Wimbledon Picks -- The men
After a two-year hiatus bunking in the city, I’m back staying in Wimbledon village this year and I must say it’s fun to be back in the thick of it, especially the first few days of the tournament. I saw the odd player here and there during my run yesterday and bumped into Robin Soderling’s coach, Magnus Norman, buying some provisions. It’s pleasant for a change to chat with folks in a casual, real-life environment as opposed to jostling to get a comment from them in the players lounge after wins and losses.
So here we go with my last-minute predictions -- with the women to follow later.
So much is going for Federer: He’s finally conquered Paris; he’s on the surface where he has the biggest advantage against the rest of the field; he's motivated to tie Pete Sampras' major mark; he is in essence playing with house money after bagging a career Slam earlier this month; and of course, there is no Nadal to contend with. And yet, I’m just not feeling it for the Swiss Maestro. It's time to crown King Murray, despite his tender 22 years.
First, though, to the top half of the draw. As much as it would be nice for the hardworking American, Andy Roddick, to at least reach the final and perhaps come away with a second major, I think he matches up too poorly with Murray. I expect a fired-up Roddick to blast his way to the semifinals. Obstacles on the way include former Wimbledon junior champ Jurgen Melzer and the winner of Nikolay Davydenko and Tomas Berdych in the fourth round. If rising Juan Martin Del Potro of Argentina reached the last eight – his grass court game is unproven – Roddick’s experience and drive will prevail.
Scot Murray has his own set of challenges in the bottom quarter, namely Stan Wawrinka or last year’s semifinalist Marat Safin (third round) followed by explosive Fernando Gonzalez or Gilles Simon in the quarterfinals. But Murray is a gamer on grass, and despite the ridiculous pressure on him to win here, he will use his guts and shotmaking repertoire to beat back the challenges and meet Roddick in the semifinals. Although Roddick has the bigger game, Murray is able to get the American's serve back and do damage with his own improving delivery. Once the ball is in play, Murray has a keen advantage, and he will use it to advance to his second Grand Slam final.
The highest seed in the top quarter of the bottom half is Novak Djokovic. The Serb has lost some of his swagger this year, and I'm picking a dark horse from this section: Either Marin Cilic or Tommy Haas. The long and powerful Cilic has a great game for grass, and the German veteran has been playing top-15 tennis of late. The winner of their third round clash will move on to take out James Blake and then Djokovic. I'm leaning towards Cilic for a breakout tournament.
Federer is in the toughest section of the draw, with streaky Philippe Kohlschreiber, big lefty Feliciano Lopez, French Open finalist Robin Soderling and the always-dangerous Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He could face another lefty, Fernando Verdasco, in the quarterfinals. It would not shock me if Federer went down to one of these players, especially if they get hot, but the Swiss No. 2 will be too experienced and determined to lose early on grass and will make it to the last four.
He will crush his opponent there --- either Cilic or Haas – and look primed for a sixth Wimbledon and third major in the 10 months. But Murray will have taken some lessons from his U.S. Open loss to Federer, and with a soccer-like backing from the home crowd the Scot will bring home Britain’s first major by a man in 73 years.