Wimbledon 2011: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and 20 Bold Predictions
Wimbledon will be hard pressed to match the recent results of the French Open.
On the men's side, the Top Five seeds all made it to the quarterfinals. Fabio Foginini became a breakout star, winning 11-9 in the fifth set in dramatic fashion to make the quarterfinals. Three Frenchmen (including future top-10 mainstays Gasquet and Monfils) made it to Round 4, and all four top seeds made the semifinals.
In the end, Nadal—the world's best player—equalled history by joining Bjorn Borg as the only six-time French Open champion. All in all, it was a pretty successful tournament.
The organizers surely must have cracked a few bottles of fine French champagne to celebrate. Can you blame them? The tennis world was treated to two weeks of spectacular tennis.
How can Wimbledon respond? Why, with another epic John Isner/Nicolas Mahut re-match of course!
One thing is for certain, though. Unless Isner and Mahut go 123-121, and/or Murray wins his first Grand Slam, breaks down crying and then runs onto Murray Mound (sorry, Tim) carrying the British flag, it's going to be hard for Wimbledon to beat the excitement that was this year's French Open.
Here are 20 predictions for what to expect at Wimbledon.
20. Isner-Mahut Round 2 Will Probably Not Last 11 Hours
The Isner-Mahut contest was the greatest tennis match of our generation. Forget the fact that it was in the first round. It lasted 11 hours and five minutes and took place over three days!
The fifth set alone lasted over eight hours, until Isner finally broke Mahut to win, 70-68.
It was one of the greatest sports spectacles tennis fans—and sports fans for that matter—have ever seen. Do you want to know why it was so special? Because 10 years from now, we will remember that match for what it was and not who was holding the trophy at the end.
It was like the whole Summer Olympics wrapped into one match.
To start, you had the pageantry affect of Wimbledon, which in some ways is similar to that of the Olympics. You had the obvious marathon component and the element of it being a multi-day event as well.
You had the "wow" (read: marathon component) factor—people were simply stunned at their endurance and athletic abilities. On top of that, throw in Nadal and Federer's pure and genuine passion for the sport, in its most uncorrupted form, and we were hooked.
Just like some obscure olympic competition where the athletes capture the heart of their countrymen, as a sports nation we were suddenly gripped to the point that even passive sports fans were glued to the TV cheering for relative unknowns.
Then, add in the whole patriotic aspect that kind of grew as the match went on. Around, I don't know, say 30-30, an irrational pride in America overtook us and we were like: "Hell, if our boy loses to this punk-ass Frenchie..." But ultimately, when it was all said and done, nationality didn't matter because we were struck by a combination of respect, amazement and the beauty of the moment.
In the end, both players were truly winners for their efforts and we will forever hold them in the highest esteem for what they accomplished.
Fun match facts:
- Even though the match went to a tie breaker in the fourth set and the million games in the fifth, Isner only had 14 break-points and five match-points.
- Both players hit over 100 aces. Isner now holds the record for most hit in a match at 113, while Mahut is second at 103.
- The two players broke the physical court scoreboard and the IBM score-tracker online because programmers figured a match couldn't go that long.
- Andy Roddick brought "three boxes of pizza, all sorts of chicken and mashed potatoes for Isner"(as quoted in an article from Bloomberg).
- The two won an ESPY for "Best Record-Breaking Performance."
And guess what everybody? They get to do it again! Anybody want to take the over-under on one of them looking at the draw and being like "Ahhh crap, not again. No freaking way. I am not playing him again. Screw this, I forfeit!"?
Odds are (rather unfortunately) that it won't last as long the second time around. Unless the rains come, don't expect another three-day affair. For their tournament fortunes, let's hope it doesn't even take two days.
I just hope Wimbledon has a sense of humor and puts them back on court No. 18.
19. Wimbledon Is Going To Want Another Roof, Poor Weather Could Wreck Havoc
The All England Club could be in for a nightmare in the early rounds. The five-day forecast?
Friday: Heavy rain
Saturday: Scattered thunderstorms and high wind
Sunday: Partly cloudy
Tuesday: Partly cloudy
On the surface, it doesn't seem as bad given that the tournament doesn't start until Monday. But caution: "The surface is slippery when wet." Meaning England faces a slippery slope with delays and frustrations if the weather doesn't improve. The problem is that qualifiers were supposed to be done on the 16th and are still a round away from completion.
The longer the rain lasts, the more the delay might impact the main draw, and the more the eventual qualifiers are negatively affected. Qualifiers and relative nobodies have a history of doing well at Wimbledon (i.e., Roger Federer's breakout win). It would be a shame if qualifiers are left at a disadvantage and, with even more rain scheduled for later in the week, if play is regularly interrupted.
Don't be surprised if qualifiers don't fare as well as they have in recent years.
But then again, it's Wimbledon—the grounds crews are pros and somehow, regardless of the weather, it always works out. Thank goodness for the roof!
18. The Spanish Armada Will Not Fare Well at Wimbledon
The Spanish Armada will not be taking home the gold at this year's Wimbledon. In the literal sense, this applies to Rafael Nadal. In a figurative sense, it means everyone else will have a rough tournament.
