Biggest Obstacles for the Remaining Top Seeds at Wimbledon 2013
After living through Wayward Wednesday when many of the Wimbledon top seeds were scattered to the wind, the rest of the top-ranked players were placed on high alert.
Those taking the courts on Thursday remained on guard for a repeat of the upsets and injuries which preceded their entry onto the show courts at the All England Club.
Gone were (3) Roger Federer, seven-time Wimbledon champion. Gone was Lleyton Hewitt who won this title in 2002. (6) Jo-Wilfried Tsonga bid the stately crowds adieu, upset by Latvian Ernests Gulbis. (10) Marin Cilic was forced to retire along with U.S. hopeful john Isner.
For the ladies, (2) Victoria Azarenka was forced to retire before taking the court for her second round match. (3) Maria Sharapova slipped and fell three times on her way to defeat at the hands of Michele Larcher De Brito.
Left standing, however, are ten of the top seeds on both the men's and women's side of the draw.
As they prepare for the rigors ahead, we will look at the their strengths on grass and those aspects of their game which may well prove to be obstacles confronting them as they battle for a spot in the finals.
Following is an analysis of the top ten seeds left standing at the end of round two.
Richard Gasquet, Seed No. 9
Best Wimbledon Finish: Semifinals 2007
Long touted for his brilliant shot-making, Frenchman Richard Gasquet has worked his way back into the men’s top 10 in tennis. His backhand may well be one of the best in the game these days and he possesses all the tools necessary to excel on grass.
Gasquet reached the semifinals in 2007, losing to Roger Federer. Many predicted it was just the beginning of a brilliant career for the young Frenchman. He moves exceedingly well around the court and volleys with impunity at the net.
One obstacle is his forehand. While he can hit winners with it, often it falls short giving his opponents a target which they use to punish him. When he retreats to the baseline, his strengths on court evaporate because moving forward and taking the ball early bring him his best results.
His biggest obstacle is mental. He lacks the confidence to close out a match when the pressure rises. Now that the pathway is cleared somewhat, Gasquet needs to take advantage and play the brand of tennis which will take him back to the semifinals or beyond.
Petra Kvitova, Seed No. 8
Best Wimbledon Finish: Champion 2011
Petra Kvitova’s best weapons are her serve and her forehand down the line which she can hit for a winner. When she’s confident, she has the power and the aggression to defeat anybody on court. Her lefty serve can give the opposition extreme problems on court. Additionally, she returns serve exceptionally well. She exerts tremendous pressure on defense by taking the ball early.
But, Kvitova’s biggest obstacles are mental. She doubts her abilities at times and therefore, does not utilize them, becoming tentative rather than going for shots. Then she is plagued by a general lack of consistency.
When she won Wimbledon in 2011, nobody could stop her. Now the only one who can defeat Kvitova is Kvitova. If she comes into a match confident, then she can win. She just needs to restore that confidence again.
Now that Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova are out of her section of the draw, Kvitova has an excellent opportunity to advance to the finals again, if she can maintain her confidence going into the second week.
Juan Martin Del Potro, Seed No. 8
Best Wimbledon Finish: Fourth Round, 2011, 2012
Juan Martin del Potro has one of the best forehands in the game. He plays with such power that it was possible for him to win the 2009 U.S. Open, defeating Roger Federer in the final. His shots are rockets, penetrating deep into the court.
Complementing his forehand, del Potro’s two-handed backhand is also rock solid, ranking up there with the best in the game. His service motion is improving, allowing him to depend on his first serve more. This is especially true after the wrist injury which kept him out of the game for almost a year in 2009-2010.
On grass, even though del Potro moves well for a big guy, his net play, especially his backhand volley, remain suspect. His biggest obstacle at Wimbledon will be his forward movement and play at the net. Forcing the big guy in and making him react quickly could prove to be a real detriment the further he advances in his section of the draw.
Drawn into David Ferrer’s quarter, del Potro has a real chance to advance further than the Argentine has reached before at the All England Club.
Angelique Kerber, Seed No. 7
Best Wimbledon Finish: Semifinals in 2012
Angelique Kerber plays tennis from the baseline. From there the lefty hits powerful groundstokes including a great two-handed backhand. Her forehand is her best weapon which she plays with great variety and superb angles on court. Perhaps her best shot is her forehand down the line.
Her biggest obstacle is her serve, especially her second serve which appears more like a sitting duck to her opponents who often return it to her feet before she can adjust and get in position. That becomes a real detriment to the German as she moves deeper into the draw and faces opponents with equal or greater power, especially on grass.
Her quarterfinal opponent could well be Serena Williams who will, if given a great number of second serves, be more than willing to make Kerber pay dearly for placing the serve so weakly in the box.
Upping the pace on her serves is the first step Kerber needs to take to reach the final.
David Ferrer, Seed No. 4
Best Wimbledon Finish: Quarterfinals, 2012
There is no one better playing tennis today except those traditionally ranked higher than David Ferrer. His game is perfect in most regards, yet, smaller. An energetic scrambler, no player works harder on court than Ferrer when he refuses to give up on a point.
