Wimbledon: A review of the gentlemen’s draw

18 Jun

Considering the all-court brilliance of the four top ranked tennis players, it seems unlikely that it won’t be these four men to contest the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and to a lesser degree Andy Murray have an absolute chokehold on the sport at the moment, not that anyone is complaining about what has lately frequently been referred to as the “golden era” of men’s tennis. As a result of their dominance, any draw discussion inevitably focuses almost exclusively on each of these men’s’ possible routes through the draw. Wimbledon 2011 is no exception.

Nadal’s Quarter:

Nadal faces few players capable of upsetting him in the early rounds. According to the seeding’s he will play the hard-hitting up-and-comer of tennis, Milos Raonic in the third round. This is likely to be Nadal’s first relatively competitive match. Raonic, who has been having a break out year, recently reached the quarter finals at the grass event in Halle. In order to face Nadal he will likely have to get through a tricky encounter against Tommy Haas in the second round. In the fourth round, Nadal’s opponent looks to be Juan Martin del Potro, 2009 winner of the US Open. Despite being the only man to ever beat both Federer and Nadal at a grand slam event, Del Potro’s lack of success at Wimbledon in the past contrasted by Nadal’s high level of proficiency on the surface seems to indicate Nadal being a fairly easy winner.

Defending champion, Rafael Nadal seen here lining up a serve at the recent French Open, will likely have to take on Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych in order to make the semi-final at Wimbledon. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)
 Top ranked American, Mardy Fish, ought to play defending finalist, Tomas Berdych for a spot in the quarter-final opposite Nadal. Considering his grass court pedigree, Berdych is the favourite to progress. However his recent lack of form indicates that this encounter will likely be closer than it ought to be and could even end in a favourable result for the American. The winner should by all accounts go on to face Nadal in the quarter-final of this section. If Fish is the winner, odds are Nadal will wipe the floor with him as he has in all previous encounters. If Berdych manages to play himself into form during the course of Wimbledon, a replay of last year’s final could be on the cards. In all likelihood Nadal will defeat Berdych, who has rarely lived up to the talent he displayed as prodigious tennis player. Hopefully he will be able to make the match a livelier affair, in contrast with their somewhat disappointing Wimbledon final in 2010.

Murray’s Quarter:

As is befitting of the top British tennis player, Andy Murray will have the attention and expectation of a nation to contend with during the run of the tournament. He doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest bit, continuing to play and win in his “sulking and unsmiling” manner which has generated plenty of negative press for the fourth ranked player in the world in his native country. His draw seems fairly straightforward with a few relatively unknowns his opponents in the first two rounds of the Championship. In the round of 32 he could face Croat, Marin Cilic. While Cilic, with his career high-ranking of nine, is always a threat, I’d distinctly favour the UK man to progress. He is also likely to win against either  Stanislas Wawrinka or Richard Gasquet who could potentially provide Murray with a contest for spot in the quarter-finals. Both these men play with a single-handed backhand, and their 3rd round encounter should be a high quality tennis match.  Should Gasquet be the one to go on and face Murray, he is capable of providing the British a few nervous moments. The last two matches contested between Murray and Gasquet have gone to five sets and the Frenchman is sure to revel in a similar encounter, while the Scot will be hoping to win as easily as his superior ranking indicates he ought to.

In the other section of the Murray quarter of the draw, Andy Roddick looms large. He is one of the better players on grass never to have won Wimbledon. Feliciano Lopez, an unseeded Spanish player with admirable grass court prowess floats in this part of the draw and could potentially face Roddick in the third round. According to the seeding’s Roddick will face Gael Monfils, the outgoing Frenchman in the fourth round. Despite these fairly tough encounters which are due to unfold, Roddick is an immense player to face, particularly on grass. He really ought to have won the title in 2009. It is my hope and belief that he will live up to his seeding and at the very least reach the quarter-finals here at Wimbledon

The quarter-final matchup between the home favourite, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick will hopefully be more closely contested than their recent Queen’s Club semi-final which Murray won in resounding fashion. I suspect Roddick’s confidence at Wimbledon combined with a sure improvement in his match fitness, will make this a good encounter. The result is likely to be on the big serving man’s racquet and will depend on his form coming into the match.

Federer’s Quarter:

In light of the slightly one-sided final between Tomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal, John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut was probably the memorable match of Wimbledon 2010. It was an excellent showcase of tennis which made casual tennis watchers aware of the fact that majors stretch a fortnight, and that 128 players compete – Federer vs. Nadal is not the only match of a championship. In an absolutely brilliant display of the physical strength and endurance combined with mental steel which tennis asks of its players, these men played a first round match at Wimbledon worthy of Federer-Nadal and Borg-McEnroe, lasting in excess of 11 hours. And the stand out match of the Wimbledon 2011 first round draws? Isner-Mahut. The two men, who have become friends since last year’s match, will be playing each other on the hallowed grass once again, hopefully on Centre Court as they deserve. While this match is likely to have a big following, it is unlikely to seriously affect the outcome of this section of the draw in which Federer is the top seed.

If the French Open is any indication, Federer seems to be playing some fine tennis. The Swiss man has a few interesting match ups pending, including playing David Nalbandian, a former Wimbledon finalist in the 3rd round. Nalbandian has been somewhat of a bogey man to Federer in the past, and while he is unlikely to greatly challenge Federer for a win, I do think Federer’s performance against the Argentine will be telling. If Federer struggles it could mean that his run at the Championships will be abbreviated one, contrarily a good performance from the Swiss against Nalbandian should be seen as a clear mark that his form is that of a finalist or even the eventual winner. The probable Federer-Tsonga quarter-final, ought to be a good display of tennis, with both players capable of producing a high number of winners. While Tsonga’s recent final run at the Queen’s Club tournament indicates that he’ll be able to keep proceedings competitive, Federer should be the victor.

