Wimbledon 2011: How the Field Stacks Up Against Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer
Nadal’s draw, on paper, looks like the hardest of the top four. The fact the Spaniard may have potential matchups against three huge servers in the likes of Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych should be enough to give Nadal the shivers.
Nadal has stated many times that he does not like playing against "big servers" because they give "no rhythm." Even so, the defending champion will be glad his first meeting with one of these three comes in the third round.
Three weeks ago in the first round of Roland Garros, the Mallorca native avoided an upset when coming back from two sets to one to defeat big John Isner. The fact the American gave Nadal so much trouble on clay gives us an indication of how much Nadal depends on rhythm in order for him to enforce his game on the opponent.
With the lawns at the All England Club playing faster than the terre battue, Nadal will need to be 100 percent mentally focused. Where Nadal can relax, however, is in knowing he has a positive head-to-head against both del Potro and Berdych should he meet them along the way.
All in all, Rafa looks set to reach the semifinals, even if the big boys give him some trouble. Yet it is here where the Spanish Matador may meet his match, in the form of Andy Murray. The Scot has vowed to keep his temperament under control at this year’s Wimbledon, and after his win at Queen’s Club he looks positively fired up and ready to take the biggest prize in tennis.
If Team Rafa happens to find Team Murray in the semifinals it will be a total toss up. Murray will have the support of the crowds, but Nadal will have the mental edge. If Nadal will want to defend his beloved crown, he will have to fight extremely hard to do so.
Federer’s first real challenge may possibly be David Nalbandian in the third round. The Argentine has not played a lot of tennis lately, but he is always a wild card.
Which Nalbandian will show up: the spirited one with plenty of drive and confidence, or the one who is languid, defeatist and not inspired? He could be Federer’s real first test, for about a set, but other than that the Swiss Master will probably go through in straights.
The only other person who could give Federer a real challenge before the semis is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Frenchman gave us a walk down memory lane in his matches at Queen’s Club with his powerful, explosive play and his diving techniques reminiscent of the great Boris Becker.
Could Tsonga be this year’s wild card to win the tournament?
Sometimes the former Aussie Open finalist likes doing things the hard way. If his previous matches take too much out of him, Federer will sweep right past him. However, if Tsonga stays relatively fresh and consistent throughout all his matches he may have a great chance of causing the upset here in the quarterfinals.
Nevertheless, it would be silly to bet against the six-time Wimbledon champ, who is on a mission to tie Pete Sampras’ record-haul of seven Wimbledon championships.
Should Federer reach the semifinals, his potential opponent could be Mr. “I’ve only been beaten once this year” Novak Djokovic—always bearing in mind that Djokovic may have to get through the big Swede Robin Soderling, and we all know how Soderling likes to crash the party.
Djokovic and Federer have contested in the last three Grand Slam semifinals, with the former winning two. Those two wins were on hardcourts though, and grass is a different animal—an animal Federer tames with his eyes closed.
It is risky to suggest, but this semifinal seems more clear-cut than the other potential semi between Nadal and Murray. Federer will have his recent victory over the Serb to look back to, plus knowing that when in top form he is nearly unbeatable on the beautiful lawns of Centre Court.
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