Federer in tournaments.

    Still, Youzhny reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club earlier this month, which is his furthest advancement in 12 tries.

    Since the Olympics will be played on these same courts, there is every reason to believe the Russian has a chance to secure a spot on the podium to be awarded an Olympic medal.

3. Tamira Paszek of Austria

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    Tamira Paszek is another player whose favorite and most productive surface is grass. For the past two years, Paszek has advanced to the quarterfinals of Wimbledon.

    In 2011, the Austrian defeated the sixth seed Francesca Schiavone in a match that lasted almost four hours. It marked Paszek’s first win over a player ranked in the top 10. She finally turned Schiavone back 3-6, 6-4, 11-9.

    Paszek next defeated Russian Ksenia Pervak in the fourth round in three sets, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3.

    She reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam for the first time when she played and lost to the No. 4 seed Victoria Azarenka in straight sets 6-3, 6-1.

    In 2012, the Austrian’s tennis season definitely took a turn for the best on grass, which was illustrated when Paszek won the Eastbourne grass-court tournament—defeating Angelique Kerber 5-7, 6-3, 7-5 in the final. 

    Moving forward, Paskek extended her winning ways to the grass courts at Wimbledon.

    In the first round on Wimbledon’s Centre Court in 2012, Paszek defeated former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in another lengthy match. She next defeated Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 6-2, 6-1, followed by the defeat of Belgian’s Yanina Wickmayer 2-6, 7-6, 7-5.

    Her victory over Italian Roberta Vinci 6-2, 6-2 in the fourth round allowed Paszek to reach the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.

    Once again, Paszek found herself face to face with Victoria Azarenka. Just as happened in 2011, she lost to the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinals 3-6, 6-7.

    It is impossible to overlook this player whose game thrives on grass courts.

    As she proved at Wimbledon, Paszek is a good candidate to medal at this year’s Summer Games.

4. Phillip Kohlschreiber of Germany

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    Philipp Kohlschreiber plays better on grass than on any other surface. His game is perfectly suited for the low bounces and the quick movement grass affords.

    In 2011, Kohlschreiber won the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany, defeating Philipp Petzschner in the final.

    The effect of that win, however, saw Kohlschreiber go out in the first round of Wimbledon in 2011, losing to Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

    In 2012, Kohlschreiber lost in the semifinals at Halle to Tommy Haas, who went on to win the tournament.

    But this year at Wimbledon, the German advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

    In the process, Kohlschreiber defeated Tommy Haas in the first round, avenging his loss at Halle a few weeks earlier.

    Judging from his recent record on grass courts, Kohlschreiber has the weapons needed to win a medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

5. Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic

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    After her astonishing win at Wimbledon in 2011, Petra Kvitova took a giant step backwards.

    The rest of the 2011 summer melted away without good results for the new Wimbledon champ.

    Finally in the fall, during the indoor hard court season, the young Czech began to find her footing again.

    Kvitova’s return to form gelled at the 2011 WTA Championships, which she won, remaining perfect through the round robin portion.

    Ultimately, she defeated Victoria Azarenka in the final, allowing her to end the year ranked No. 2.

    Kvitova reached the semifinals in both Sydney and the Australian Open to start 2012 on a positive note.

    On clay, Kvitova reached the semifinals at Stuttgart. She battled all the way to the French Open semifinals where she finally fell to Maria Sharapova.

    Kvitova began her defense of her 2011 Championship as Wimbledon got underway earlier this summer.

    Her quarter of the draw included many dangerous players—but none quite as deadly as Serena Williams.

    When the seedings held, Kvitova met Williams in the Wimbledon quarterfinals where she fell in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5.

    Certainly, Kvitova has the game to win on grass. After all, she won the Wimbledon title in 2011.

    That means the young Czech has the game to win a medal at the Summer Games. 

6. David Ferrer of Spain

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    David Ferrer, as usual, did very well on the clay in 2012.

    Aside from going out in the second round at Monte Carlo to Thomaz Belluci of Brazil, Ferrer managed to go deep into the rest of the clay-court tournaments.

    The problem for Ferrer on any surface remains beating those few players ranked above him.

    At Wimbledon in 2011, as the No. 7 seed, Ferrer defeated Benoit Paire 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round and then took out American Ryan Harrison 6-7, 6-1, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Ferrer moved on to face Karol Beck, winning 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

    Ferrer moved on to the round of 16. Once there, however, he fell to eventual semifinalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 7-6.

