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Posts Tagged ‘Williams’

Apologies for not having blogged sooner but I’ve been stuck in a terrible vortex of decorating where every spare waking moment has been spent decorating my spare room – thank God for Radio Wimbledon and BBC Tennis’s online coverage, it’s been the only thing keeping me sane! Anyway, here are a few thoughts on the first four days of play:

– The Men’s draw is still looking like a four horse race but I’ll happily settle for the predictable. There has been a lot of talk around which guy is most likely to infiltrate the top four and spoil the MuRaFeDjoko party. The main names being bandied around have been Soderling, Roddick and Del Potro but none of them have done anything to indicate that they could break the main quartet’s stranglehold. Soderling stayed in by the skin of his teeth against Hewitt today, Roddick has been serving well but other aspects of his game are lacking and Del Potro is in uncharted territory as this is the first time he’s got passed the second round at Wimbledon. To compound matters whilst the pack have floundered the top four have thrived. It took 34 minutes and over a set of tennis before Federer lost a point on his serve today, Murray reeled off 15 straight games in his match against Gimeno-Traver and both Djokovic and Nadal are strolling through with ease. It’s looking more and more like the French Open semi-final line-up will be repeated.

– The Women’s on the other hand is still wide open with no one player stamping her mark on the tournament. Both of the Williams sisters have dropped sets (Serena’s dropped two), Stosur and Li are out and Zvonareva has wobbled. Wozniacki is looking OK but with her dislike for grass I question whether she’ll make the last 16. Most of the pundits are tipping Sharapova for the title but I have niggling doubts over whether she can maintain her consistency for the whole fortnight. The players who have looked the most comfortable in my opinion have been Kvitova, Bartoli (although she’s only played one match so far) and much to my joy Ivanovic who has only dropped four games. I’m also feeling very excited about Lisicki in the wake of her extremely close victory over Li. I can’t see her being a Goran-esque wildcard Champion but I hope she can at least make the quarter-finals, she deserves it after today’s match. Lisicki and Ivanovic could well meet in the last 16 which would be a brilliant match between two very likeable players.

– Hoorah for the Golden Oldies and the Comeback kids. My top three matches of the tournament so far without a shadow of a doubt have been V. Williams v Kimiko Date-Krumm (combined age of 71 and at times they played like it was 1971 with KDK offering up some wonderfully nostalgic chip and charges), Hewitt very nearly defeating Soderling in five sets despite having been in plaster just eight weeks ago, and the dramatic match between Lisicki (back after her career plummeted due to injury) and Li (aged 29). In the space of two days we’ve had three brilliant battles and that’s the best thing about the first week of a grand slam, the unlikely match-ups that spark phenomenal passion and play.

– I have mixed feelings about the roof. On the one hand it means that play can go on so there is always live tennis to watch (rather than Cliff Richard singing, thank God) but I also feel it gives some players an unfair advantage. The big names, who are often the competition favourites, get to play on Centre Court quite frequently so when you put the roof on they get two distinct advantages.
1.) Their match is not interrupted by rain, stays on schedule and they get home and have a rest day whilst their lower ranked, lesser known next round opponent has to hang around hoping the rain stops and may well not get on court until the next day therefore losing their rest day which impacts on their chances in the next round.
2.) Those who play on Centre Court often have the chance to get used to the different playing conditions it creates which again gives them an advantage when they play under the roof against someone who has not had that experience.
Now I know that tennis players should be able to recover from matches quickly and adapt to the conditions etc but I do feel it puts any underdogs at a disadvantage. Maybe I’ll feel differently next week if it rains when I have a Centre Court ticket!

– The scheduling this year seems very odd. I don’t understand why matches are being cancelled at 6.30pm when the weather is fine and there is the prospect of rain the next day; surely it’s best to get as much of a match played as possible. Laura Robson has had both her first and second round match cancelled late in the day which cannot be ideal, especially when you have the prospect of facing Sharapova looming over you! Also, why was Isner / Mahut stuck on Court 3 in the evening? By all accounts there was very little atmosphere becauce a lot of the ticketed seats were empty due to people leaving early and not returning their tickets. In my opinion it should have been on a free-for-all court like 18 or on Court One.

– Roll on next week. In exactly seven days time I will no doubt be lying awake too excited to sleep because of the prospect of seeing the Men’s semi-finals live, I will have already attended at least three days of the tournament and I’ll have a Men’s Final ticket in my possession. I have been so envious of all the people who have crowded into the AELTC over the last four days and my only comfort has been knowing that I’ll be there very soon too – watch out SW19, I’m on my way!

