The Wimbledon Committee is known for being the only tournament in pro tennis with the cajones to go against the ATP Rankings when they devise their seedings. Many years their re-jiggering of the seedings brings the ire of media and fans — but where is the re-jiggering when it’s actually needed?
This year the Wimbledon Committee’s non-tampering at the top has produced one of the most unbalanced draws in Open Era history at the All England Club, paving the way for world No. 2 Rafael Nadal to reach a second consecutive final. Roger Federer’s quest for a fifth consecutive title, on the other hand, is all the more difficult.
Federer and four-time Queen’s Club champion Andy Roddick are the hot favorites entering The Championships, but are both in the top half of the draw with a potential semifinal meeting looming. Also in the top half are contenders or potential spoilers Marat Safin, Tommy Haas, James Blake, Ivan Ljubicic, Richard Gasquet, and homecountry favorites Andy Murray and Tim Henman.
Contrast this with Nadal’s lower half of the draw, where former champ Lleyton Hewitt is the only standout threat, and you can possibly throw in the slumping former finalist David Nalbandian. Novak Djokovic and Tomas Berdych have some potential in the lower half, but these untested seeds are a coin flip on the same level with fellow unheralded yet unseeded bottom-halfers such as “Dr.” Ivo Karlovic and Aussie serving machine Chris “Penthouse” Guccione. “Bottom” half indeed.
Nadal opens against American Mardy Fish, whose net-rushing game has failed to earn him a win against the Spaniard in three meetings, one even on grass. Other openers of note in the bottom half are Guccione vs. Brit Alex “Boggy” Bogdanovic, Karlovic vs. Fabrice “The Magician” Santoro, and (11) Tommy Robredo up against it, facing American net-rusher Robert Kendrick (punter upset alert!). Hewitt and Djokovic could meet in the 4th round, while Nadal could avoid facing an opponent of note until Berdych in the quarterfinals.
In the top half Federer will have a chance to get a couple wins under his belt before he potentially runs into Safin in the 3rd round, Haas (if the dodgy shoulder holds up) in the 4th round, and Blake or Fernando Gonzalez in the quarters. Frenchmen Gasquet and Queen’s runner-up Nicolas Mahut are lined-up for a second-round meeting, and Murray and Henman could face off in an all-Brit third-round encounter.
Forty years ago was the first Wimbledon final of the Open Era, when Australia’s Rod Laver defeated countryman Tony Roche 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.
Federer is bidding to become only the second player in Open Era history to win five successive Wimbledon singles titles after Bjorn Borg. The Swiss skipped the Halle Wimbledon warm-up where he had won four consecutive titles, and will try and become the first man to win Wimbledon without playing a grasscourt warm-up event since Andre Agassi in 1992.
History however could be against Federer. Pete Sampras played grasscourt warm-ups before all seven of his Wimbledon wins, but failed to win in 1996, the only year he didn’t play a warm-up, losing in the quarterfinals to Richard Krajicek.
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