2010 Wimbledon Predictions: Prospects For Great Britain
As we head into Wimbledon, the home nation Great Britain have eight representatives aiming to progress.
Despite only one of them having realistic chances of title glory, all eight will be looking to raise their profile and create a mountain of home interest.
They will attempt to prove that the Lawn Tennis Association is improving upon the harshly critiqued lack of substance within home grown stars.
So what are the opportunities for progression? Besides Andy Murray are any of the additional seven faces able to push further than round one?
Here are my predictions for each and every player and how I think they will fare on the courts of SW19.
Eighteen-year-old Heather came to prominence when she won the US Open junior title in 2009. Now she has joined Laura Robson on the senior tour.
Her opening few months have been promising. She reached the quarter finals of two tour tournaments, before she came through confidently in the qualifying rounds to make the Aegon International tournament in Eastbourne.
There a superb victory over top 50 player Aleksandra Wozniak was witnessed, which has left Heather on the brink of a top 250 ranking.
She is the lowest ranked Brit in the draw, on both the men’s and women’s side, but by no means does this make her the weakest. She is on the up and is looking at Wimbledon as an opportunity to develop even further.
Her first round opponent comes in the form of Swiss born and Italian represented Romina Oprandi. The Italian has once been ranked as high as 46, but since 2006 has slipped down to her current ranking just inside the top 150.
So the match is at least winnable for Watson. Her opponent has never been to the second round of a Grand Slam, so whoever emerges victorious will be going into unknown territory.
The possible and most likely second round opponent is the No. 31 seed Alexandra Dulgheru. Yet the Romanian has yet to play at Wimbledon and is something of an unknown entity.
If Watson is successful in defeating her first round competitor then she may have a chance against Dulgheru.
A potential third round fixture against French Open finalist, Samantha Stosur would be a near impossible task however.
For this reason I will predict a second round appearance for Heather. She may possibly make the third if she is lucky but a straight set exit would sadly be on the cards.
Prediction: Second round and a move into the world’s top 250
Much has been made of the lack of English representation for Wimbledon on the men’s side of the draw.
James Ward should have been given a wildcard but instead Scottish born Baker gets the nod. He currently resides just outside the top 250, but is looking to move up with a victory or two at Wimbledon.
Sadly Jamie has done little worthy of note in his career thus far. He is not in the Davis Cup team and has never progressed through to the second round of a Grand Slam.
Luckily, youth is on his side so he has many years to improve. Undoubtedly his first round opponent Andreas Beck will provide a massive challenge to his prospects.
The German star has been ranked as high as 33 in his career and although he has recently slipped from the top 50, he looks just too much of a task for Baker to handle.
So with looking unlikely to take the match or even a set against Beck, I predict another first round exit, and a return to the mediocrity that haunts his performance as it currently stands.
Prediction: First-round exit—straight sets.
What is currently harming Laura’s relatively new senior career is her lack of consistency. At times she has proved spectacular.
Her inspired junior title win at Wimbledon in 2008 put the British media in a frenzy. And providing she takes the correct route at senior level there is nothing to stop her eclipsing the crop of established British seniors like Baltacha and Keothovong.
Alongside Watson this will also be her first Grand Slam appearance after failed attempts at qualifying for the US and Australian Open.
She does look the more likely to break into the top 100 first, as her ranking sits at a promising 236.
The draw was very unkind to Robson however. She has been pitted against former heroine for British tennis Jelena Jankovic.
Jankovic has been consistently top 10 in the rankings for a few years now, but British fanatics will remember her as partnering Jamie Murray to mixed doubles glory a couple of years back.
As a singles player she is willing and able. Robson doesn't really stand a chance.
The only worry for Jankovic is her early tournament slumps. She has made various early exits in Grand Slams before, because she seems to take too long to get into gear.
So Robson may seize an opportunity if she is afforded one. We all remember what Jelena Dokic did to Hingis in 1999. What is to stop another wondrous underdog causing a major upset?
In the event that she does lose, at least we know that Robson can continue a gradual emergence up the rankings. In a year or two she could then gain direct entrance into Grand Slams and gift herself an easier first round opponent.
It is then that we will be witness to the talents that she possesses.
For now I will put her as a comfortable first round exit, but we can always dream of more!
Prediction: First-round exit—what would you expect with the worst draw for a British player?
Just above Robson in the women’s rankings is English-born Melanie South.
She has been doing the rounds for a few years, sadly providing little worthy of note.
Optimistically though she is a real trouper, with only the US Open eluding her in appearances at Grand Slam tournaments.
Her biggest moment came when she made the second round of Wimbledon in 2006. Other than that she has always gone out at the first hurdle.
She has also faced a major downfall in her ranking in the last year, falling from a top 100 positon in early 2009 to her current ranking of 222.
Therefore she looks unable to trouble her first round opponent Regina Kulikova.
The Russian is at a current peak of 69 in the rankings and should take a first round win.
If South were to overcome the odds stacked against her then a second round exit against seeded Shvedova would seem imminent.
Prediction: First-round exit—straight sets.
She may have signaled a new era for British women’s tennis in early 2009, but Anne has remained in the starting blocks at Wimbledon.
Injuries have forced her ranking to slip back to 154 from her momentous peak of 48 last year.
