Five days have almost gone by, and Wimbledon is still moving along wonderfully. Federer is winning (yawn), the Williams' sisters are playing well (duh) and Nadal is still....well.....at home.
Now I have to admit, when I heard Nadal was skipping for not being "100 percent", I had mixed feelings. I mean, as a bitter 26 year old ex-pro tennis hopeful, the phrase "I'm just not 100%" is almost a slap in the face. I would play on one leg, juggling pineapples with knives in my mouth, while listening to the Jonas Brothers. Having said that, I am not ready to throw Rafa to the wolves quite yet. Since his absence, I have had the chance to watch his past matches. The dude plays hard. Real hard. Like Bruce Willis shoeless and walking on glass Die Hard...um...hard.
I guess what really upsets me is that now Federer "could" be considered to have a cake walk to the Finals, and another trophy in his pretty little jacket with the gold Nike emblem. Now don't get me wrong, I have no beef with Federer. Just like I had no beef with Michael Jordan. Talent bleeds respect, if you are good enough. He is. There is just no way those tears escaping his eyes after a win can still be real. How many times do we have to watch him fall to his back after a last point and look shocked before we start to yell "Faker!". I just want that feeling of "anyone can win". We haven't had that in a couple years in the tennis world. When it comes to the finals, you can almost write in Nadal v. Federer. Then it hit me, like a Rick James slap in the face... the gates are wide open this year.
No "Vamos Rafa" could mean "Vamos Roddick, Djokovich, Haas" and especially "Murray". Now don't go punching me in the junk quite yet on some of those names. I know Haas is a long-shot, but the German is playing lights-out tennis lately. While I am typing up this article I am actually watching him, LIVE, dismantle a very solid Cilic. Karma seems to be on his side right now. No rolling an ankle over a tennis ball in warm-ups, or coming down with an illness before a match against Federer. (Most people feel ill after a match against Federer). Is it so crazy to think that a grizzled vet with a great all around game and smooth backhand can't make one last alamo type stand? I am not saying he will, I am saying that he could. (Unless he loses the match I am watching live. Then I'm just an idiot).
If not Djokovich, perhaps an Andy Murray is your weapon of choice. The dude has the entire Union Jack on his back, despite being Scottish. I am told that it stil counts, so I'll bite. I love the guy. Scrappy, vocal and can beat you a ton of ways. He seems to be the favorite. Makes sense, but I don't buy that he isn't feeling the pressure. Somewhere Tim Henman is wrapped in a blanket, sitting around mumbling to himself "I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender". (Anyone, anyone...). Murray does seem to be the real deal, but until he wins that first Slam anywhere, I will be hesitant to say he could pull of Wimbledon this year. Having said that, I'd love to see the guy win just for the fact that he runs around the court like William Wallace ran around a battlefield. How great would it be for him to hoist that trophy in the air and scream "Freeeeeeedommmmm". Ok, no more movie refereneces...maybe.
Andy Roddick, ladies and gentleman, is my dark horse for the upset....despite him never giving me any reason to believe he could pull it off...ever. I love the guy. He plays his heart out, gives serious effort to improve his game to compete with the Rafa's and Rogers, and just seems to come up short. The grass is his best shot. Period. He has the meat and potatoes behind every serve to make his presence known, and Federer is vulnerable this year. I know Murray is the favorite to make the final. That is even correct as far as I'm concerned, but you can never rule out a guy like Roddick who can get free points on grass against anyone. I also know I am not saying Djokovich as a real option. Trust me, I know he is a favorite too. I just don't think he can get thru a Federer draw. If he did, no one would be happier than me...with the exception of, well...Djokovich.
So lets raise the stakes, and give all the guys something real to shoot for. If you beat Federer this year, you get his jacket, and get to wear said jacket to every tournament the rest of the year. That oughta bring real tears to Federer's eyes, and hope to the rest of the tour.