Djokovic’s Quarter:

Other than his loss to Federer at the French Open a few weeks ago, Djokovic has been the form man in tennis this year. His 43-match winning streak, which encompassed almost six months of tennis, has to be one the great feats achieved in the sport, and certainly makes him a title contender for Wimbledon. Few troublesome players are in his section for the early rounds. Marcos Baghdatis and Viktor Troicki are likely 3rd and 4th round opponents. If Djokovic’s form is anywhere near where it has been for the rest of the year, he should easily progress against both the former Wimbledon semi-finalist and his country man. According to the seeding’s Robin Soderling should be the other quarter finalist in this section. His draw is fairly tough, however and he’ll be facing German Philipp Petzschner, a finalist at Halle, in the first round, followed by a likely encounter against former Wimbledon champion, Lleyton Hewitt in the second. Should he progress to the fourth round, rankings dictate he defeat Jurgen Melzer, a combative Austrian for an opportunity to challenge Djokovic in the quarter-final.

Lleyton Hewitt, seen here playing at the Halle Open, is a former winner at Wimbledon who’ll be looking to recapture the form  that led him to his glory days when he takes on Novak Djokovic in the second round. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

If this is a competitive match, it’ll indicate that Soderling has rediscovered his form of a few years ago, and probably that Djokovic has lost his. In this case, Soderling is the likely winner; I don’t however think that Djokovic’s form will have dropped significantly. As such, he should progress to the semis with greater ease than his top three opponents for the title.

Semi-final 1: Nadal vs. (Roddick vs. Murray)

While Nadal was unconvincing in the first few rounds at the French Open, he played himself into form which he is likely to retain at Wimbledon. Save for Berdych being in the form of his life, which is a tad unlikely, Nadal should be man to progress from his quarter of the draw. On the opposite side of the net in the semi, he will almost certainly face one of the Andy’s. While the safe bet is Murray, I risk the wrath of a very passionate nation by favouring Roddick to progress at about 50.5 to 49.5. Make no mistake, Murray has every opportunity to win at Wimbledon, he has the tennis game, he has the (sometimes ill) temperament, and he certainly has the ability to come out on the big stage and beat players of the world number one’s calibre. Roddick’s confidence and pure will when playing at Wimbledon could however trump Murray’s superior form; although I don’t think that’ll be enough against Nadal. Should Murray come through against Roddick, I think he will provide Nadal with a far sterner test, and could even be the victor in that match up.

Semi-final 2: Federer vs. Djokovic

Federer was nothing short of brilliant during the French Open. One could argue that he was more deserved of the title than the man who defeated him in the final by virtue of what is at the least, a very unlucky and unfortunate match up of a lefty forehand and a one-handed backhand on clay for the Swiss. The point being, the 16-grand slam winner has some form to speak of at the moment and should progress to the semi’s relatively unhindered, as should his likely opponent in the semi-final, Djokovic. This should – like their French semi, which was undoubtedly the match of the tournament and possibly the year – be a great display of tennis, and a competitive encounter. While Djokovic will have an opportunity to win, I think he has not yet reached the level of maturity required to beat an inform Federer at Wimbledon. Historically that has been a distinction has only ever achieved by Nadal.

Final: Nadal vs. Federer

I pick these two men with great hesitance and doubt. While I slightly favour Federer over Djokovic if his clay court form carries over, I must admit to taking a gamble when picking Nadal. Roddick is unlikely to make the final; his ability to beat both Murray and Nadal is questionable. Should he beat Murray, which he could, he will likely lose to Nadal making Nadal the finalist. Should Murray progress against Roddick, his momentum, and great form illustrated by his win at Queen’s Club could potentially carry him to a win over Nadal and his first Wimbledon final. The permutations involved make it fairly close to impossible to pick a finalist from this side of the draw. As a result, going with the house seems closest to a wise decision, and as such I pick Nadal to be a finalist and set up a fourth Wimbledon final against Federer.

Pictured here at the French Open, Roger Federer will be looking to add to his six Wimbledon titles, to equal Pete Sampras' record seven. Credit: Dana Anders (DANA)

Winner: Federer

Nadal’s form was somewhat off at the French Open. This in addition to the fact that Federer would have in all likelihood beaten Djokovic to make the finals, meaning his form confidence is high, leads to Federer being the title favourite for the grass court tennis major ahead of world number one, Nadal. All-in-all several great tennis matches await us over the next few weeks.

Vote for who you think will reach the semi-finals. You can vote for four players.

Who do you think will win the Wimbledon men’s title this year? Vote for your pick below.

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2 Responses to “Wimbledon: A review of the gentlemen’s draw”

  1. The Fan Child June 20, 2011 at 4:03 AM #

    Love Murray’s game on grass. Also think Tsonga can be great on the surface, but he usually sabotages himself. Nobody thinks the big 4 will give up any ground at Wimbledon but I think somebody from outside will crack the code. Not sure who, not sure how, just feeling something funny in that regard.

  2. vibhu batra June 26, 2011 at 10:44 AM #

    That was indeed a very nice post.. I reckon federer will win his 7th Wimbedon this time …Thou, again, rafa is a big force !!

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