Wimbledon 2013: Predictions and Tournament Preview
It's hard to believe, but it's almost time for Wimbledon.
Last time we left the All England Club, it was splashed with color and advertisements for the Olympic Games. This time, things will be back in their proper place as all the best players in the world convene for what most consider the most prestigious tournament in tennis.
The defending champions, Roger Federer and Serena Williams, are two of the best grass-court players ever. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka all come to The Championships in fantastic form.
This year is setting up to be an absolute blockbuster.
Ahead we look at the players, storylines and surprises to look out for this year at the prestigious All England Club.
What's Happened in the Men's Game in 2013
Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open
Djokovic started out the year with a bang, winning his third straight Australian Open title. He has been the No. 1 player all season long and has added titles in Dubai and Monte Carlo to his resume. However, he has had some suspect losses at Masters events, so he's not as invincible as he has been in past years.
Rafael Nadal came back strong
Nadal joined the tennis tour after the Australian Open, and he hasn't stopped winning since. He's made nine finals and won seven titles, including the French Open. As it turns out, this guy is pretty good at tennis.
David Ferrer reached new heights
Many thought that David Ferrer peaked in 2012, but he's proving that he's not done winning yet. The Spaniard made the Australian Open semifinals, was one point away from winning the Miami title and made the French Open final earlier this month. It's likely that he'll be ranked No. 3 after Wimbledon, ahead of Federer.
Roger Federer struggled
Speaking of Federer, he hasn't been at his best this year. He won his first title of the year in Halle just last week, and he lost meekly to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the French Open quarterfinals.
Andy Murray was injured
Andy Murray was dealing with a bad back throughout the clay season and pulled out of the French Open. He did win a title last week at Queen's Club though, so he should be healthy for Wimbledon.
Men's Key Storylines at Wimbledon
The fate of last year's finalists
Roger Federer and Andy Murray met in both of the big grass-court finals last year, Wimbledon and the Olympics. They also both won the grass-court tune-ups last week at Halle and Queen's Club, respectively.
Still, they've both had some suspect losses this year and struggled with their health. It will be worth watching if Wimbledon is the cure to their woes.
Nadal's return to the scene of the crime
The last time Rafael Nadal was at Wimbledon, Lukas Rosol shocked him out of the All England Club in the second round. He comes into the tournament this year with good form and (presumably) good knees, but it'll be interesting to see if he's still haunted by the ghosts of Wimbledons past.
Djokovic's French Open rebound
Novak Djokovic suffered a heartbreaking loss to Rafael Nadal in the French Open semifinals, and it will be interesting to see how he responds. Grass is not the best surface for Djokovic, and he usually needs to be completely dialed in to succeed in the later rounds of Wimbledon.
The seed factor
The Wimbledon committee always takes some leeway with the seeding, unlike the other Slams which stick directly to the rankings. With Rafael Nadal seeded at his current ranking of No. 5 (per The Guardian), it could lead to some devastatingly brutal quarterfinal matches.
Underrated Men's Players to Watch
Marin Cilic (No. 12)
The tall Croat has never made it past the fourth round of Wimbledon, but don't let that fool you––he can play on grass. He won Queen's Club last year and made it to the final this year, upsetting Tomas Berdych along the way.
With a good draw, Cilic could definitely do some damage.
Richard Gasquet (No. 9)
The 2007 semifinalist has made the fourth round of the last six Grand Slams, but overall he is a combined 1-15 in Grand Slam fourth rounds. Gasquet showed some of his best tennis in his tough loss to Stanislas Wawrinka at the French Open, and his game is perfectly suited for the Wimbledon lawns.
This is as good a time as any to get over the hump.
Ernests Gulbis (No. 38)
Gulbis isn't so much underrated as he is underranked due to inconsistent execution, but he's definitely a floater to watch. He pulled his ranking up from well outside the Top 100 earlier this year and upset Tomas Berdych in the first round here last year.
Gulbis will be unseeded, and nobody wants to see him during the first week.
Top Men's Contenders
He has been virtually unstoppable since coming back on tour after a seven-month injury layoff. The two-time Wimbledon Champion comes to the All England Club on a 22-match winning streak. It's hard to see anyone stopping him.
The world No. 1 comes into Wimbledon with surprisingly little fanfare, as all eyes seem to be on the other members of the Big Four. The Serb loves to steal the spotlight back, and a win this fortnight would reestablish him as the top dog.
Murray comes into Wimbledon as a completely different man than he was last year at this time, with the Olympic gold medal and U.S. Open trophy in his possession. With the giant monkey off his back, he could make waves at his home Slam.
Federer has seven Wimbledon titles, so it would be incredibly foolish to count him out. Last year he squashed rumors of his demise with a Wimbledon title, and he could do the same this year.
If anyone outside of the Big Four is going to win Wimbledon, it would be Tsonga. The Frenchman made the semifinals of the French Open on his worst surface and should be at home back on the grass where he's made the semifinals the last two years.
A member of the Big Four will go down early
We're so used to seeing Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray make the ends of tournaments, but each of them currently have some cracks in their armor. It might not be an upset of Rosol proportions, but one of them won't see the second week.
There will be a surprise semifinalist
With a member of the top echelon of tennis gone, the draw will open up for a dangerous floater. We could see a Cilic, Gulbis or even a Philipp Kohlschreiber into the semis.
