2011 Wimbledon: What to Expect from the Big Four with Week 2 Looming
Djokovic and Murray are looking to avenge their French Open semifinal defeat to the same hands that gathered together a total of 26 majors. In order to do so, both will have to raise their game if they want to avoid a second consecutive upset to Federer and Nadal, respectively.
So far, Novak Djokovic lost one set to Cyprus's Marcos Baghdatis in the third round, while Andy Murray lost two: one to Daniel Gimeno Traver in the first round and another to Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia in the third round.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are yet to lose a set so far at SW19.
The six-time Roland-Garros champion Rafael Nadal is having a smooth start at Wimbledon, compared to the previous years. The world No. 1 arrived at Wimbledon with a light heart. He has won the most important tournament of this season already in Roland Garros, after believing that the title was beyond him, but he was wrong.
He went through four tough months mentally, facing a totally new situation; between January and March, he had to accept that Djokovic had become the boss as he won the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Miami.
Those two Masters final losses hurt him but not as much as the two that followed on the clay of Madrid and Rome—a surface that the Spaniard had dominated for so long. Nadal now faces a real issue: the Serbian has the tactics to beat him and the mental edge.
Yet, despite its stresses, this Roland-Garros triumph and Grand Slam No. 10 will allow Rafa to breathe a little bit. Sure, he is also the Wimbledon title holder, but he will give himself a bigger margin for mistakes because he is fully aware of the Serbian's level of play at the moment, and also because he has fulfilled his contract by winning the French.
So he should re-find his length of shot, which is mandatory for his game, and play freely. And he is once again on the opposite side of the draw of Federer—better for him that the Swiss and Serb battle it out before the final and not him.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer is playing like old times with no pressure. The Swiss maestro comes into this event looking better than he did last year, when he was struggling. He has arrived reassured, having played some great tennis during Roland-Garros on a surface that is not the best for his game style.
Once more he is that great mover and playing on a court which suits his game down to the ground. He is taking the ball early again and turning more often on his backhand to hit his big forehands. His serve seems to be back too after a few months, where it suffered.
What he did in Paris, with that key match against Djokovic—despite the loss in the final—should give him a lot of confidence at the tournament that suits him the most.
The variety and the accuracy of his serve and groundstrokes, the way he can play with the ball heights and with his slice, added to the fact that this surface gives speed to low balls, will accentuate his natural abilities and his love of playing fast.
He should face Nole in the semi-finals in a battle everybody will want to see.
Could it be Murray's time? The fact that he is having some ups and downs as he did in the first round against Daniel Gimeno Traver and the third round against Ivan Ljubicic are not very promising.
These are the signs he is very nervous.
Once again this year Andy has been through a small crisis, following his Australian Open loss, but it was shorter than last year because at Monte Carlo he was already back to a great level—reaching the semi-finals and going down fighting against Nadal. He then achieved his best result at Roland Garros with a semi-final appearance.
Of course, he arrived at Wimbledon with a title at Queen's in his pocket, which should have helped him already.
The main question facing Murray in the second week of Wimbledon is: What are his chances against the top three?
Andy is close to them but I don't think that, for now, he is able to beat them in a semi-final or final of a Grand Slam. He's still lacking that little something, an accurate game plan that would allow him to beat Nadal in the semis and then Roger, or Nole in a best of five set format.
Unlike Murray, Djokovic has managed to go one step further than his Scot rival by claiming two Australian Opens.
Djokovic lost a set to Baghdatis because the man from Cyprus was playing as well as the Serb for two sets. Therefore, the fact that he lost a set against a very dangerous Baghdatis will only motivate him to play better and better as the week goes by.
Ultra-dominating since the start of the season and the true No. 1, he has only lost one match—in the Roland Garros semi-finals against Federer. During the first quarter of the season he proved he was the best player on hard courts; during the second one, his wins in Madrid and Roma over Nadal, the boss on clay, demonstrated that he was a step ahead of the field.
His loss in Paris can be explained by both Federer's comeback and him choosing the wrong strategy on the day. But he hasn't had one really bad day for seven months. To those who say he hasn't ever won anything on grass, I counter that today he is a new player. He owns all the abilities to shine on this surface: a good first serve, a top slice, perfect footwork, a huge ability to counter punch and the way he takes the ball so early.
If he reaches the final and is facing Rafa, he'd be in a great position against a player he has beaten four times in the finals in the last four months, unless a certain Roger Federer manages to waste the party once more.
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