When the draw came out I picked Rafael Nadal to beat Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final two Sundays from now. After a few days to mull it over further I’m sticking with that selection. Why?
First, Nadal has reached how many straight Wimbledon finals? The last five times he’s played at Wimbledon he’s made the finals, winning twice. That’s damn good and with his draw this year it’s too hard to ignore!
Second, despite his inability to win titles off of clay of late – it’s been over 18 months now – Nadal is playing well. He was in the finals at Wimbledon last year plus the US Open and this year the Australian Open, so he must be doing something right, right? He just keeps running into that guy from Serbia.
Third, it’s because the player on the other side of the net isn’t as good as he once was. Now that could be Roger Federer, who is still tough on any surface however at age 30 the Swiss has lost some of that timing. Honestly, though, I’m really talking about Djokovic. In my opinion the Serb was about 10-15% stronger a year ago than he is now. And he knows it. That said, he showed some signs of life in the French final so perhaps he could get it right and get back to that superhuman being we saw last year and even late in Australia back in January. Though even if he does recapture it I think grass is Novak’s weakest surface, where he’s most vulnerable.
Fourth, there’s no denying Nadal’s draw. He’s got some tricky opponents but he avoided danger guys like Milos Raonic, Sam Querrey, Ernests Gulbis, Ivo Karlovic and the like who can get hot for a few hours and create a stir. Nadal does have to deal with Tomaz Bellucci, Tommy Haas or Phil Kohlscreiber and then potentially JW Tsonga. But Tsonga, who stunned Federer a year ago, is iffy with that finger injury on his right hand. And I just don’t think anyone has it in his section to beat him. A healthy Tsonga could, but I’m not sold.
Plus, semifinal matches against Andy Murray, Andy Roddick or David Ferrer shouldn’t scare Rafa. Hell, they don’t scare me! If Raonic were to make it there that’d be interesting, and a surprise because I think the Canadian needs a little more seasoning on the lawns.
So again, I think Nadal is playing well, Djokovic/Federer are not and until that changes I’m with Rafa on this one. He’s won twice before and the mojo appears to be back, the injuries long gone (for now) and Spain is winning again in some soccer event. It’s almost in the air…
As for today, what an opener at Wimbledon. What I thought would be a quiet day offering little drama turned into an afternoon of upsets.
Five-time winner Venus Williams sadly walked off the courts courtesy of Russian Elena Vesnina. Venus appeared to be a shadow of her self as Sjogren’s Syndrome continues to impede her play. I wonder, as many of you do I’m sure, if that’s the last we’ll see of Venus on the Wimbledon courts in a Grand Slam setting – she’ll play later next month at the Olympics. My guess is that is was.
Another American John Isner continued to struggle. After coming out hot this year scoring wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, Giant John has cooled considerably or simply put, he has run out of gas. The 11th-seeded Isner was handed another five-set loss this time by Colombian Alejandro Falla. That’s the same Falla who nearly knocked out Roger Federer a few years ago at Wimbledon.
“Lately it’s happening quite a lot, [where] I get out there in the match and I’m just so clouded. I just can’t seem to figure things out,” said Isner. “I’m my own worst enemy out there. It’s all mental for me, and it’s pretty poor on my part.”
If Isner is really going to be a consistent force in tennis he’ll need to be smarter about what he can and cannot do. You can’t be burnt out in June.
Then it was Tomas Berdych’s turn to go down in flames, and he didn’t disappoint. The sixth-seeded former finalist fell in three tiebreaks to someone named Ernests Gulbis. I remember a kid named Ernests but then he fell off the map, is this the same happy-go-lucky fellow? Apparently so. Gulbis bombed 30 aces sending the Berd-man crashing down.
“I saw the draw and I was really happy.I wantedto play the first round against a tough opponent,” Gulbis said.
“It motivates me much more,especially in the first round. The beginning of this year I really doubted a lot. I had a lot of thinking because I didn’t like the way I was playing at all. I was too defensive,too uptight. I was thinking what to do and it was a tough time.
“I have been working hard last month with a new coach Gunther Bresnik who is based in Austria,” Gulbis added. “I asked him to come to Paris and Wimbledon as well; it’s been really good.
“He really helped me a lot (and) I have been practising well. In the practices I beat everybody.”
With Berdych and Isner out, the road for Federer and Djokovic just got that much easier, and there’s no reason they won’t clash in the semifinals. Next for Novak is Ryan Harrison who could catch fire and steal a set. Maybe Richard Gasquet can do the same in the quarters, otherwise it’s hard to make a case the Serb won’t reach the last four.
Federer’s draw is just as easy. Fabio Fognini is on deck Wednesday, then Juliean Benneteau, maybe Xavier Malisse. Perhaps Janko Tipsarevic in the quarters? Janko’s good but not that good?
Looking at tomorrow, Nadal and Murray both open play and I think they both win with ease. Bernard Tomic and David Goffin should be fun, I like the Aussie to win that. Kevin Anderson and Grigor Dmitrov is maybe the best match on the board. And Del Potro, Karlovic, Querrey, Lopez, Fish, Roddick and Raonic should keep the ace counters busy. Tsonga also meets former champ Lleyton Hewitt in the Australian’s Swan t-Song-a.
Serena Williams returns to play on the same court, Court 2, on which her sister lost today. Why relegated to Court 2? I can’t explain. Defending champ Petra Kvitova, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka also headline.
Matches begin at 6:30am ET and ESPN2 comes on at 7am ET.
TUESDAY WIMBLEDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Akgul Amanmuradova (UZB) v. Petra Kvitova (CZE)
Thomaz Bellucci (BRA) v. Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) v. Andy Murray (GBR)
No. 1 Court 1:00 PM Start Time
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) v. Lleyton Hewitt (AUS)
Irina Falconi (USA) v. Victoria Azarenka (BLR)
Jamie Baker (GBR) v. Andy Roddick (USA)
No. 2 Court 11:30 AM Start Time
Bernard Tomic (AUS) v. David Goffin (BEL)
Serena Williams (USA) v. Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (CZE)
Robin Haase (NED) v. Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) v. Tamira Paszek (AUT)
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