What Anne’s main problem appears to be is a lack of confidence going into Grand Slam tournaments.
Her career high ranking was built upon the foundation of solid displays away from the big four events. She took four singles titles on her way to world number 48.
Yet in multiple attempts she has only made the second round of Wimbledon on two occasions—in 2004 and 2008.
Consequentially she has been eclipsed by the heroics of compatriot Baltacha who has at times stormed through earlier rounds.
Her third round appearance at the US Open gave her a greater respect and credibility on the tour, but she still has a point to prove.
Her first round opponent is Anastasia Rodionova, currently ranked comfortably within the world's top 100.
The Aussie is much more accomplished in Grand Slams with first round victories at some point in every tournament.
Her third round appearance at Roland Garros seems to suggest that Anne is out of her depth for this fixture.
She may take a set but a victory seems unlikely. It will be back to drawing board for the time being.
Prediction: First-round exit—Possibly in three sets
Another player on a downward slide is Katie O’Brien. When Baltacha had emerged into the top 100 for the first time, O’Brien stole some of her thunder by also making it in the same week.
She then climbed to a peak of 81 but has since fallen back to 131. It is not a disaster but Katie will seek to buck this negative trend.
Like Keothavong, Katie has been to the second-round of Wimbledon on only one occasion. A second-round appearance in the Australian Open this year though would have done her confidence wonders.
However, not gaining an automatic place on ranking for Wimbledon left her to rely on a wild card entry.
Her first round match is not as easy as she would like, but at the same time it is not unrealistic in gifting her a chance.
Alona Bondarenko has been on the edge of the top 32 for a while now. Her sister Kateryna is the same.
Yet both siblings have now had to go into matches with British opposition not expecting an easy victory. Last year Alona exited in the second round at the hands of Elena Baltacha.
Obviously this task at hand will be a less pressing matter for Alona but Katie must smell an upset on the cards.
Progression for her could gift her a third round fixture if she defeated an unseeded opponent in round-two. Proceedings would no doubt come to an end with a third round tie against Jelana Jankovic.
The safe bet will be on a first-round exit, but Katie looks able enough to pounce. She should take Bondarenko into a decider, or at least to two tightly fought sets.
Prediction: First-round exit—but only just.
So we reach our main two hopes. Both are Scottish and both have now afforded themselves credible reputations.
Baltacha’s career has been on more ups and downs than a bouncy castle but she is now on the verge of something bigger and better.
With guaranteed places in Grand Slams and more talent-filled events she has acquired herself with the knowledge of how to compete at a such a level.
Last year she defeated one Bondarenko sister at Wimbledon and followed this with a triumph over the other sister in the Australian Open earlier this year.
Her list of achievements has since become increased by the minute.
Her defeat in the second round last year against Zheng Jie was overturned with an impressive display in the recent Aegon International.
Her biggest result though came as she downed Na Li in the second round of the Paribas Open. The win gave her a first victory against a top 10 opposition and gave her a thirst for more. Injury for Li then gave Elena a second win against the well-regarded player.
She has now reached the third round of three Grand Slam events, once at Wimbledon and twice in the Australian Open.
Arguably this would be much improved if she stopped her depressing occurrence of losing to lesser known opposition in the aftermath of glorious, stunning and unexpected triumphs.
Her celebrated win over Bondarenko that was undone by losing too easily to Jie in last year's Wimbledon was not to be the first time when Elena could not portray consistency.
This year if she can keep her competitive streak and constructive way of play in check then she can become the first British woman since Sam Smith in 1998 to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam.
Subsequently she can climb into a seeded position if she continues along her current form.
If she chokes, as she has done on too many big occasions, then she will fail once more.
Her first-round opponent is close to her in the rankings. Petra Martic is currently the world’s number 77. Yet Elena goes into the fixture as the favourite and should take it in straight sets.
The only worry is that her heatstroke gained from victory in Nottingham a few weeks back could still hinder her play.
Triumph though would set her up with a second round match against former Wimbledon finalist Marion Bartoli. Since that appearance in 2008 the French player has yet to progress further than a quarter final appearance in the Australian Open in 2009.
So Elena can win this potential clash.
I am therefore going to go out on a limb. I am going to predict that Elena will overcome her inconsistency.
If she were to make the third round she could again face Kateryna Bondarenko. If she could enact another defeat on Kateryna then a fourth round match against French Open champion Schiavone could be on the cards.
She would exit here, but could gain a large amount of recognition in the process.
Despite injury problems and a lack of form in recent weeks, our best hope by far lies with Murray.
Even with the aforementioned concerns he should dispose of first round opponent Hajek and should coast through his second round with just as much ease.
It is in the third round that it will begin to become challenging for the Scot. A potential clash against seeded Gilles Simon and possible fourth-round fixture against Spanish talent Juan Carlos Fererro could be his undoing.
However, provided he dismisses of those two he will set himself on a journey to a possible semifinal appearance against Rafael Nadal.
This is where I predict his journey will end, unless he can overcome Rafael, or unless someone defeats the Spaniard before Murray gets the chance to.
Verdasco and Tsonga also provide a blockage in the quarter finals, providing Murray makes it that far. For the time being my prediction may appear optimistic in parts.
We will know for definite what the Scottish player, still ranked No. 4 in the world, can do after the initial rounds.