Of the 16 remaining men, as many as six have a realistic shot at winning the most sought-after trophy in tennis.
It was a boring day in sports for those Americans who have been following USA’s World Cup run and the championships at Wimbledon. The U.S. was ousted yesterday as Wimbledon kept with tradition and took the first Sunday off.
As the second week gets underway tomorrow there is more to watch for than in years past. It's not just between Federer and Nadal. There are six true competitors listed below beginning with the least likely:
- Novak Djokovic. The only reason Djokovic is on this list is because he has won a Grand Slam title before. He doesn’t seem to have the maturity or the balls—for lack of a better word—to win another slam. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if he loses in the Round of 16 to a player who may be old, but has been playing well lately, Lleyton Hewitt. But since he was won a slam I had to include him.
- Andy Roddick. The man who I believe will eliminate Novak Djokovic. He always has a shot at Wimbledon with his massive serve and forehand combo. He is a three time finalist at the All England Club (2004, 2005, 2009) and would have at least one title if it wasn’t for Mr. Federer. As many remember, he took Federer to what used to be considered a long fifth set (20-18) last year in the finals. His backhand is still very vulnerable on the grass, but if he can keep serving well and win some tie-breakers, he has a great shot to finally break through and win the title.
- Andy Murray. Andy Murray is the hometown hero, and like his British predecessor Tim Henman, he always does well but falters when the pressure to win is too great. The last time a Brit was victorious in London was in 1936 when Fred Perry hoisted the plate. The Brits are dying for a champion, and the last thing Andy Murray wanted to see on his day off was England to lose in the World Cup. Now all the attention has shifted back to Murray, who has quietly made it to the Round of 16 without dropping a set. He has the game to do it on grass, but don’t be surprised if he loses his temper, starts to whine and folds like a lawn chair under her majesty’s pressure.
- Rafael Nadal. Many have the 2010 French Open Champ and seven time Grand Slam champion as their favorite to win because last time he was here, he came out on top. Rafa has made it through the fourth round, but has struggled mightily and seems to have a few nagging injuries as well. His knees are usually the area of concern, but in his last match against Phillipp Petzschner it was his left arm causing him problems. You can never question the will or the fight in Nadal, but he has been stretched to five sets twice already and I’m not sure his arm can hold up the rest of the fortnight.
- Robin Soderling. Most people are probably saying wait, wait, who? Oh the guy who got destroyed by Nadal in the finals of the French Open? I knew that named sounded familiar. Well, if you look closer you will see a true candidate to win here and if I had any guts, I would’ve put him as the favorite. As I said before, Soderling made it to the Finals of the French this year as well as in 2009, and in the four Grand Slams between the two, he was ousted every time by Roger Federer, who either went on to win or lose in the finals in each one. Soderling has been playing great tennis for the past year, and is yet to drop a set at this year’s championships. He’s a big dude and his game actually fits better on grass then it does on the dirt. Look for the big Suede to make a serious push for his first Grand Slam title.
- Roger Federer. Finally the man, the myth, the legend—Roger Federer. This article wouldn’t deserve to be published if I didn’t put the six time Wimbledon Champ and 16-time Grand Slam Champ as the favorite. He has already won the Australian Open this year, made it to the quarters of the French, and is in position to win number seven in London. He has a favorable draw, being that Murray and Soderling are on Nadal’s side. Federer, like Nadal, has struggled in two of his first three rounds, but seemed to hit his stride in his third round with a straight-set victory over Arnaud Clement. He was forced to come back from two sets down in the first round and the Federer camp believes the old saying “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Well I think they are right and I imagine this time next week Roger will have number 17 in his trophy case.
No matter who comes out on top, make sure you tune in because this is the most wide-open a Grand Slam has been in the better part of the last decade. I can’t promise anymore Isner Mahut marathon matches, but I guarantee you whoever ends up on top has a tough road ahead of them.