Wimbledon is the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament in the world. Even though the French Open just ended, the 2011 version of the Wimbledon Championships is just two weeks away.
The following is a list of 15 predictions of what will occur during the championships, including how the biggest names in the game will fare.
In trying to complete her personal career Grand Slam at Roland Garros this year, Sharapova’s serve issues resurfaced in her semifinal loss to Li Na. The wind really seemed to cause her to lose the good rhythm that she had throughout the event, and she was too stubborn to try to hold back and just get the serve in.
The issue here is that shoulder problems forced Sharapova from the top of the women’s game over the last couple of years. She hit numerous double faults and had an overall lack of confidence in her serve.
Those issues appeared to be resolved throughout this clay-court season—that is, until the loss to Li, where she double-faulted on match point against her. The conditions were brutal, though, and the issue was directly related to that. Therefore, she should be just fine going forward.
After jumping out to a set and 4-1 lead on Maria Sharapova in the second round of the French Open, Andy Murray tweeted that Caroline Garcia would be a future No. 1 player. At the time it seemed like the proverbial jinx, as Sharapova won the last 11 games of that match.
The young French woman is certainly an exciting prospect and has the type of game that translates well to a grass surface. Look for her to make her first career run to the second week of a Grand Slam, putting herself on the map even more.
Juan Martin del Potro is one of the game’s biggest talents but for whatever reason, has not played well on the grass. He’s lost in the second round in all three of his Wimbledon appearances.
The Argentine has won a Grand Slam before and when fully healthy is a top-five player. He missed most of last season but is almost fully recovered and looking to get back near the top.
He is currently ranked just No. 22 in the world, which means he will more than likely play a top player in the first week. In Paris, he showed that he is almost back to his best level, taking a set off the red-hot Novak Djokovic, and can knock out anyone on any given day.
One of the biggest stories, if not the biggest, of last year’s Wimbledon Championships was the epic first-round match between John Isner and Nicholas Mahut. The longest match in tennis history was played over three days and finally decided at 70-68 in the fifth set by Isner.
Isner is looking to try to escape from the shadows of that match, and will probably do everything he can to avoid playing another fifth set in these championships.
One of the biggest tennis stories so far in 2011 after the openness of the women’s game and the big four in men’s tennis is the poor play by the Americans. While the Williams sisters might be back for Wimbledon, that is unlikely to be enough to make a dent in that notion.
Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick are hanging around the top 10 on the men’s side, but Fish has never been a good Grand Slam event player and Roddick is on the decline. Venus Williams also appears to be on the decline and it’s probably been too long between events for Serena Williams to do anything major.
After Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who have combined for the last eight Wimbledon Championships, Andy Roddick has been the best grass-court player of his era. He’s a three-time runner-up, losing each time to Federer.
However, after coming up painfully short in the 2009 final, Roddick has not looked to be the same player. He’s fallen behind Mardy Fish as the top-ranked American and has seemed to lose weight on his groundstrokes.
His elite serve gives him a chance, but his tentative play over the last couple years won’t do him any favors. Look for another third or fourth-round exit for Roddick, which is about average for him on the Grand Slam stage of late.
Li Na will not make a third straight Grand Slam final
Li Na has had a really good 2011 season in the Grand Slams, as she was the runner-up in Australia and the champion in Paris. The win in Paris was an emotional one, as it was the first time a Chinese man or woman won a Grand Slam singles title.
Last year, Francesca Schiavone became the first Italian woman to a Grand Slam event. Then she came out and lost in the first round at Wimbledon. Li didn’t appear as emotional as Schiavone was, but it will still be an enormous task for her to have a good run in London after the monumental win at Roland Garros.
The Chinese woman lost in the quarterfinals last year at Wimbledon, and that is probably as good a guess of any as to where she will finish this year.
At the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was destroyed in the fourth round by hard-hitting lefty Petra Kvitova. Wozniacki lacks the power of the other top players in the game, and that really shows up on grass.
Wozniacki is one of the best players in recent history that has not won a Grand Slam event. It is likely to happen at some point, as she has had very good results at the other tournaments, but it will probably never happen at Wimbledon, especially not this year.