    In 2012, Ferrer won his fourth single title of the year and 15th overall in the Netherlands—his second overall grass singles title.

    With that impetus, Ferrer reached the quarterfinals of the Wimbledon championship 2012 defeating Dustin Brown, Kenny de Schepper, Andy Roddick, and Juan Martin del Potro in the process.

    In fact, Ferrer reached the final eight for the first time in 10 tries, losing to Andy Murray in four tough sets.

    The aggressive defensive and offensive play of Ferrer makes him a very difficult opponent to overcome because the man never quits on a point.

    He is known on tour as the “energizer bunny” because of his never-ending ability to play on. It may be that amazing capacity that sees the Spaniard capture a medal at the Summer Games.

7. Maria Kirilenko of Russia

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    Seeded No. 17 at this year's Wimbledon tournament, Maria Kirilenko advanced to the quarterfinals with some outstanding play on her part.

    She defeated Alexandra Cadantu of Romania in the first round, followed by Lourdes Dominiguez Lino of Spain in the second.

    This sent Kirilenko into the third round where she met and defeated another Romanian, Sorana Cirstea, propelling her into the fourth round to face Shuai Peng of China.

    In a hard-fought contest, Kirilenko overcame the lady from China, winning in three sets, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3.

    Kirilenko found herself in the quarterfinals where she did battle with the third seed, Agnieszka Radwanska.  It was a very tough match for Kirilenko to lose and equally as difficult for Radwanska to win.

    But the Russian lost 5-7, 6-4, 5-7.

    This was Kirlenko's best showing at Wimbledon after eight previous tries. She had advanced as far as the third round previously in 2010 and 2011.

    But in 2012, she made the quarterfinals, playing very competitively during the fortnight.

    With her solid finish at the All-England Club, Kirlenko rose to a world No. 15 ranking.  Based on her recent play and her ranking, the Russian will represent Russia at the upcoming Summer Games in London, competing in both singles and doubles. 

    Kirilenko must be regarded as a strong contender to medal at the Summer Olympics in tennis based on her recent play.

8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France

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    There is no athlete playing tennis with more natural ability than Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who, at age 27, seeks to make his presence felt at the very top of the men’s game.

    After injuring his finger in a fall, Tsonga was dismissed from the 2012 Wimbledon warmup Queen’s Club Tournament in the third round.

    There was speculation that the world No. 5 would not be able to play Wimbledon in 2012 because of this injury. Luckily that was not the case.

    Last year Tsonga advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals after an extraordinary quarterfinal match with Roger Federer. The Swiss led two sets to love when Tsonga began the long road back into the match.

    Tsonga won the last three sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 to win the match. Then, in the semifinal round, Tsonga extended Djokovic to four sets before folding.

    In 2012, Tsonga once again made it to the Wimbledon semifinals, defeating Lleyton Hewitt, Guillermo Garcia Lopez, Lukas Lacko, Mardy Fish, and Philipp Kohlschreiber before falling to Andy Murray 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7.

    Certainly, Tsonga has the game to win it all. The question centers on his discipline and his will to win. These assets seem to be missing so far.

    Tsonga’s game throughout the past two seasons has steadily improved, and the Frenchman is now ranked just outside the top four in the No. 6 spot.

    Most believe that his best and most consistent tennis is yet to come.

    Perhaps it will begin at the Summer Games.

9. Victoria Azarenka of Belarus

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    Victoria Azarenka had to be concerned going into Wimbledon after losing the No. 1 ranking she had held since the Australian Open.

    Azarenka began 2012 winning. She captured titles at Sydney, Doha, Indian Wells and, of course, won the 2012 Australian Open. She finally lost to Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in Miami.

    In the process, she took over the world No. 1 ranking from Caroline Wozniacki.

    After taking some time off to recover from injury after Miami, Azarenka returned at Stuttgart, where she fell in the final to Maria Sharapova.

    Then world No. 1 Azarenka lost in the finals at Madrid to Serena Williams, followed by being taken out in the third round in Rome by diminutive Dominika Cibulkova.

    In a shocker, Cibulkova also eliminated Azarenka from contention at the French Open in the fourth round.

