2012 Wimbledon Preview
Tomorrow afternoon, the most prestigious, oldest tennis tournament kicks off at the All England Club in Wimbledon, England. The grass on the courts has been prepared for the best men and women to showcase their incredible talent over the course of the next few weeks. For you tennis novices, Wimbledon is the third leg of the four major tournaments that take place each year, as the Australian and French Open’s have already been played, and the U.S. Open will follow in August and September. It is by far the most traditional of all the events, as you’ll find a dress code for players (white garments), the eating of strawberries and cream by the fans, and a pleasant lack of advertisements that we normally see all over the professional sports landscape. I have attempted to break down and predict all the major story lines heading into the tournament.
The Marked Man
Novak Djokovic is the defending champion from 2011, as he used Wimbledon to launch a historic run that unfortunately came to an end a few weeks ago in Roland Garos at the French Open. He had won three Grand Slam tournaments in a row going into France, and even with that recent loss to Rafael Nadal, Djokovic has managed to win 4 out of the last 6 majors tournaments. Djokovic is the easy favorite to win again this year, as the grass plays into his favor as he can over power his opponents. Djokovic will take on Juan Carlos Ferrero, who used to be a star in his own right, in a fairly exciting first round that shouldn’t be too much of a problem for Novak. He shouldn’t have much of a challenge at all until the Semi Finals where he might have a chance of seeing the great Roger Federer, who has won the tournament 6 times and is as comfortable on the WImbledon court as LeBron James is on a breakaway dunk. However, I believe the younger and current #1 player in the world will take care of the aging star, setting up the finals that everyone hopes and expects, a rematch of last year’s Final. Last July, Djokovic took down Rafael Nadal in the finals in a easy four sets and I believe the tournament is shaping up for the exact same result this year.
The Two With a Chance
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are two most recognizable names in men’s tennis and are both serious contenders to Djokovic in this tournament. Though I have already stated I see Djokovic beating each man on his way to the repeat, I wouldn’t be shocked to see any of these three guys prevail at the end of the two weeks. Nadal is a two-time Champion at Wimbledon and is coming off a victory over Novak in the French open. He has made the Finals in each of the past five Wimbeldons, and has won 87.5 percent of his career matches at Wimbledon. The only legitimate test Nadal will have in reaching the Finals will be Andy Murray, who Nadal has beaten in 13 out of 18 career match ups. In contrast Djokovic and Federer stand in each others way to the make the championship match. Even though I believe Djokovic will win that heavy weight matchup, I do feel that Roger Federer will show the Wimbledon faithful glimpses of his brilliance over the next few weeks. Federer has won a career 16 grand slams and I believe he’ll be the crowd favorite as many people will want to see his return to glory. His 6 Wimbledon titles are second only to Pete Sampras’s 7 and he has three more than Djokovic and Nadal combined. He will be by far the most comfortable player on the lawns, but we need to keep in mind that Djokovic has beaten Roger in 3 out of the last 4 major matchups, including a straight set victory at the French Open a few weeks ago. If Roger can somehow squeak by Djokovic, it would set up an awesome title fight with Nada. Even though I’ll be rooting for Roger to make it to the last day, I don’t see it happening.
Both the men and women American players underperformed at the French Open. Andy Roddick was beaten in the first round on the clay and the player who was once considered among the world’s elite has for a while been forgotten in the conversation of contenders. Traditionally, Rodick plays well on grass and he is coming off a win at the tune-up for Wimbledon, AEGON International Men’s Singles Tournament. I expect Roddick to play well, show pride but ultimately fall short of the ultimate prize as he is no longer in the same league as the top players in the world. Serena Williams is another American who was quickly eliminated from the French Open field. However, in her career she has always played her best at the All England Club. Serena is still one of the best player’s in the world, even though Maria Sharapova has gotten most of the recognition as the world’s best after her recent French result. Serena and her sister rewrote the manner in which women’s tennis is played and she still has the ability to be the most dominating force in the game. I think she finds her form and captures her 5th Wimbledon tournament, as she will take advantage of the same comfort level that Roger Federer will enjoy on the men’s draw.
Parity in the Women’s Side
Though I am picking Williams to win Wimbledon, the field is very close and the favorite coming into the tournament has to be Maria Sharapova. Sharapova recently won the French Open and came extremely close last year, losing in the finals to Petra Kvitova. Kvitota has to feel as confident as anyone also, as she beat Sharapova in straight sets and has been playing great tennis all season which has earned her the #4 spot in the women’s game. This year’s Australian Open champ is the current #2 player in the world, as Victoria Azarenka also made her first semi-finals in last year’s Wimbledon Tournament. Azarenka was disappointing in the French Open but she has the ability to put that result in the rear view mirror and build on last year’s success. Rounding out the field of contenders is the always dangerous Venus Williams who is at a veteran age of 32 but always capable of getting hot, 21-year-old Caroline Wozniacki who was recently the #1 player in the world and last year’s U.S. Open winner Sam Stosur, who has often struggled on the grass of Wimbledon. Though any of the women I have written about have a shot at this year’s title, I still believe Serena will be the eventual champion.
If you are a tennis fanatic, enjoy the greatness of the next few weeks. If you are unfamiliar with the sport, I promise you that the competitiveness and athleticism of these athletes will captivate you if you just sit down and give it a shot. I’m personally very excited to sit back, brew some tea, butter my crumpets and get ready to watch some of the greatest athletes in the world perform at the top of their games on the biggest stage in the sport.