P.S. Following on from last Friday’s discussion around the odds of Isner / Mahut here’s an excellent Kevin Mitchell article from the Guardian that’s worth a read.

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Ever since I was little the Wimbledon fortnight has been one of my favourite times of the year. Because we didn’t have Sky and were internetless up until I was 13, that two week period was the only chance I really had to watch tennis so when it was on I tried to absorb every drop of it. I would rush home from school, book the Finals weekend off work, gobble my meals down at a ludicrous pace – I would do whatever it took to ensure that I missed as little play as possible. To me the last week of June and first week of July always has been, and always will be, a glorious fortnight and this year’s should be the best yet as I will be attending several days of the Championships, including the Men’s Final. So, as I sit writing this on Wimbledon-eve, it would be a drastic understatement to say I’m excited. I will be blogging throughout the tournament so hopefully you will get to share in my excitement. Anyway, on to the job in hand of previewing the Championships.


Men’s

Whilst there could well be several upsets along the way, I think the Men’s side of the tournament is unlikely to provide a surprise Champion because the top 4 are all looking too strong. Whilst it would be nice to think that someone new could make their name at SW19, I imagine that if anyone is going to break the MurRaFeDjoko stranglehold it is likely to be an experienced player.

Nadal
World Number One, French Open Champion, defending champion and unbeaten on the AELTC’s hallowed turf since 2007 – Rafa is not a man you would want to bet against. The Spaniard has not had the ideal run up to Wimbledon as he was knocked out in the quarter finals of Queens but he is so highly skilled and meticulous in his training that I do not think lack of match practice will be an issue for him. If anything his defeat by Tsonga at Queens was probably for the best because he looked exhausted and I got the impression that when he lost the second set to the Frenchman he was slightly relieved at the prospect of a few extra days rest. I never fail to be astounded by the way in which Nadal, a natural clay-courter, is able to adapt with relative ease when playing on grass. He proved in both 2008 and 2010 that he has the game to succeed on the green stuff and in a tournament that could well be rather stop-start due to predicted rain in the first week I think his mental strength will push him ahead of many competitors. As the defending champion he will open play on Centre Court tomorrow and I would not be in the least bit surprised if he closes the tournament in the same place in a fortnight’s time.

Federer
In the same way that I refuse to ever rule Rafa out on clay, I will never not list Roger as a favourite at Wimbledon – he has the ability to be simply sublime on grass. Some players desperately need a good pre-Wimbledon warm-up but the fact that Federer hasn’t played a match since Roland Garros (he withdrew from Halle with a groin injury) will have had virtually no impact on his chances – when you’ve won the Championships six-times you don’t really need to familiarise yourself with grass. Last year I was pretty confident that the Swiss Master wouldn’t make the final but this summer I really think he will be there. Despite clay being his least favourite surface he sailed through the French Open and his performance made clear that, whilst many are writing him off, he still considers himself far from finished. He has begun to adapt his game to keep up with his younger counterparts and shots like his backhand slice are as suited to Wimbledon as strawberries and cream so he has the necessary armoury to take the title. He also has a relatively easy draw with Tsonga in the quarter-finals likely to be his first big test. Federer caused a lot of discussion after the French Open final when he essentially said that when he plays his best game no-one can beat him, a statement that I completely disagree with; it was true five years ago but times have changed. I do believe that he can win Wimbledon but I think he needs to rely on others not playing their best tennis because in my eyes when Nadal, Murray or Djokovic bring their top game they will beat Federer, irrespective of how well he plays.

Djokovic
The World Number Two is often written off on grass but he actually has a pretty impressive Wimbledon record having reached the semis twice and the quarters once. I cannot see him going a step further this year and reaching the finals though. I am very intrigued to see how he bounces back after his French Open semi-final defeat by Federer ended his extraordinary run of 41 matches unbeaten. Since that loss he has only played one other match, an exhibition game against Gilles Simon, so it is hard to judge how he will perform at Wimbledon. He has obviously had the most phenomenal year and one defeat is not going to have changed the fact that he is in great form but I think his winning streak was fuelled in large parts by confidence and now that he is no longer riding that wave there could be a little dip in his game. He will have to play Soderling in the quarter finals which has the potential to be a very close match and if he came through that then he would then most likely Federer in the semis and this could be his undoing. Of all the guys on tour it is the Swiss Master who has the greatest handle on Djokovic’s game and I think this will be amplified at Wimbledon where Federer is so comfortable.

