Olympic Tennis: Predicting 10 Under-the-Radar Players Who May Surprise in London

Michael Ann McKinlayContributor IIIJuly 26, 2012

Olympic Tennis: Predicting 10 Under-the-Radar Players Who May Surprise in London

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    Tennis at the Olympic games have yield some wacky results, since it only occurs every four years. 

    Take the 2004 men's singles tournament. Favorites Roger Federer and Andy Roddick (remember, he just won the U.S. Open) were ousted early, and an unlikely trio ended up on the medal podiums: Nicolas Massu (gold), Mardy Fish (silver) and Fernando Gonzalez (bronze).

    The women's side has seen less wacky results, but still managed to produce surprise silver medalist Elena Dementieva at Sydney and bronze medalist Alicia Molik at Athens. 

    It's pretty safe to say you never know who the last three standing will be. 

    Let's look at players that will fly under-the-radar at the All England Club and possibly continue the tradition of unlikely medalists. 

Vera Zvonareva

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    The Russian has not only been a Wimbledon finalist, but Vera Zvonareva also won a bronze medal in the last Olympics. She's had her ups and downs this season, which include pulling out against Kim Clijsters at Wimbledon. 

    Zvonareva has the experience and game that could cause problems for the top seeds.

    Prediction: Look for Zvonareva to give Serena Williams trouble in the third round, but no upset. 

Philipp Kohlschreiber

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    Philipp Kohlschreiber is another grass court player to watch. He reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the first time in his career last month, taking full advantage of the Nadal upset. Kohlschreiber's one-handed backhand and fast all-court game suits the grass.

    Prediction: Kohlschreiber could meet David Ferrer in the second round. Should he get past the No. 4 seed, look for Kohlschreiber to reach the quarterfinals.     

Jie Zheng

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    Jie Zheng was neck and neck with Serena Williams in the Wimbledon third round, almost pulling off the upset. Zheng, a 2008 Wimbledon semifinalist, will be unseeded for the tournament, and is one player you don't want to meet in the opening round. Am I right, Serena?  

    Prediction: I like Zheng's chances to knock off the No. 1 seed Victoria Azarenka in the third round and face the Venus Williams/Kerber winner in the quarterfinals. 

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

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    Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 5 seed, will also fly under the radar at these Summer Olympics. However, don't count the two-time Wimbledon semifinalist out. Anyone that takes out Roger Federer at Wimbledon deserves to be watched.

    Prediction: Should Tsonga get past Milos Raonic in the second round, look for him to reach the quarterfinals facing the Novak Djokovic/Andy Roddick winner.

Tsvetana Pironkova

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    Tsvetana Pironkova has been on fire at Wimbledon during the past three years, reaching the second week twice. In every major, she has failed to reach the third round.  

    During those years, she beat five-time champ Venus Williams and was close (in the first two sets) to knocking off Maria Sharapova last month at the All England Club. 

    Bottom line is Pironkova has a solid grass court game that has thrived for some time and should pose a threat again.

    Prediction: Pironkova meets last week's Mercury Insurance Open champion Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, but Pironkova should prevail since she is the better grass court player. Look for her to meet Petra Kvitova in the third round.   

Bernard Tomic

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    Bernard Tomic, like Thomas Berdych, lost in the opening round at Wimbledon and is seeking  redemption. These grounds are special to Tomic, where he made his first Grand Slam breakthrough, reaching the quarterfinals last year.

    Tomic hopes to do something his compatriot, Lleyton Hewitt, never did, give Australia a medal in men's singles.

    Prediction: Tomic is in a good section of the draw, and could possible meet the winner of the Ferrer/Kohlschreiber match. Look for Tomic to at least get to the third round.   

Tamira Paszek

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    Tamira Paszek has had a great 2012 grass court season, winning Eastbourne and reaching the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second straight year. Like Pironkova, Paszek seems to perform the best at Wimbledon, and will be coming back to London as one of the more confident contenders.

    Prediction: Look for the Wimbledon rematch against Wozniacki in the third round, with the same result lifting her to face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals. 

Milos Raonic

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    Despite his hiccup with American Sam Querrey at Wimbledon, Milos Raonic's game is suited for grass. His monster serve and forehand are very efficient on the fast lawns. Raonic is still looking for a major breakthrough at a big tournament, and has a great opportunity as he returns to London.

    Prediction: Raonic is slated to meet Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round, which should be a blockbuster match. The Canadian will need to channel his 2011 pre-injury self if he wants to cause the upset.    

Sabine Lisicki

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    Sabine Lisicki proved her 2011 Wimbledon semifinal wasn't a fluke, as she beat Maria Sharapova soundly on "Manic-Monday." She, like so many on the list, has increased confidence when playing at Wimbledon. 

    Prediction: Lisicki was barely seeded, but it won't be easy. Should she get by Shvedova, she could meet Sharapova in the third round. I like her chances in the Wimbledon rematch, and a win will propel her to take home the bronze medal.  

Thomas Berdych

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    Even though Thomas Berdych is seeded No. 6 at the games, he could still easily fly under the radar thanks to his first-round loss at Wimbledon. 

    Remember, Berdych was a Wimbledon finalist in 2010, defeating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Plus, only playing best two-out-of-three sets should be in Berdych's (and every other player's) favor, increasing the chances of knocking out Novak Djokovic and/or Roger Federer.

    Prediction: Look for Berdych to dispatch Andy Murray in the quarterfinals and at the very least, take home the bronze medal.