With the clay season behind us – don’t tell Nikolay Davydenko that, though – time to shift focus to grass. And this week there’s no shortage of the game’s best in action at Halle with Roger Federer and at Queen’s with just about everyone else including Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the return of Andy Roddick who skipped on the French to rest a bum shoulder.
Federer has the most at stake, and with a weak Halle field anything short of a comfortable title would signal trouble at Wimbledon. The loss to Nadal to Sunday has to leave some sort of mark and it’s likely not going to be a good one for the Swiss who hasn’t won a championship match point on anyone since Shanghai last year! So a prompt rebound at Halle would be just what the doctor ordered and after his second round win today I believe that’s 56 straight on grass for Rog.
In Queen’s, with the top guys fighting it out, all I’m really looking for is to see how Roddick holds up. I really don’t expect big things from Rafa given the quick turnaround from clay to grass – credit to him, though, for sticking to his schedule – and even the same for Novak. But it does look like we’ll get some great quarterfinal matchups Friday with Nadal v. Ivo Karlovic, Roddick v. Andy Murray, Gasquet v. Nalbandian and possibly Hewitt v. Djokovic. Talk about a great day to have a ticket in Queen’s, Friday’s it. But again, I’d be really surprised to see either Rafa or Novak reach the final. It is good to see Richard Gasquet and Lleyton Hewitt faring well on the grass, so I presume they’ll be in good shape at Wimbledon.
And I’ll go so far as to pick Roddick over Hewitt for the title, while Federer beats Blake in Halle.
Looking ahead to Wimbledon, Federer will again come in as the favorite but this time by the slimmest of margins he’s been at Wimbledon for a long time. And there’s good reason for that. Rafa came close last year – the Spaniard twice had 15-40 on Roger’s serve in the fifth set – and after Sunday’s annihilation there’s worthy reason to think that maybe this year won’t be Roger’s. Maybe it’s Rafa’s. Or Roddick’s. Or Mardy Fish’s. (okay, strike the last guy!)
Here in the U.S. I was watching a replay of ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” show yesterday in which co-host Michael Wilbon – who covers absolutely zero tennis as best I can tell – pronounced that Federer’s “done” and that he wouldn’t event make it to the Wimbledon finals. Well, that’s getting a bit carried away, Michael, but I bring it up only because the ground swell seems to be growing that Fed’s days are numbered. And while there is some truth to that (who’s days aren’t numbered by the way?), the guy still has some major titles left. Just how many remains the big question.
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