Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Championships, Wimbledon 2008: Previewing the Men and Women

This Monday will mark the beginning of the biggest celebration on grass east of Humboldt County, so we must all get our strawberries and cream, scones, and Pimm's Cup ready, as Wimbledon is upon us! Rest easy, your TV viewing schedule is right here, so keep it handy.
The Women's draw coming into the tourney remains as wide open as ever, with the usual cast of suspects looking to make deep runs. The one woman who reliably plays well at Wimbledon is defending champ Venus Williams; however, this year she is decidedly not on form. Likewise her sister Serena, who is having as enigmatic a year as ever. While she is always a tempting choice to make a run on any surface, I'm picking her to wash out somewhere before the quarterfinal.
French Open finalist Dinara Safina seems to still have huge momentum in the grass court season, as she got to the final of the Ordina warmup. The woman who bested her in Paris, Ana Ivanovic, is riding a huge wave of confidence and support, but will be wearing the biggest bullseye of her life as the new number one in the world. You read it here that she won't be up to the task this year. Which leaves us with Maria Sharapova. Sure it may look like a safe, even boring choice, but she does seem to thrive on grass and consistently has shown more heart and has more big match experience than most women on tour. Wimbledon always come down to those with the biggest stones (right Jana Novotna?) and Maria will be the one to rise to the occasion this year.
On the men's side, all eyes are focused on the defending champion 5 YEARS RUNNING Roger Federer and the surging Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Just like in Paris, this is the final we all want to see; will Roger claim a record 6th straight Wimbledon, or will Rafa advance his claim on the number one spot in the world?
In Rafa's corner are two items; first is his grass court confidence built both at Wimbledon last year in his classic final against Federer and this year's Artois, where he beat Novak Djokovic in the final. As covered above, you can't put a price on confidence. Or on a big serve, which is without peer as a weapon on grass and is where Nadal has made the biggest strides in his game.
For Federer, there are also two things that make him a grass-court player without parallel; his completely chock-full and unmatched toolbox of attacking options and the attitude that comes with having 5 championships next to your name.
Of course there's plenty of dudes that could make impressive runs, and no one has more riding on his ability to do so than Novak Djokovic. After spending the past few weeks shooting his mouth off about how Fed might be losing his confidence, he's going to get his shot at Roger in the semis. Lose that match, or lose early in the tournament, and Djokovic will start looking more and more like the tennis equivalent of Rory Sabbatini.
Speaking of big mouths, too bad England's best hope of ever having a Wimbledon champ again spends more time running his yap than winning matches. Don't ever ask me to root for Andy Murray, because it just won't happen. Especially in his first round match, where he will face one of the most entertaining players out there, Fabrice Santoro, who is playing in his final Wimby.
Another big mouth, but in a much more clever and entertaining way, is Andy Roddick. Coming off a sore shoulder that kept him out of the French, look for Roddick to ride his massive serve deep into the tournament.
There will of course be more storylines, and ever-growing attention on Nadal and Federer as they head towards an epic collision in the finals. Take it to the bank, Federer will quiet the skeptics and doubters en route to a 6th straight Wimbledon title.

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1 comment:

Dave said... French and Wimbledon are the two events that always dry my tears from the end of basketball season (okay, the tears are really at the end of March, but the NBA is a good adjustment period too).

Back to tennis: Couldn't agree with your comments about Djokovic, Dr. Shapiro. What an incredible talent. While not being awe-struck by your opponents (living tennis legends or not) is commendable, the immaturity of his comments on Federer come across as an arrogance that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. In things that would help him fully realize his awesome potential, his attitude adjustment is second only to the dire need of a good haircut. Thank god he at least has a good sense of humor.

Then again, my entire reaction may simply be because the top two men in the game today act with such class and grace, in both winning and losses, that fans may become a bit spoiled by what to expect in a champion outside of the lines.