Spain is now the dominant country in Men's Tennis. It has surpassed America and Russia as the world's official tennis powerhouse and currently has eight players ranked in the Top 50. By contrast, America has four.
Unfortunately for Spain (which as a whole could use some good news at the moment), grass doesn't play like clay.
Rising star Pablo Andujar will face Nadal in the second round, so there goes his tournament.
Marcel Granollers faces the hottest American on tour, Mardy Fish, in the first round—likely ending his tournament on day one.
Seventh-seed David Ferrer and 26th-seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez will face off in the third round, so one of them will be forced to go home (although I doubt that both will make it that far).
Another rising star, Pere Riba is over his head on grass and doesn't stand a chance. Even if he does win a match, he will subsequently lose to compatriot Fernando Verdasco, who is equally challenged on grass and will in turn lose to Fish in Round 3.
Journeyman Daniel Gimeno-Traver has the misfortune of drawing Andy Murray in the first round, which at Wimbledon is almost as bad as getting Nadal.
And last, but not least, it is highly unlikely that Feliciano Lopez bests Roddick to advance past the third round.
One of the toughest aspects about being a dominant powerhouse is that eventually when enough players make the main draw, they end up playing each other. I guess it's not a bad problem to have, but knocking each other out early will contribute to a rather lousy showing at Wimbledon.
Nadal will be the only Spaniard to make it to the second week.
By the way, what's the deal with Nadal biting all of his trophies?
17. American Tennis Won't Impress Much
There is no doubt that Roddick has to be considered amongst the handful of favorites here. He would have to face Murray in the quarterfinals, but if Roddick can get his serve working and recreate the magic of 2009, I would be rather worried if I were the British hopeful.
Mardy Fish is also playing solid tennis and is actually one spot ahead of Roddick in the rankings. After a nice showing at the French Open, Fish should make some noise here as well.
Isner has the tough luck of drawing Federer in the fourth round, so he better reach deep and muster all the strength and heart of last year if he is going to shock the tennis world (props to Isner though, for pushing Nadal five sets in Paris).
Other than that, American hopeful Sam Querrey, who has the game to do well at the All England Club, was ruled out with injury, and there really isn't anyone else who stands much of a chance. It's pretty pathetic really.
Ryan Sweeting? Pass. Come back in a year.
Donald Young? Alex Bogomolov, Jr.? Well they play each other, so one will advance and if it's not Young then we might as well finally remove him from the list of next great American hopes.
Robert Kendrick? Yawn. He's well past his prime—speaking of which, James Blake!
He's still playing? You almost have to do a double-take when you see his name, because his career is so well hidden. Suffice it to say, we shouldn't rest our hopes on his shoulders.
Sadly, it's going to be another long tournament.
You know what they say: Never put all of your eggs in one basket. Do we have a choice? Screw it up—come on, Roddick!
16. 7 of the Top-8 Seeds Will Reach the Quarterfinals
Never before in the Open era of Men's Tennis (1968-present) have all of the top eight seeds reached the second week at The All England Club.
Only once during the prime of Rod Laver's career did seven of the top-eight seeds do it—and that was way back in 1969.
After reviewing the draw, this year could be the year. For one, there has never been a stronger, more dominant Top Four in tennis. Ever.
Djokovic has only lost one match this year, Federer and Nadal are well and Murray seems to be rising to the occasion of Wimbledon (until the finals at least).
Thomas Berdych, the No. 6 seed, shocked Federer last year on the way to the finals. And there has never been a more dangerous eighth-seed than Andy Roddick (I'm glad Wimbledon bumped him a few spots).
The No. 5 seed, Soderling, has never been particularly formidable on grass, but he reached the quarterfinals here last year and he has to be pleased by the way his draw is looking.
As crazy as it sounds, Federer and Nadal might be the most susceptible of the bunch, with Federer having to face John Isner in the fourth round and Nadal potentially taking on Del Potro one round earlier.
But wait a minute, only seven guys are listed above. That leaves...
15. No. 7 Seed David Ferrer Will Be the One That Doesn't Make It
Yep, Ferrer is going to ruin both a chance at Wimbledon history and an epic story line for the second week of Wimbledon.
Up until the fourth round, Ferrer has an awesome draw, littered mostly with qualifiers and clay courters. The problem for Ferrer is that as good and consistent as he has been, the Spaniard hates Wimbledon.
In eight appearances, he has only reached the fourth round twice—meaning he's never even lasted into the second week, a stat which does not bode well for a deep run this year.
He just has never managed to gain his footing on grass.
If Ferrer manages to reach the fourth round for a third time (a very manageable task, given his draw), he will likely run into Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, who broke through to the quarterfinals here last year and is far more comfortable and dangerous at Wimbledon than Ferrer.
Expect history to hang on Ferrer's racket and because of that, don't expect it to be made. Here's to hoping that the Spaniard does come through (and that no one else screws up).
14. Janko Tipsarevic Is the Seed Most Likely To Lose
I can't remember a tournament when the seeds were this protected.