    The  lady from Belarus had hoped to cement her ranking by winning the French Open—winning back-to-back majors. Instead she lost the match and soon after her No. 1 ranking to eventual champion, Maria Sharapova.

    As No. 2, Azarenka was glad to move to grass, hoping to recapture her ranking at Wimbledon.

    Advancing all the way to the semifinals, Azarkena ran into Serena Williams, who took away her time to react on court. Even though Azarenka forced Williams into a tiebreak, Serena came away the winner in straight sets. 

    Still, it was not all bad because Azarenka did recapture the No. 1 ranking when Sharapova failed to advance to the quarterfinals.

    Her prospects at the Summer Games seem very promising. Expect Azarenka to do her utmost to medal in London.

10. Novak Djokovic of Serbia

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    After Novak Djokovic defeated Rafael Nadal at the 2012 Australian Open in a thrilling five-set final, the Serbian camp breathed a collective sigh of relief because the world No. 1 had just won his third consecutive Grand Slam title—each one over Nadal.

    Sporting a new-found regimen for winning, including a restricted diet and rigid self-discipline, Novak Djokovic hoped to continue his winning ways.

    After the 2012 Australian Open victory, however, the Serb lost to Andy Murray in the Dubai semifinals then fell to American John Isner in the semifinals at Indian Wells.

    The magic disappeared.

    Even though the Serb would come back to win again in Miami, the clay-court season began, and Djokovic found himself coming up short in finals against Nadal—finals that he had won just a year ago.

    Still, Djokovic continued to reach finals. Now, the Serb and his camp hoped to recapture the magic on the green lawns of Wimbledon—leaving the clay to Nadal until another year.

    After losing in the Wimbledon semifinals to Roger Federer earlier this month, however, Djokovic consequently found himself stripped of this No. 1 ranking. He had reached that sought-after pinnacle almost a year ago at that same grand slam tournament held at the All England Club.

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

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

    Playing in singles and doubles, Djokovic plans to redeem himself on the grass courts of Wimbledon during an eight-day campaign to win Olympic glory for himself and Serbia.

11. Angelique Kerber of Germany

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    Angelique Kerber is currently the highest ranked of the German players. With a career high No. 7 ranking among the top ten women on tour, Kerber started the year ranked No. 32.

    This latest rise in her ranking is a direct result of her play at Wimbledon, where she advanced to the semifinals.

    As the No. 8 seed, Kerber was drawn into the same quarter with the No. 1 seed, Maria Sharapova. In the first round, Kerber defeated Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-1, sending her into the second round to face Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.

    After dispatching Makarova 7-5, 6-3, Kerber moved on to the third round where she met American hopeful Christina McHale. With McHale sent home, the German next faced Kim Clijsters in the fourth round.

    Clijsters announced at the beginning of the fortnight that this would be her last competition in singles at the All England Club. It was, however, not much of a match as Clijsters fell meekly 6-1, 6-1—as if trying to illustrate that it was time for her to leave the game.

    In the quarterfinals, Kerber faced her equally “hot” countrywoman, Sabine Lisicki where the two battled through three sets with Kerber finally emerging victorious 6-3, 6-7, 7-5.

    The win advanced Kerber into the semifinals to face the No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska for a chance to move into the finals.

    In the end, Kerber was no match for the cool and collected Radwanska, who dispatched her in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4. 

    But Kerber did extremely well overall, announcing herself as a force to be reckoned with, especially on grass. She had never advanced beyond the third round at Wimbledon, but 2012 found Kerber existing in an entirely different zone.

    Expect her to carry that winning spirit into the Summer Games where an Olympic medal awaits.

12. Andy Murray of Great Britain

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    After signing with Coach Ivan Lendl, Murray’s expectations, especially on clay, heightened.

    But after going out in the quarterfinals of both Monte Carlo and Barcelona, followed by a third-round exit in Rome, the shine seemed to dim on the new pupil-coach relationship.

    It did not help when David Ferrer dispatched Murray in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut sent Murray packing after the Scot’s first match at the Queen’s Club where Murray was the defending champion.

    Life for the world No. 4 did not appear to get any easier as Wimbledon began on June 25. With a seemingly disastrously difficult draw,  the pressure to win was immense, just as it was at every Wimbledon tournament.

    The hometown fans longed to see a native win the tournament again.  No Brit had done so since Fred Perry in 1936.

