Rafa Nadal Withdraws From Wimbledon: Is This Andy Murray's Year?

Chris Oddo aka The Fan ChildCorrespondent IJune 19, 2009

LONDON - JULY 06:  Rafael Nadal of Spain shakes hands with Roger Federer of Switzerland after Nadal won in five sets in the final on day thirteen of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 6, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

On the Friday before the start of play at Wimbledon, the biggest story is one of withdrawal. 

Just moments ago, last years champion Rafael Nadal decided to opt out of this years Championships due to lingering effects from knee tendonitis.  "I'm just not 100 percent," Nadal said in a news conference at the All England Club.  "I'm better than I was a couple of weeks ago but I just don't feel ready."

Nadal's absence opens a huge abyss in the top half of the draw, and substantially bolsters the chances of two men:  Roger Federer, seeking his sixth Wimbledon title in seven years, and Andy Murray, seeking to become the first player from Great Britain since Fred Perry in 1936 to take the title.  
The 22-year-old Murray initially drew Rafa Nadal in his half of the draw.  What seemed like a stroke of terrible luck hours ago is actually a godsend for Murray, as Nadal's withdrawal makes Murray the heavy favorite to reach the final. 
It also means that the Spaniard will be just the 2nd man in thirty-five years to not defend his title. The other was Goran Ivanisevic in 2002.
According to Wimbledon rules, 5th seeded Juan Martin Del Potro will inherit Nadal's place in the draw, and could likely become Murray's semi-final opponent later next week.  The two have played some memorable matches in the last year, but a semi-final match would undoubtedly be their biggest to date. 
But there is lots of tennis to be played between now and then.  

Elsewhere, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Fernando Verdasco, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are all in the lower half of the draw.

Nadal's withdrawal, and Del Potro's resultant move into his place, is yet another stroke of good fortune for Federer as he sets his sights on his sixth Wimbledon title and his fifteenth Grand-Slam.

As we saw in Roland Garros, there are no guarantees for Federer. With Fernando Verdasco and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lurking in his quarter, along with a possible third round tilt with Philip Kohlschreiber (who upset Dkokovic at Roland Garros) and a possible round-of-16 match with Robin Soderling, things are certain to be interesting for the 27-year-old Swiss legend.

Another player who stands to benefit from Nadal's absence from the top half of the draw is American Andy Roddick.
The two-time Wimbledon finalist will have a tough match with Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the first round, and a possible intriguing match against the highly heralded 18-year-old Wild Card (last year's Junior Wimbledon champ) Grigor Dimotrov in the second. But if he gets through, his chances to make the quarters appear to be good. The only other seeded players between Roddick and the quarterfinals are no. 12 Davydenko, no. 20 Berdych, and no. 26 Jurgen Melzer.

If Roddick makes the quarters, his record against Del Potro is 0-1.


All eyes have been on the 22-year-old Scot as he became the first player from Great Britain in 71 years to hoist the enormous trophy at the Queens Club in London.
It was a relatively easy week for Murray, and his greatest challenge was downplaying the tremendous expectations that are building as the Wimbledon fortnight sets to begin.

Not since Fred Perry in 1936 has a player from Great Britain taken the title. Tim Henman was admired for his four semi-final appearances, but in Murray, the locals see the potential for more.

Last years quarterfinal run was ended in straight set defeat at the hands of Rafa Nadal, but on the way to that match Murray brought the crowds to life, especially during his emotionally enthralling comeback victory against Richard Gasquet.

Last year's 11th seed, Murray is now seeded no. 3. Though he'll tell you otherwise, anything less than a semi-final appearance will be a bitter disappointment. While expectations are high, fortunately for Murray, so is the caliber of his recent play.

After a career best run to the quarters at Roland Garros, Murray does appear ready to give the locals what they are so desperately hoping for.
A first round match with American Robert Kendrick may be followed by a second round match with sinking Latvian Ernests Gulbis. Other pitfalls, such as hard-serving American qualifier Taylor Dent, last years semi-finalist Marat Safin, and always-dangerous Stanislas Wawrinka could pose threats for Murray in rounds three and four.  
If the seeds hold, swashbuckling Fernando Gonzalez would be Andy Murray's quarterfinal opponent, but Gonzo hasn't been past the round-of-32 at Wimbledon since 2005.  

Notable First Round Matches
Fans won't have to wait at all to see some very desirable match ups.  The first two days of the fortnight are littered with intriguing tilts.  Here are a few samples:
Sam Querrey vs. Ivan Ljubicic, Robin Soderling vs. Gilles Muller, Nicolas Almagro v. Juan Monaco, Marcos Baghdatis vs. Felicano Lopez. Juan Carlos Ferrero vs. Mikhail Youzhny, Fabrice.  

If the Seeds Hold
We know they rarely do, and we know that chaos reigns supreme in Grand-Slam events, but if the seeds did hold, here are some of the mouth-watering matches that we'd get to see in the intermediate rounds:

2nd round
Dent vs. Troicki
Murray vs. Gulbis
Del Potro vs. Hewitt
Roddick vs. Dimotrov
Querrey or Ljubicic vs. Cilic
Fish vs. Tipsarevic

3rd round
Djokovic vs. Fish
Cilic vs. Haas
Tsonga vs. Karlovic
Soderling vs. Feliciano Lopez
Federer vs. Kohlschreiber
Wawrinka vs. Safin
Stepanek vs. Ferrer

4th round
Del Potro vs. Ferrer
Verdasco vs. Tsonga
Roddick vs. Davydenko
Murray vs. Safin
Federer vs. Soderling