Like it or not, it’s the 2012 London Olympics tennis event set to begin on Saturday. This morning in London the draw for four of the five tennis events were released and here I’ll preview the men’s singles.
Among the top players in the sport, really only Rafael Nadal is missing. The defending gold medalist from the 2008 Beijing games is still recovering that ailing knee of his in preparation for the hard court season next month. It’s a big loss for the event but at least the rest of the guys are playing having it at Wimbedon adds to the intrigue.
Nadal’s absence leaves the door that much more open for the likes of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray who are all under pressure to take home the prestigious gold.
Of the three, Federer, in my mind, has the easiest path to standing on top of the podium a week from Sunday. With Djokovic and Murray landing slotted on the bottom half, Federer could have to contend with the fourth-seeded David Ferrer in his semifinal. He’ll take that! Before then, he’ll have Alejandro Falla in his opener then potentially a rematch with Julien Benneteau. Both Falla and Benneteau have uniquely blown 2-set leads at Wimbledon to Federer. So mentally Federer should have the edge in both contests. After a possible date with Fernando Verdasco, Roger’s quarter foe could be a tricky test. John Isner, Ivo Karlovic, David Nalbandian and Janko Tipsarevic are packed into a very tough little section. I think it’s Isner who somehow gets through to try and stop the Swiss, but to no avail.
Ferrer falls in what has to be the most open quarter. The Spaniard has been put in a quadrant that includes other grass-challenged guys like Juan Martin Del Potro, Gilles Simon and Andreas Seppi. Grigor Dimitrov is in there plus Phil Kohlscreiber and Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori who meet in a good first rounder. Of those players, I’d tab Ferrer as the slight favorite over Del Potro, but honestly it’s hard to pick a winner in this section. So I’ll take a leap and take Kohlschreiber.
In the bottom half, the pressure will hit Murray immediately in the form of Stan Wawrirnka. More noted for his clay game, Wawrinka stretched Murray to five at Wimbledon and then beat the Scot at the US Open a few years ago. But the Swiss flag bearer I don’t think will pull the upset here, so Murray should survive, but the road won’t get any easier. Richard Gasquet will likely await in the third round before a quarterfinal collision with Tomas Berdych. And in that battle of former Wimbledon finalists I’ll go with Berdych.
In the final quarter, it won’t be an easy go either for World No. 2 Djokovic. Novak will likely meet Andy Roddick, who’s nursing a sore shoulder, in the marquee second rounder, then the hot-handed Marin Cilic followed by the streaky JW Tsonga. And even though Tsonga will have to deal with Milos Raonic and potentially Feliciano Lopez, I’ll take Tsonga to get through and then upset Djokovic.
So my semifinals look like Federer-Kohlschreiber, Berdych-Tsonga. Huh? In the final I’ll take Federer over Tsonga.
In the men’s Olympic event, it’s important to remember that it’s best-of-3, and not best-of-5. And best-of-3 on grass can become roulette in a hurry, and I think that along with the urgency and pressures of the Olympics and the schedule – many guys playing doubles – will produce several upsets. That’s just my guess.
And in past Olympics we’ve seen upsets and unusual results. So hopefully, for the sake of excitement, we’ll see the same. And for the sake of rhyming, we get no RAIN!
Play begins on Saturday at 7am on Bravo network.
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