    Murray and his entourage did not panic, however. When Rafael Nadal was upset early, it seemed prophetic. Murray had a clear chance to advance to his first Wimbledon final—which is exactly what happened.

    Once there, all Murray had to do was defeat the 30-year-old Roger Federer, who had also managed to get there.

    Victory for Murray, 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.

    Perhaps without that added pressure, the Scot will find his way into winning his first Olympic medal.

13, Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland

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    Agnieszka Radwanska began finding success during a productive European indoor season after the 2011 U.S. Open concluded. She made the final eight field in Istanbul.

    All the while, her WTA ranking continued to climb.

    Radwanska extended her positive results into 2012, reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open where she lost to world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka.  She also reached the finals in Dubai.

    Once the tour moved to the United States, Radwanska reached the quarterfinals of Indian Wells, losing again to Azarenka. But the Pole persevered, and at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami, Radwanska won the title, defeating Maria Sharapova in the final.

    During the clay-court season, Radwanska won a title in Brussels and made the semifinals in Stuttgart and Madrid. She was, however, dismissed in the second round in Rome and the third round at the French Open.

    Radwanska ended 2011 with the No. 8 ranking, but on May 7, 2012 she became the WTA No. 3 ranked player in the world.

    Drawn into the same half as Maria Sharapova , the No. 1 seed at Wimbledon, Radwanska advanced all the way to the Wimbledon finals. In the process she defeated Magdalena Rybarikova in the first round, Elena Vesnina in the second round and Heather Watson in the third.

    Following those victories, Radwanska met and defeated Camila Giorgi of Italy, which saw her advance to the quarterfinals. She defeated her opponent Maria Kirilenko in three tight sets. In the semifinals, Radwanska defeated Angelique Kerber in straight sets, sending her into the final against Serena Williams.

    Although Serena Williams took the first set easily while Radwanska battled her nerves, the Pole came back, playing a strong second set. Ultimately, Radwanska fell in three, losing 1-6, 7-5, 2-6. But she proved to the world that she was deserving of her No. 3 ranking.

    Her improved movement and aggression on the court give Radwanska a very good chance of leaving the 2012 Summer Games in London with an Olympic medal in hand.

14. Roger Federer of Switzerland

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    No one seems as comfortable as Roger Federer on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It feels like coming home to the winner of seven championships at the All England Club.

    Prior to Wimbledon, Federer managed a very successful 2012. Aside from his early dismissal by Andy Roddick at Miami and John Isner during their Davis Cup match in February, Federer spent much of his time winning tournaments again.

    He gathered in a few more trophies at Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Madrid in 2012.

    Federer was a finalist in Halle and a semifinalist in Doha, the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

    The winner of 16 Grand Slam tournaments looked forward to another campaign at the All England Club as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, since tennis would be staged on the same green lawns.

    His march through the draw to the Wimbledon final reminded fans of the Federer of yore.

    When he dispatched Djokovic in the semifinals, followed by his victory over Andy Murray in the final, the first half of Federer's ambition for the summer came true.

    The second part of his duo-win on grass quest includes winning a gold medal at the Summer Games.

    One thing for sure is that Roger Federer knows how to win on famed Centre Court. He has done so seven times, including five consecutive titles from 2003-2007.

    Winning an Olympic gold medal seems the next logical set.

15. Serena Williams of the United States

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    Serena Williams lost in the first round of the French Open, something the youngest Williams sister had never done before—lose in the opener of a Grand Slam tournament.

    Undeterred, Serena began her campaign at Wimbledon, winning in both singles and doubles all the way to both finals.

    She defeated world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the singles final in three sets.

    After Serena dominated in the opening set 6-1, Radwanska came back to take the second set 7-5. But Serena closed out the match in the third, 6-2, winning her fifth Wimbledon title, which tied her with sister Venus.

    Serena Williams must be regarded as one of the favorites to win gold in women’s tennis going into the Summer Olympics based on the fact that she just recaptured the 2012 Wimbledon title less than a month ago.

    Serena has every intention of winning the gold at the Summer Olympics.

    Although Serena 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.

    This will probably be Serena Williams’ last act on the Olympic stage in singles, and with the dramatic flair that has highlighted Serena’s tennis career, going out in a blaze of gold would be a fitting end.