The Top 32 players must all have let out a collective sigh of relief when the draws were announced. I don't know how it happened, but this year's tournament (more than any other) should expect the vast majority of its seeded players to advance.
Not to over generalize, but most of the seeded players either face qualifiers (who, due to rain, might be forced to play Sunday and thus be tired), clay courters (who don't pose much of a threat) or up-and-comingers/journeymen (who are either a year too early or a year too late).
Usually Grand Slams average around 24 seeds that make the second round (not scientific, just a quick count of a random recent eight).
This year, with the way the draw is shaped, it wouldn't be surprising if 28 or more players made it through for at least one more match.
One player who has to be feeling rather unlucky is Janko Tipsarevic—who drew Ivo Karlovic, the 6'10" Croat with an even bigger serve.
While not producing anything special, Tipsarevic has had a decent spring; Karlovic has had a disastrous past few months. Tipsarevic should take heart that the last time Karlovic posted a victory was the beginning of April (an eternity in tennis). However, with his booming serve, Karlovic is a royal nightmare on grass. He also once shocked No. 1 seed Lleyton Hewitt here as a qualifier.
It's fair to say that regardless of Karlovic's recent results, Tipsarevic is not going to be looking forward to facing him.
13. Breakout Performance: James Ward
If there is going to be another upset, it's going to come at the hands of British young gun James Ward.
The 24-year-old recently took out Stanislas Wawrinka and American Sam Querrey on his way to the semifinals of the Queen's Club—the grass court Wimbledon tuneup.
While the magic eventually ran out against Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, Ward did post four of his six tour victories of the year last week and now has a 6-2 year-to-date record.
It's too early to anoint Ward as the next English star ready to capture the hearts of the British Isles, but he already has done enough to have the home-crowd buzzing.
19th-seed Michael Llordra, of France, is definitely vulnerable. Still, Ward will have to be at his best to pull off the upset.
The match will go the distance, but the jury is still out as to whether Ward has the extra gear. If he does, look out, because the draw is favorable for the young Brit to make the third (even fourth) round after Llordra.
12. Tommy Haas: An Old-Timer with Something To Prove
Before the French Open, I predicted Haas was back and ready for one last big push before riding off into the sunset. Two days later, he lost in four disappointing sets to Turkey's Marsel Ilhan.
If he pulls something like that again, I am off the bandwagon for good.
A lot of Haas' critics say that he is done and should call it quits. He already had one comeback, he shouldn't have to put in the incredible and taxing effort to try and pull off another, they say. Another common critique: At 33 and with all the surgeries and rehab he's undergone, he's simply too old.
I disagree. Ranked No. 895 in the world, one shouldn't expect Haas to be soaring back into the Top 50 anytime soon, if ever at all. However, Haas has the talent and has put in the hours to get his fitness back to still do some damage in Grand Slam draws. He could certainly gain the respect of his fans, critics and peers alike with a few more decent showings.
Last week in Halle, Haas lost in three sets to Andreas Seppi in only his second match of the year (and first since Paris).
Haas loves Wimbledon and has previously found good results at The All England Club. Haas has a decent draw, first facing the very beatable Gilles Muller before a potential second-round matchup with 32nd-seed Milos Raonic.
If Haas can find the form that propelled him to the semifinals in 2009, don't be surprised to see him looking across the net at—and then getting crushed by—Nadal in the third round.
11. Best of the Early Round Matches: Federer vs. Isner and Nadal vs. Del Potro
With the state of the current game and the way the draw is laid out (other than the Isner-Mahut match), there weren't any first round match-ups that jumped off the page.
In fact, Week 1 could prove fairly boring before setting up for a fantastic (and hopefully historic—come on Ferrer!) end to the tournament.
There are two matches that do stand out in the latter parts of Week 1.
The first is Isner vs. Federer.
Even though Federer took both of their previous two meetings, there is reason for Isner to have confidence heading into the match. Isner is playing high level tennis at the moment and was the only player to extend Nadal to five sets at the French Open—a result that caught the attention of a lot of critics.
And, the two have never squared-off on grass. Sure, Federer seems pretty comfortable on grass, but if there is a surface that Isner and his booming serves stand a chance on, it's grass.
The key for Isner will be to hit over 100 aces like he did against Mahut last year. The trick will be doing it in a normal three-hour match.
The second enticing showdown that will create a lot of buzz will be Nadal/Del-Potro in the third round. It seems almost universally accepted that Del Potro will soon be knocking Robin Soderling from the Top Five (and bearing down on Murray shortly thereafter).
Del Potro has all the talent in the world, as displayed by his winning the 2009 US Open. Del Potro could use a little luck during his comeback, having drawn Djokovic in the third round at the French Open and now Nadal in the same round here. But, if Delpo is truly a top-five player he is going to have to start beating those who are already there. Why not start now?
Check Back Saturday for 10 More Bold Predictions
Check back for the final 10 predictions.
Will Murray finally break through?
What about Federer and Djokovic?
Can Roddick find his 2009 form and finally capture that elusive Wimbledon title?