The tennis world agrees that Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray are, without a doubt, the favorites on the men’s side of the draw to win the 2011 Wimbledon championship.
For the ladies, the speculation centers on Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams or Venus Williams. After those three ladies, it is a toss-up as to who might step forward to claim her first Wimbledon.
There is a huge chasm between the men’s top four and the rest of men playing professional tennis today. The log-jam at the top of the men’s game allows for little discussion outside the higher-ranked quartet wielding tennis rackets with untold power and skill.
For the ladies, there seems to be an influx of new players from Germany, Russia or the Czech Republic challenging the top players.
Of late, we have all watched these wunderkinds work their way up the ranking ladder.
The new faces join some more familiar wannabes waiting to win their first majors, such as Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva.
Ultimately, there are some players, simmering, almost ready to bubble, waiting to let their tennis prowess boil over.
Old or young, male or female, some players are on the brink, ready to take that next step forward.
There were a couple of names that were to be included on this list, but these players lost, eliminating their chances of upsetting anyone at Wimbledon in 2011.
That does not mean the players will not do well in the future, but just that their hopes for 2011 have temporarily ended.
Raonic is a talented tennis player whose anticipated greatness adds pressure to his game in the early stages of his budding career.
Those hungry to see the newest and best gave the Canadian the nod as a player whose skills should thrive on grass.
Raonic started 2011 ranked No. 156 in the world. He has now advanced to No. 26 and was as high as No. 25 at one stage.
The Canadian started the year with a bang, getting to the fourth round of the Australian Open as a qualifier.
Raonic then won the title in San Jose and pushed Roddick to the limit in the Memphis final.
Raonic won his first-round encounter against Frenchman Marc Gicquel 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 and his second-round match with Gilles Muller was underway when the big Canadian slipped on the wet grass, twisting his knee, rendering him incapable of play. Raonic had to retire up a break of serve in the first set.
The Canadian would have met the No. 1-seed Rafael Nadal in Round 3. It is a huge disappoint to all tennis fans that this matchup will not happen.
Raonic, however, will be back.
The Ukraine, seeded No. 23, made a name for himself by making the quarterfinals of the 2011 Australian Open, losing to finalist Andy Murray.
Last year while playing Wimbledon for the first time, Dolgopolov lost in the second round in a five-set match to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
The Ukraine was high on everybody's dark-horse list coming into Wimbledon, but he lost his opener to Fernando Gozalez who was returning to the tour after surgery.
No one expected Gonzalez to be able to stay with Dolgopolov. The Chilean, however, not only stayed with him, but he beat him in four sets 6-3, 7-6, 6-7, 6-4.
Next year for Dolgopolov.
Andy Roddick knows all about playing tennis on grass. The American has made the finals at the All England Club three times, each time dismissed by Roger Federer.
In 2004, American Andy Roddick made it to the Wimbledon final where the American faced the No. 1-seed Roger Federer and the rain. Roddick took the first set and was up a break in the third when the rains came again, postponing action on Centre Court. When play resumed, Federer returned to life, breaking back and winning the subsequent tiebreak. Then the Swiss captured the fourth set 6-4, winning the match.
In 2005, Roddick became Federer’s victim again in the Wimbledon finals. The American lost 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 41 minutes. It was Federer’s third-consecutive win at the All-England Club. Roddick became more determined than ever after getting so close two years in a row.
Federer came back to the 2009 Wimbledon final. It marked Federer's seventh consecutive Wimbledon final where the Swiss player met his old rival, Andy Roddick. No one expected the quality of the final that unfolded on that afternoon.
Roddick did not go quite as easily as he had in 2005. The 2009 final was a marathon match extending over five sets. Throughout the match, there was only one break of the Roddick serve––in the final game of the match, allowing Federer to prevail 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14.
The Swiss star, who has won this title six times, has proven to be a huge hurdle Roddick has not managed to sail over.
Last year, Roddick was upset in the fourth round by Yen Hsun Lu of Taipei. But the American knows more about playing tennis on grass than most of the men in the field because the American has played the tournament for a decade, making the finals three times.
A win by crowd-favorite Roddick would make a great storybook ending for Wimbledon 2011.
Marion Bartoli has been playing some great tennis of late. Refusing to lose, the Frenchwoman with the unorthodox style of play advanced to the semifinals of the French Open by playing on a surface she does not really like.
Bartoli who uses a two-handed stroke on her forehand and her backhand, as well as some convoluted motions on her serve, wants to capture that elusive Wimbledon championship.
The Frenchwoman should be coming into Wimbledon with more confidence than ever. In 2007, Bartoli advanced to the finals of Wimbledon where she lost to Venus Williams. What she proved to herself during that campaign was that she enjoyed playing on grass.
Bartoli made five-straight semifinals in Eastbourne, winning her first title there this year. She defeated Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, after taking out Samantha Stosur and Victoria Azarenka earlier in the tournament.
Bartoli declared that grass is by far her best surface.