Murray
So many people have laughed at me when I’ve said this but I’m going to put it out there anyway – I think Murray will win. Maybe my judgement is clouded by wanting to be able to say ‘I was there when a Brit won Wimbledon’ or perhaps I’m naively underestimating the other players or it could be that I desperately want him to win to prove all of the doubters wrong but I do truly believe he can do it. Out of the top four he has easily had the best build-up to the tournament, winning at Queens in emphatic style, and he looks in brilliant form. The Scot’s semi-final against Roddick (former Wimbledon finalist and four times Queens Champion) was a lesson in grass court tennis and he played so ferociously that the American joked on court that he should at least ‘keep it social’. If Murray can play like that at Wimbledon I sincerely doubt anyone will be able to stop him. His draw is relatively easy and Roddick in the quarters should be his first real test after which he would probably play Nadal in the semis and whilst this would be a very tough match I think Murray could edge it. Whenever I say that Murray will win everyone brings up the usual ‘choker’ argument saying he lacks bottle but in interviews he seems very relaxed and upbeat and I am certain he has the strength to win.

The best of the rest
Out of everyone else I think the only real threat to the top 4 is Roddick; he has an excellent grass court game,  his serve makes life very difficult for his opponents and if it wasn’t for Federer he’d have three Wimbledon titles to his name. He may be in the twilight years of his career but he has the game and experience to make him a real threat.
I had put some money on the young Canadian Raonic quite a few month’s ago but he has looked a little patchy recently and unfortunately for him he will probably have to play Nadal in the third round so I think it’s unlikely he’ll even make the second week. He’s certainly a prospect for the future.
Irish qualifier Conor Niland is ranked 184 in the world making him the highest ranked male player from the British Isles after Murray. Whilst he’s not going to win the tournament if he can win his first match a potential show court match again Federer awaits him in the second round – I really hope he can get there.

Women’s

I’m not going to write much about the women’s tournament as I am really struggling to know who to tip.

  • The biggest story of the women’s competition is the return of the Williams sisters and a lot of people are tipping either of them to take the title. If one of them does add the title to their trophy cabinet I will be bitterly disappointed, I like them both as players and think they have done wonders for the sport but it will be a damning reflection of the Women’s game if a player can return after a year off, having only been in training for a month, and win won of the biggest tournaments around. They both looked rusty at Eastbourne but they clearly still have brilliant games and the same desire to win as ever before. I question whether Serena’s fitness will hold up for a fortnight and I think their decision to not enter the doubles reflects her lack of fitness but if she manages to get days off in between each match she’ll probably be OK. Out of the two of them Venus looks the stronger but I don’t think she looks infallible and can see her being beaten.
  • I’m really disappointed that Clijsters has had to withdraw as a result of injury as she was one of the players I was most excited about watching. I doubt any of the female competitors are disappointed though as at full fitness I’d have put her as the favourite.
  • I had been tipping Azarenka but she withdrew from Eastbourne with an injury last week. I’m reluctant to read too much into it as Vika retiring from matches is almost as common as Djokovic winning them but I think she would need to be at full fitness to win her first Grand Slam title. I do still think she has a decent chance of the title but she has a very tricky third round opponent in the shape of Hantuchova and Petkovic could cause her some problems further down the line.
  • I refuse to accept that Zvonareva will not win win a Grand Slam title but I really wish she’d hurry up and do it. She is such a consistently good player that it has to happen soon and I think she could go one better than last year when she was runner-up. She has a very tough draw though with Venus a potential fourth round opponent and Kuznetsova and Kvitova both in her quarter.
  • I desperately want Kvitova to be champion and her performance at both the French Open and in the final at Eastbourne have assured me that she will definitely be a dominant force of the tour for many years to come. Her run to the Wimbledon semis last year (lost to eventual champion Serena) surprised quite a few people but I don’t think anyone would be shocked to see her match, or even better, that success this year.
  • Probably my favourite to be lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish on July 3rd is Bartoli, she may not be as noisy or glamorous as many of her rivals but by golly does she play a good game. Fresh off the back of a semi-final in her home slam, she has won Eastbourne beating Azarenka, Stosur and Kvitova in the process. She’ll probably have to see off Serena in the fourth round followed by a likely quarter final against French Open Champion Li Na but I think she’ll take it all in her bouncing stride.
  • Whilst I don’t think either of them will win I hope my favourite German duo of Petkovic and Goerges both do well and at least reach the second week as I really want to see each of them play live.
As I say, I’m going to camp out for all of the second week of the Championships and will try to blog each day I’m down there so I hope you’ll keep reading.

 

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