The 2011 French Open was one of the most open women’s major championships in recent history. While the Williams sisters are likely to be back for Wimbledon, they will not be 100 percent and will just add to a large field of potential victors.
The grass-court surface favors big hitters, and that plays into the hands of a couple of younger players looking for their first major. Petra Kvitova and Victoria Azarenka highlight that list, as Azarenka has been one of the most consistent players this season and Kvitova reached the semifinals here last year.
Surely, players like the Williams sisters, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova will be in the mix, but the youth movement is due to take effect on the Grand Slam stage. Veterans have been winning all the majors in recent history, but younger players have been making waves at the lesser tournaments.
The game of tennis can change very quickly. A week ago, Novak Djokovic still had not lost a match in 2011 and was primed to capture his first French Open title.
After losing to Roger Federer in the semifinals, he now looks to start a new streak on his least-favorite surface. The match was a very emotional one and the effects have already shown with the Serb pulling out of the Queens Club event this week.
While Djokovic has matured greatly in the last year, his loss against Federer will still weigh on him. The transition to the grass-court season is immensely fast as well, and this has all the makings of an early exit for the World No. 2.
Andy Murray is the only man to have reached the semifinals the last two years in London, and will do so for the third straight time in 2011.
Murray could see Nadal in the semis, and can draw on the experience of their close match in Paris if that occurs. Murray was in most of Nadal’s service games in that match and has been playing some of his best tennis in 2011.
But the biggest factor that can help Murray is the crowd. The Brits haven’t had one of their own win Wimbledon in quite some time, and they have been firmly behind Murray as he’s been one of their best hopes of late.
At least one of Serena and Venus Williams has played in all but one of the ladies singles finals at Wimbledon since 2000. That is likely to change this year as the sisters have been dealing with injuries.
The Williams sisters possess the most power in the women’s game, and therefore have dominated Wimbledon. Venus has five titles and Serena has four, leaving only Amelie Mauresmo (2006) and Maria Sharapova (2004) to win one between 2000 and 2010.
While the two have shown that they can produce great tennis even if they haven’t played much, especially Serena, this year feels much different. Venus has really struggled since losing to Serena in the 2009 finals, while Serena has not played a single tournament since winning it last year.
Other than at the French Open, where he won four straight (2005-2008) and is the current back-to-back champion, Rafael Nadal has never before been a repeat champion at a Grand Slam event.
In two previous attempts (Wimbledon 2009 and Australian Open 2010) to repeat, Nadal’s injury issues didn’t allow him to do so. That should not be a problem this year, but other factors will.
Nadal was not his best at this year’s French Open even though he was victorious, and he will need to play better on a worse surface for him at Wimbledon. If he does that and goes deep in the tournament, he will then have to get through a rejuvenated Roger Federer or the improved 2011 Andy Murray, the crowd favorite.
Kim Clijsters has said that she wants to play at least until the 2012 Olympics. Her talent is unquestioned but her dedication to the game has been an issue over the years.
Clijsters let a huge lead get away in the second round of the French Open and really had no business losing that match to Aranxta Rus. After winning the Australian Open this year, her results have been pretty subpar and her mind might be elsewhere.
Clijsters is already on her second stint on the WTA tour, as she retired a few years ago when she became a mother. She has three Grand Slam victories in her second go-around, but has lately appeared to be thinking about more than just tennis.
The Belgian is not a great grass-court player, as she hasn’t even reached a final at Wimbledon. Another early-round exit is a possibility and could lead her to retiring earlier than expected, again.
After winning five straight titles at the All-England Club between 2003 and 2007, Roger Federer has won just one of the last three Wimbledon Championships. He has also come up empty in the last five majors overall.
Last year’s Wimbledon was arguably the worst Grand Slam event for Federer in the past six years. He almost lost to Alejandro Falla in the first round, and then bowed out early to Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinals after he had reached the finals the previous seven years.
Federer is clearly not as dominant as he once was, but his French Open fortnight proved that he still has what it takes to win a Grand Slam event. Grass court is his favorite surface and his renewed confidence will propel him to his seventh Wimbledon title this year, tying Pete Sampras for the most in the Open Era.