Going into the 2010 French Open, everyone knew who would come out the victor. It was bound to be, a sure-thing, and anyone would have bet with full odds on the King of Clay to surmount the field at Roland Garros.
Tennis can be a very predictable, almost predetermined sport at times and sure enough, Rafael Nadal gave the field a thorough thumping. He played absolutely flawless tennis without dropping a single set on the way to his fifth French Open crown.
For almost a decade now, the men's tennis game has followed this familiar script. Rafael Nadal wins on clay and Roger Federer wins the grass and hard-court tournaments. This script was turned on its head in 2008, when Nadal finally was able to overcome Federer on centre court and snatch the Wimbledon trophy from his grasp.
Tennis fans should be ready for more unpredictability at this year's Wimbledon Championships. Predicting a winner seems equally as difficult as it was easy to pin Nadal the inevitable champion at the French Open just weeks ago.
Here are 3 basic reasons why:
This wrinkle in the usual countdown to Wimbledon is in plain sight for all to see. Yes, Roger has played just well enough since his Australian Open title for people not to seriously question his game or reach for the panic button.
Let's face it though, if Federer has showed us one thing these last few months, it's that he is not the same player he was back when he was breezing through Wimbledons and taking the title with relative ease.
The mighty Fed has struggled during key moments. For whatever reason–his serve failing him, errors on the groundstrokes uncharacteristically adding up, commitment/focus issues–he has become a lot more vulnerable to the rest of the field.
Perhaps the most important and overlooked factor going into Wimbledon is that Federer has not defeated Nadal in a Grand Slam tournament since 2007. Since then he has gone 0-3 against Rafa, losing to his rival on ALL 3 surfaces.
Federer will undoubtedly go into Wimbledon as one of, if not the top favorite to win the tournament and you can't really argue with that logic. However, he is nowhere near the lock that Nadal was at the French Open.
It appears that Rafael Nadal is back and better than ever.
After a stellar performance at the French Open, Nadal will look to regain his groove on the grass in London leading up to Wimbledon. Many forget that much like Federer was the second best clay-court player for the last five or so years, Nadal has been the second best grass-court player.
Federer has simply had no answer to Rafael Nadal. Rafa found a way to beat him on every surface in 2008 and early 2009. Analyzing the way each player has played as of late, there is no denying that Nadal joins Federer at Wimbledon as an equal favorite, even possibly having a slight edge over the Swiss.
He did win their last meeting there.
Depth of the Field
At first glance, the depth of the field of legitimate contenders at Wimbledon may not look any deeper than at Roland Garros. But if you factor in the aforementioned struggles of Roger Federer, a resurgent Nadal, and the way the grass-court tune-ups have played out thus far, the tournament really does seem wide open at the moment.
The two Andys are probably the hungriest for a Wimbledon title. After drastically improving his game and coming within a shot or two of winning it all at the All-England Club last year, Roddick figures to be the biggest threat to Nadal and Federer.
Andy Murray has been looking to break through for a of couple years now. What better place than at home.
The weight of the enormous expectations of that home crowd have crumbled him in years past, but I think it's only a matter of time before the Scot finally wins a Grand Slam title. As always, Murray will be a tough out at Wimbledon.
Nobody has had a better grass-court warmup than Lleyton Hewitt, who took down Federer in the Final on Sunday in Halle. It was the first time since 2002 he had beaten the former Swiss No. 1, and it may not be the last, should they meet at Wimbledon.
There have been hints this year that the tennis landscape is changing ever so slightly. Will Wimbledon be that tournament that pushes this change over the brink, or will it simply reinforce the game's previous landmarks?
Looking at the grass-court season so far and all of the troubles the top seeds had at Halle and the Queens Club, it's hard to pick out a clean favorite.
Who will win? Your guess is as good as mine.
Whatever happens, it certainly makes for a much more anticipated and exciting Grand Slam than we have had to look forward to in a while.