No one would ever describe the Bartoli game as a thing of beauty. Yet, the Frenchwoman's lack of foot speed is not as great a detriment on the green lawns of London. Her flat-angled shots seem less reachable for her opponents.
Looking at Bartoli's draw, you see that she is scheduled to meet Serena Williams in the third round. That will be her opportunity to make her mark because if she can get by the defending champion, her chances to win seem very good.
Bartoli will not defeat herself. She will not cave in to pressure because the Frenchwoman has rock-solid confidence. She wants to get back to the final in 2011 and finally grasp the Rosewater Dish for herself.
Juan Martin del Potro has spent most of his tennis career after winning the 2009 U.S. Open out of action with injury or just returning from injury.
In all that time, people have not forgotten or given up on the Argentine, believing he has the talent to defeat those currently sitting at the top of the game. In the minds of tennis fans, the Argentine has been in held in suspended animation while they waited for him to regain his top form.
Unfortunately, like Nadal during his early tries at Wimbledon, most people think the tall del Potro's game does not translate onto grass. But when you consider his big serve and his foot speed, you must realize that it is just a matter of time before the big guy fine tunes his grass court game.
You have to remember that when Nadal started playing at Wimbledon, no one really took him seriously until he made a Wimbledon final and took a set from Federer.
If Nadal can play on grass, so can del Potro. The Argentine just needs to believe he can win and have some success.
If he keeps winning, the Argentine would meet Nadal in the fourth round, if the No. 1 seed survives. It would be a defining moment for either man to win that encounter as the drama continues to unfold at the All England Club.
Del Potro would continue his rise up the ranking ladder by winning that match while Nadal would lose his No. 1 ranking.
The big serving German, Sabine Lisicki, will be fascinating to watch during the Wimbledon Championships.
With a nickname of “Boom Boom Bine” after her famous German countryman Boris Becker, Lisicki has been blasting people off the court of late.
No surface is better suited to her big serving game than grass. At age 21, Lisicki is finally coming into Wimbledon healthy.
The German made her first grand slam quarterfinal at Wimbledon in 2009.
After winning in Birmingham this year, Lisicki is filled with confidence. She defeated an in-form Daniela Hantuchova 6-3, 6-2 for the Edgbaston Championship––a grasscourt warm-up event for the Wimbledon Championship.
This is far better than she felt during the French Open a month ago when Lisicki had to be carried off court on a stretcher. The medical time out occurred during the second round after cramps ended Lisicki's mammoth effort to close out the match against world No. 3 Vera Zvonareva.
The issue with Lisicki is consistency. In order to win on Centre Court, her serve must be on the money. She can ride that serve to the finish line but at times, the German finds the big weapon missing. Lisicki has not yet learned how to win when she is not playing her best.
Maybe, like Becker in 1985, Lisicki can surprise the field and use that big booming serve to win the Championship.
Frenchman Richard Gasquet has the game to succeed at the All England Club.
Gasquest was once touted to be the equal of Roger Federer in talent and potential. Therefore, every year the press concentrates on what the Frenchman has not accomplished.
Gasquet advanced as far the semifinals in 2007, where he lost to Roger Federer.
The last time Gasquet played at Wimbledon in 2008, he competed in an epic match against Andy Murray.
It turned into a five-set thriller, as Murray came back after losing the first two sets. The loss to the Scot was a bitter disappointment to Gasquet.
This year, however, Gasquet comes into Wimbledon with new-found confidence built upon some very good results. On his way to the second round of Wimbledon, the Frenchman dispatched Santiago Giraldo of Columbia in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, 7-6.
It was a very competitive match but Gasquet prevailed in two hours and three minutes.
Next the Frenchman faced Igor Kunitsyn of Russia, ranked world No. 66. Gasquet prevailed 6-1, 6-4, 6-4, sending him into the third round to face Italian Simone Bolelli.
Gasquet is in Murray's quarter of the draw. You have to believe the Frenchman would love a rematch of that 2008 encounter with the Scot.
No doubt Gasquet can be regarded a real dark horse in this year’s campaign at Wimbledon.
Unfortunately German Julia Goerges ran into a red-hot Victoria Azarenka in the semifinals at Madrid. Goerges, who appeared to have the edge over world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, did not have the right stuff to realize a similar win over Azarenka, losing 6-4, 6-2.
Goerges, however, prefers the hard court surfaces and grass to clay.
Earlier this year, however, the German won the tournament in Stuttgart on the red dirt, upsetting both Samantha Stosur and Caroline Wozniacki in the process. By winning in Stuttgart, Goerges became the first German champion there in 17 years. Anke Huber last won the title in 1994.
In the tournament in Madrid, Goerges again upset Wozniacki in the third round before losing to Azarenka. But her play on the clay moved the German into the top 20 for the first time in her career.
Goerges pulled out of Rome and Brussels with lower back pain but returned in time to play in the French Open. She lost to Marion Bartoli in the third round which was a disappointment as the German sought to build her clay court game.
