Hey Tennis Fans! Let’s talk Wimbledon. First, a summary of where we stand after 6 months of hard fought tennis. The Big Four are very much the Big Two right now. Roger Federer dominated the first quarter of the season, and then Rafael Nadal dominated the second quarter, finishing with his 10th French Open title. Andy Murray, the No. 1, performed surprisingly well at the French, making the semis. But it was only surprising because of how dismal he has been otherwise (only 1 title for the season!). Djokovic excited his fans by taking on Andre Agassi as his coach, only to mentally capitulate to Dominic Thiem in the quarters of Roland Garros. Djokovic and Murray’s weakness partly explains why Federer and Nadal have been dominating in late-2000s fashion. Of course, they’re also perhaps the best two tennis players ever to play the game. Can they continue their tyranny at Wimbledon?
Roger Federer is the clear favorite. He has a tidy 7 Wimbledon titles. His game is perfect for grass. He’s well rested and just won comfortably in Halle. His opponents are weak — Murray and Djokovic I talked about, but Nadal can also be astonishingly vulnerable on grass (he’s suffered a string of early-round defeats to hard hitters at Wimbledon). The top ten is equally meager. Stan Wawrinka, the No.5 seed, has never really adapted to grass. Maybe it’s his huge swings , or floaty slice returns, or a mental block. Likewise for Kei Nishikori, the No. 9 seed, but his grass court fallibility is more understandable considering his baseline game and lack of a big serve. Then there’s the No. 8 seed, Dominic Thiem, who had a stellar clay court season but recently suffered some shocking losses on grass. His flowy groundstroke technique just hinders him on a fast, low-bouncing court , and he’s almost every pundit’s pick for an early exit. The remaining members of the top ten could prove troublesome: Alexander Zverev, Milos Raonic (who beat Federer in the semis last year), and Marin Cilic (who very nearly beat him). Will they challenge the Maestro? I’ll proceed quarter by quarter and predict who will make it out alive and who will be sent packing.
World No. 1 Andy Murray headlines this section. He won Wimbledon last year, and almost always puts in a high-quality performance on grass courts. But he lost to No. 90 Jordan Thompson at the Queen’s Club Open, and has complained of elbow problems. Stan Wawrinka’s in the first quarter also, but has a tricky opener against the Russian Medvedevedvedev. Will his Wawrinka’s coach Paul Annacone have some sage advice? Also in this quarter:
Nick Kyrgios, who is extremely dangerous on grass, but hates playing Murray. Also knee problems and motivation problems.
Lucas Pouille. Won a grass title in Stuttgart, an all around solid player.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Usually great on grass, but who knows considering his poor performance at the French and some weird losses this season.
Sam Querrey. Famous for beating Novak Djokovic last year and this video: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/07/wimbledon-sam-querrey-vines-funny-millionaire-matchmaker-videos . Can bring awe-inspiring power to the grass.
Semifinalist : Andy Murray. Wimbledon is his home turf, and no one in his section of the draw matches up against him well.
Rafael Nadal headlines this section of the draw. Decent tennis player. But he recently lost to Berdych in an exhibition 6-3, 6-2. Take what you will from that result: just an exhibition match? yes. Somehow lost to Berdych? yes. Vulnerability here for sure. Also a big name to look for, Marin Cilic, 2014 US Open Champion. Perfect game for grass, and quietly winning lots of matches in the run-up to Wimbledon.
Look out for :
Karen Khachanov. The 21 year old Russian has played very well this season, and is up to a career high ranking. His easy power is reminiscent of Marat Safin.
Gilles Muller. Somehow the Luxem(burger?) is up to a career-high ranking at 34 years of age. His lefty sliding serve is untouchable on grass.
Semifinalist: Marin Cilic. I anticipate surprises in this section.
Roger Federer. Also a lot of potentially dangerous grass courters. Alexander Zverev is having a break out season. The 20-year old tall, strong, fast, and has a giant serve. He’s defeated Federer on grass before. But Federer easily beat him in their most recent meeting in the Halle Open Final, using drop shots and slices to expose his poor net play. Milos Raonic is also here. Lots of injuries this season. And he somehowlost to world no 698 Thanasi Kokkinakis at Queens. But you’d expect Raonic’s serve and Wimbledon history (last year he took Federer down, literally) to help him here.
Some other dudes:
Zverev, Mischa. Lefty, great volleyer. Has a first round match coming up with the lackadaisical ‘Bernie’ Tomic.
Grigor Dimitrov. Wonderful start to the season, poor since then. Signs of life at Queens, but his backhand is just so bad. Can I say that? It lets him down when he needs it the most.
John Isner, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Francis Tiafoe.
Semifinalist: Roger Federer. Milos Raonic or Alexander Zverev could beat him. But in best of 5 sets, in his favorite arena, when he’s well rested and confident, it would take a miraculous performance.
Novak Djokovic waits in the last quarter. He can be absolutely fantastic on grass. Federer fans know this, as he twice thwarted their hero in the final. But this year he has suffered physically and mentally. He also entered a dinky warm-up tournament at Eastbourne, very unusual for him. I sense desperation. It’s very unclear who will take advantage of Djokovic’s woes though, some contenders:
Juan Martin Del Potro. Somehow floating under the radar right now. He always seems to draw an early-round match against Djokovic, and he usually loses a match full of gigantic forehands and cutesy bromance. But he has beaten Novak in some important tourneys.
Richard Gasquet. Crafty, great volleyer, a twice-semifinalist here.
Feliciano Lopez. Another old hat finding form on the slippery grass. “Deliciano” just won Queens and has the game to go deep here.
Dominic Thiem. As mentioned, probably an early exit. Simon or Pospisil could do it.
Others: Gael Monfils, Tomas Berdych. geez.
Semifinalist: Can I pick “not Djokovic”? Sentimentally, I like Juan Martin Del Potro. But my head tells me Feliciano Lopez.
Andy Murray vs Marin Cilic. Winner : Marin Cilic
Roger Federer vs Feliciano Lopez. Winner: Roger Federer
If I were smart, I’d pick Roger Federer. If he wins Wimbledon it would continue his and Nadal’s beautiful little back-and-forth. He’s been ridiculously clutch this season (I mean, he only loses to bad players. sorry Evgeny Donskoy, sorry 39 year old Tommy Haas). But I just don’t have that much faith in the patterns.
Winner: Marin Cilic.