It’s that time of year again. If anything was ever going to get me back into the blogosphere (I’ve been a bit of a hiatus, deal with it), it’s Wimbledon. Much like the Indy 500 in racing or the Masters in golf, Wimbledon is that one event, no matter where in the world you are from, that everyone wants to win. It produces the most memorable moments of any tournament, such as Nadal losing in the first round this year in one of the biggest upsets ever (yup that already happened… more below) or the epic final between Federer and Roddick in 2009. It has all the drama.
Some of my earliest memories of tennis are Agassi and Sampras battling it out on the grass. Somehow the Wimbledon mystique even classed up a grungy Andre Agassi. But that’s the effect Wimbledon has on everyone, even those who are watching through a television a few thousand miles away. The all white attire, the perfectly manicured grass, and the British distinction are completely out of place any other time of the year, yet it represents tennis in its purest most natural form.
With that being said, Wimbledon has been lucky enough to have, in the form of Roger Federer, the best pure player since Bjorg as it’s perennial champion. With innate stoicism and utter grace Federer has dominated at Wimbledon to the degree that the two are now synonymous with each other. After a two year drought at Wimbledon, Federer gutted out a victory last year over hometown hero Andy Murray giving him a seventh title, and a share of the most ever at Wimbledon with Sampras and William Renshaw. Federer however, was not able to reach even the finals of the year’s first two grand slams and has missed out on the finals of 11 of the last 13. It’s clear that Federer’s reign as Wimbledon’s golden boy is coming to a close.
I made it abundantly clear during last year’s Wimbledon preview that I didn’t believe Murray would win Wimbledon, the weight of it all and the quality of the 3 above him too much to overcome. Well Murray almost made me eat my words. Though he didn’t have to face any of the big 3 until the finals, where he lost to Federer, his run was determined and focused. A big story coming into these finals is whether Murray’s absence from the French Open, and subsequent long layoff, will help or hinder him. A win a Queen’s Club a few weeks ago seems to have quieted critics but 3 set week long tournaments are far different than 5 setters played on the most prestigious stage in tennis.
So, what are the other storylines worth keeping an eye these next two weeks?
How will Nadal bounce back from his 2nd round loss to Lukas Rosol?
Well considering as I’m writing Nadal has just lost to 135 ranked player Steve Darcis, not very well. Steve Darcis had won 2 matches all year. Nadal had only LOST two matches all year. I can tell you he had been hobbling around in this 3rd set and has not been sharp with his groundstrokes. He wasn’t getting low on his backhand and wasn’t chasing down dropshots in typical Nadal fashion. Is it a knee injury or has Nadal really lost his touch at the all English Club? Either way, an absolute shocker.
Is Jo-Wilfried Tsonga destined for a Grand Slam breakthrough?
Last year I had tipped Murray to finally get the Grand Slam monkey off his back, and sure enough he turned his Wimbledon misery into a US Open victory. Could a disappointing yet encouraging semifinal loss for Tsonga at Roland Garros propel him to a Wimbledon title? The pressure of playing in your home country in a Grand Slam is always difficult (Murray at Wimbledon, Tsonga at the French), so 2 weeks in England may be just what Tsonga needs. I expect him to make a run.
Who is the favorite?
Federer is the defending champ, Murray has tasted victory most recently at Wimbledon in the form of the Olympic title, but Novak Djokovic is still number 1. Novak’s semifinal loss to Nadal at Roland Garros only a few weeks ago felt like a final and he was only a few points away from becoming the 2nd man ever to beat Nadal at the French. I like the way he’s playing right now, and more importantly I love his draw (probable semifinal with Ferrer? Yes please), and expect him to beat Murray, in a hard fought final.