At Eastbourne Goerges lost to Ana Ivanovic, cutting short her grass court preparation. But she won her opening round match against Anna Medina Garrigues in impressive fashion 6-3, 6-0. She will next face Frenchwoman Mathilde Johannson in the second round.
Goerges has a powerful serve enhanced with equally aggressive baseline play. She also seems mentally tough. Seeded No. 16 Goerges is definitely an underdog who needs to be watched closely.
Ryan Harrison is a 19-year old American tennis professional who had to qualify to get into the main draw at Wimbledon.
Except that he did not quite make it. He lost his final qualifying match to Cedrik-Marcel Stebe. But he got an entry into the main draw as a "lucky loser" when an original entrant withdrew.
Harrison met World No. 37 Ivan Dodig from Croatia who had plenty of experience playing on the biggest stages tennis has to offer. But the American dispatched Dodig 7-6, 6-0, 7-5 in straight sets in their opening round match.
Harrison did it by attacking the Dodig second serve and by capitalizing on nine break points. It was an impressive win over the Croat for the young American, accomplished in two hours and 14 minutes.
Much is expected from Harrison since he turned professional. The American has been categorized as the next greatest U.S.tennis phenom. It is always risky to have so much expectation staring you in the face each time you take the court.
Harrison's next opponent is the No. 7 seed David Ferrer of Spain whose least favorite surface is grass. There is ample reason for optimism in the Harrison camp because Ferrer is susceptible to be upset on grass. If Harrison can get by Ferrer in their second round encounter, his draw could be very favorable.
Harrison could make Wimbledon 2011 very interesting by winning over the No. 7 seed
Over the past year, Petra Kvitova has become accustomed to the grass.
At last year’s Wimbledon Championship, unseeded and unknown Petra Kvitova found herself in the semifinals where she lost to eventual champion Serena Williams 7-6, 6-2.
After that, the young Czech fell into a bit of a slump making everyone feel her inroad at Wimbledon was a fluke.
People are, however, no longer looking at Kvitova as an anomaly. When Kvitova won the title in Madrid over the hottest player on tour, Victoria Azarenka, she marked her arrival in the top 10 and as a top contender.
The Czech took less than an hour to eliminate American Alexa Glatch 6-2, 6-1 from the Wimbledon tournament. Then, Kvitova faced Brit Anne Keothavong during the second round on Wednesday. Kvitova won the match in straight sets 6-2, 6-1. That sets up a third round clash with Italian Roberta Vinci, the No. 29 seed.
Kvitova has a great deal of power on her strokes and a favorable draw. The Czech just might sneak through to another semifinal or beyond.
Coming into the French Open Andrea Petkovic prepared perfectly. She won the clay event in Strasbourg before arriving in Paris.
Defeating Maria Kirilenko in the fourth round in three sets, Petkovic was not able to gain any advantage over Maria Sharapova in the quarterfinals The German could only muster three games.
Nonetheless, 2011 has been a breakout season for Petkovic. Her best results came at the majors where the German reached back-to-back quarterfinals at the Australian Open and the French Open.
Challenged by her coach to "enjoy" playing by finding a unique way to celebrate, Petkovic created her post-win dance now referred to as the "Petko Dance," which changes during each tournament. The celebration has made the German player a crowd favorite.
Prior to 2011, Petkovic had not yet won one single match at the All England Club. But, 2010 was her first opportunity because injuries kept her on the sidelines early in her career. Last year she lost in the first round.
This year the German won her first round match over Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France 6-3, 6-4. Then she followed that win by upending Stephanie Dubois of Canada 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. In the third round the German is scheduled to meet Ksenia Pervak of Russia.
Further Petkovic may find the No. 12 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in her future––in the fourth round, specifically.
The draw looks very favorable for Petkovic and perhaps another victory dance. She has promised to trip the light fantastic for fifteen minutes if she wins Wimbledon. That would be a first.
John Isner is probably best known for his 2010 five-set marathon match with Nicholas Mahut, played over three days and lasting more than 11 hours.
After ironically being drawn to meet Mahut again in 2011, Isner this time got right down to business, dispatching the Frenchman in straight sets 7-6(4), 6-2, 7-6(6).
So far the American's season in 2011 has been less than spectacular, compiling a disappointing 12-13 record for the season.
Isner, however, seems to improving now that the clay season is over. His outlook and his form appear to be shaping up just in time for advancing deep into the draw at the All England Club.
As long as Isner serves well, the grass court bounce should make all the difference in securing a victory over the No. 16 seed Nicolas Almagro.
Almagro and Isner will be meeting for the first time when the two do battle in the second-round on Thursday.
Normally you would expect the higher seed to win this contest easily but Isner has a clear advantage on grass. Almagro has never been past the third round in six Wimbledon appearances.
Six foot nine Isner has suffered through the growing pains of existing on tour. With his big serve and groundstrokes, Isner should begin to have an impact on grass.
The American can do plenty of damage. This may be his year to break through.