The Americans will not go far
John Isner will lose a marathon match before the first Friday. Sam Querrey will lose meekly in the third round after showing promise in the first two. Ryan Harrison won't win a match.
It will be business as usual for the lost generation of American men.
Djokovic and Nadal will have another epic clash
Whether it be in the quarterfinals, semifinals or final, arguably the best rivalry in sports will continue at Wimbledon. We will all be better off for it.
Rafael Nadal will win
I really can't see anyone stopping him. He's just playing too well right now.
What's Happened in the Women's Game in 2013
Serena Williams is soaring
The No. 1 player in the world might be playing the best tennis of her life, which is a terrifying thought. She hasn't lost since falling to Victoria Azarenka in Doha in February and is currently on a 31-match winning streak.
Williams just won her first French Open title in 11 years, so she's feeling pretty good about life right now.
Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka are consistent at the top
Along with Serena, Sharapova and Azarenka have provided much-needed consistency at the top of the women's rankings this year. Azarenka won the Australian Open and Doha before an ankle injury derailed her, but a semifinal run at the French Open proved she's back on track.
Sharapova, meanwhile, hasn't lost to anyone but Serena since the Australian Open.
Li Na has not backed up her Australian Open run
Unfortunately, Li Na has pretty much been a non-factor since making a run to the Australian Open final at the beginning of the year. She lost to Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the second round of the French Open.
Sara Errani has been awesome
Many people thought that Errani's 2012 run was a bit of a fluke, but she's proved that's not the case. She's up to No. 5 in the world and consistently finds herself in the late stages of the big tournaments.
Women's Key Storylines at Wimbledon
If Serena Williams is unstoppable on her worst surface, how scary will she be on her best? The grass brought Serena back to life last year, but this year she comes into Wimbledon on an all-time high.
If she keeps this up, she could destroy everyone in her path.
Victoria Azarenka's response
Whereas it doesn't seem like Sharapova will be able to beat Serena again this century, Azarenka could develop into a worthy rival for the five-time Wimbledon champion. They haven't met at a major since their entertaining three-set U.S. Open final last summer, and it will be interesting to see if Azarenka can make it to Serena.
The Petra Kvitova factor
Kvitova won Wimbledon in 2011 and lost in a very tight and well-contested quarterfinal to Serena last year. She's been typically inconsistent in the past year, and her ranking has dropped to No. 8, but if she can find form she could make this tournament much more exciting.
How the next generation responds to the big stage
The 21-and-under crowd in the WTA is incredibly impressive, and a lot of them have the games to shine on grass. It will be interesting to see if the likes of Laura Robson, Heather Watson, Sloane Stephens, Donna Vekic, Monica Puig or Madison Keys can make a deep run.
Underrated Women's Players to Watch
Sabine Lisicki (No. 23)
The big-hitting German is right at home at Wimbledon, where she hasn't lost before the quarterfinals since 2008. Last year, she took out Maria Sharapova. Beware of the forehand.
Angelique Kerber (No. 7)
Kerber had a phenomenal year in 2012, making the semifinals of Wimbledon along the way. But she's incredibly under the radar coming into The Championships thanks to a lackluster 2013. Still, she has the weapons to mix things up on grass.
Maria Kirilenko (No. 10)
Kirilenko was just a few points away from making the semifinals here last year, and she comes into this tournament on the heels of breaking into the Top 10 for the first time in her career.
Kirilenko doesn't have the weapons that Lisicki and Kerber have to threaten the top players, but she could definitely take advantage if the draw opens up.
Top Women's Contenders
Obviously. At this point it would be a huge upset if anyone but the defending champion took the title.
It was a tennis lifetime ago when a 17-year-old Sharapova flashed onto the tennis stage by winning Wimbledon, and it's hard to believe that she's only made it back to one final at the All England Club since.
Right now, Sharapova is playing with more consistency than she ever has in her career, and she definitely has the game to beat anyone but Serena on this surface.
Despite being under the radar, Azarenka is still incredibly dangerous. She announced that she was ready to be taken seriously two years ago when she made the semifinals of this tournament and since has won two Grand Slams and made it to No. 1 in the world.
Never forget about Azarenka.
Something tells me not to count out the 2011 champ. She is deadly on this surface and is certainly due a good result this year.
Agnieszka Radwanska will lose early
Last year's surprise finalist comes into The Championships with newly blonde hair and a whole lot of points to defend. Jamie Hampton defeated her in the Wimbledon warm-up, so she doesn't have any momentum to work with and is unlikely to capture magic for a second year in a row.
Laura Robson will have a huge win
The No. 1 Brit isn't under quite the same scrutiny as her compatriot Andy Murray, but she's still the belle of the Wimbledon ball. She's had huge wins at majors, taking out Kim Clijsters at the U.S. Open and Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon, and it's definitely time for her to get a signature win in front of her home crowd.
Two American women will make the quarterfinals
The American women made (recent) history in Paris when four of them made the round of 16. They will improve on that in London.
Sloane Stephens, Varvara Lepchenko, Jamie Hampton, Madison Keys and Bethanie Mattek-Sands are all capable of doing well on grass. One of them will join Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
Serena will win without dropping a set
Let's just enjoy greatness while it's here.