But, he lacks the necessary power and pop on grass. Of course, a heftier and better placed first serve as well as better net play and sharper angles on his groundstrokes would improve his play on the green lawns at the All England Club.
But his biggest obstacle on grass is his overreaching tendency to run around his backhand to hit his topspin forehand instead. What happens is that the ball often falls short and he leaves too much court wide-open. It costs him because on grass there is less time to react and get back in position.
Ferrer will play countryman Roberto Bautista next, anticipating a quarterfinal match with the No. 8 seed Juan Martin del Potro. The big hitters lie ahead but the ones with quicker foot speed may worry Ferrer even more going forward.
Li Na, Seed No. 6
Best Wimbledon Finish: Quarterfinals
Li Na is a very consistent player. She can take the ball early and pressure opponents into mistakes. Her best shot remains her excellent backhand.
But Li needs to develop a sliced backhand to help her negotiate the grass. She should also develop more consistent volleying skills at the net.
Her biggest obstacle on the grass is her serve. Li needs to improve the power on her first and second serve and use those strokes to play with much more aggression.
After developing clay court skills, finding her all-court game once again and using her clean groundstrokes to develop championship caliber tennis on the grass remains Li’s greatest challenge.
Andy Murray, Seed No. 2
Best Wimbledon Finish: Finalist in 2012
After winning the 2012 Olympic Gold Medal last summer, Andy Murray will be far more confident coming into the Wimbledon Championships in 2013.
Last year, he reached the finals at the All-England Club only to lose to Roger Federer. Winning the U.S. Open in 2012 also helped relieve Murray of the tension of finally winning a Grand Slam title.
Murray plays well on all surfaces, although grass and hard courts have brought better results than on clay. He has deceptive speed and fluid movement on court along with excellent net play.
At times Murray needs to show more offense, becoming more aggressive on court. This could come with a more aggressive stance on his forehand and include more bite on his slice, especially on defense.
Murray's main obstacles in the past have come when Murray retreats to the back of the court. He becomes too defensive at times. When under siege, Murray will retreat.
But the world No. 2 has worked hard to improve mental aspects of the game. Moreover, he will meet not meet Roger Federer in the semifinals because Federer is gone.
Murray should reach the finals again—this time he hopes to emerge with the Wimbledon Champion's trophy in his grasp. Then the world will see whether last year’s experiences on Centre Court benefited the Scot in 2013.
Agnieszka Radwanska, Seed No. 4
Best Wimbledon Finish: Finals, 2012
Agnieszka Radwanska is very consistent and plays smart tennis. She anticipates her opponent’s strategies quickly and can adapt her play on the fly.
Currently ranked No. 4 in the world, Radwanska reached the finals at Wimbledon in 2012 which instills a whole lot of confidence as she entered play at the All England Club in 2013.
Her biggest obstacles are technical. On grass she needs to shorten up her swing on her backhand and she needs to develop some pop on her second serve. Radwanska often leaves her second serve short, allowing opponents to blast it past her on the return.
In general, Radwanska needs to display more aggression on both offense and defense in order to win against a player like Serena Williams.
This year she's been brought into Williams' half of the draw so Radwanska would have to ease past her in the semifinals to advance to this year’s final.
A tall order, indeed.
Novak Djokovic, Seed No. 1
Best Wimbledon Finish: Champion in 2011
For Novak Djokovic, winning this title again will allow the world No. 1 an opportunity to win three of the four majors, just as he did in 2011—his best year on tour.
Djokovic is the complete player, competent on all surfaces. Early on grass was often a problem. But he found a way to play on grass that benefited his style of play.
At times, Djokovic’s forehand can be a bit erratic because of his extreme grip. This allows the ball to fly at times.
He does, however, possess an excellent backhand. During the past couple of years, Djokovic has practiced diligently to develop an excellent serve. But even so, the world No. 1 could work more to smooth out his delivery giving his serve more fluidity.
His biggest obstacle remains mental—doing better at staying positive, fighting for every point. But Djokovic may have fought that demon and won. Reaching the semifinals and beyond, we’ll be able to judge whether staying in that positive mindset is possible for the top seed.
Serena Williams, Seed No. 1
Best Wimbledon Finish, Five-Time Champion
Like Roger Federer, Serena’s grass court game has few flaws. She possesses the best forehand in the game. Her serve is superior to every one else in the women’s game. She exhibits an extremely fluid service motion.
Williams could, perhaps, develop a better sliced backhand for defensive purposes. In terms of the grass, often defense is the weakest part of her game.
Her biggest obstacle as this year’s Wimbledon gets underway is continuing to exhibit the patience she demonstrated by winning this year’s French Open.
Because her grass court game is best characterized as short and to the point, Williams is not often forced to play long rallies. Rushing her shots to finish a point leaves her vulnerable against players who can match her power and speed.
While there are not many who can challenge her, Williams needs to remain in that positive mode.
No doubt we will see her on Championship Saturday again in 2013.