Wimbledon Picks

Wimbledon Predictions

Wimbledon appears slightly more open to me than in recent years on both the men’s and women’s sides. I would not be surprised if the tournament generates some unexpected results. The question is will anybody notice with most eyes on the World Cup? As usual, here are my picks and a quick look at how I see the draw unfolding.

Men's Singles:

Winner: Federer

Finalist: Nadal

It’s hard to bet against a six-time champion who hasn’t gone home before the finals since 2002. Roger Federer is always more dangerous on grass than any other surface, and the gap with his peers is a bit wider here than anywhere else. Wimbledon is the place he most reveres, the place that started his amazing haul of 16 majors. Still, there is trouble in the reign of Federer, who has played spotty tennis the last five months (I know, haven’t we doubted him before?). Except for his Australian Open title – his lone win in 2010 – he has been downright pedestrian this season. Still, I see him stepping it up again in London – and frankly, if he doesn’t turn it up a notch he could fall short of an eighth straight final at the All-England Club.

On to the draw. Federer is the top seed due to the Wimbledon seeding formula, though he ceded the top ranking to Rafael Nadal at the French Open. It should be pretty smooth sailing for the Swiss maestro until a possible third-round contest against a lefty -- either Spaniard Feliciano Lopez or Roland Garros semifinalist Jurgen Melzer. Federer should survive. I like big-swatting Tomas Berdych to advance against Federer in the quarterfinals, perhaps over No. 7 seed Nikolay Davydenko who is dangerous on any surface but is just coming back from a wrist injury. The No. 13 seeded Czech is unpredictable but he has the game for grass – punishing serve, flat strokes, first-strike capability off both wings. He should also be confident after his semifinal showing in Paris. He will push Federer, but the Swiss will have too many tricks up his sleeve and Berdych can be shaky in important matches.

The second quadrant is filled with talent – No. 3 Novak Djokovic, No. 12 Marin Cilic, No. 20 Gael Monfils, former champ Lleyton Hewitt, resurgent Ivan Ljubicic and of course, last year’s finalist Andy Roddick. Djokovic, despite his high ranking, has been a bit of a mystery this year, with disappointing results in the majors. He has grass court cred, including a semifinal showings in London three years ago, and he’s due to go deep in the second week at a Slam. He could have a tough second rounder versus Taylor Dent, but should be fairly safe until a tough fourth round against resurgent 2002 champ Hewitt, who topped Federer to win Halle last week. The Serb will prevail.

Fifth seed Roddick has a brutal draw, including a second round against Eastbourne winner Michael Llodra of France, and a fourth round against either Cilic, Ljubicic or Queens finalist Mardy Fish. I’m taking Cilic to advance. Roddick will have plenty of motivation to avenge his five-set loss to the Croat in Australia, but he will have to serve big to do it. He will, bombing Cilic and then riding that momentum past Djokovic in the last eight to meet Federer in the semifinals. As much as I’d like to see Roddick finally go on to win Wimbledon, by the time he reaches Federer he will be spent and unable to summon his best, which is what he needs to beat the Swiss on grass.

The top of the bottom half features perennial British hope Andy Murray, who has the easiest draw of the top four seeds. Like Djokovic, No. 4 Murray hasn’t lived up to his ranking, especially since reaching the final in Melbourne. His season is a string of perplexing results. Heading into 2010, the Scot seemed the most likely newcomer to snag a Slam, but now he needs a big result to stay in the conversation. It’s hard to say if last year’s semifinalist will surge or melt under the usual British scrutiny, but he has handled it well in years past. His toughest resistance will be “Suddenly” Sam Querrey in the fourth round, and I’m going out on an American limb and picking Querrey to upset Murray (let’s hope England isn’t out of the World Cup by then, or the desperate soul-searching will reach intolerable levels). I like No. 10 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to come out of his section over the higher seeded No. 8 Fernando Verdasco, who has never done much on grass. Tsonga, on the other hand, has a perfect game for turf and is ripe for a second week appearance. In the quarterfinals, Querrey will play the best match of his young career against the Frenchman and reach his first Grand Slam semifinal.
The bottom quarter is all about No. 2 seed Nadal. It won’t be an easy path for the Spaniard, who won here in 2008 and could not defend his title due to knee tendinitis in ‘09. Nadal has young Japanese Kei Nishikori in the first round and then could face the likes of veteran James Blake, dangerous John Isner and Swede Robin Soderling, who he beat in the Roland Garros final. I’ll take Nadal over all of them, including his no-love-lost opponent Soderling in the quarterfinals (remember their nasty rain-delayed contest here a few years back?). Nadal, whose knees will hold up well on the soft grass, will have too much big-match experience for Querrey and reach his fourth consecutive final (not including 2008 when he didn’t play). 

In the final, Nadal will be hungry to back up his reclaiming of the top ranking, but Federer, in perhaps his last big surge, will come up with the goods and tie Pete Sampras’ Open era record of seven Wimbledons (and extend his own major record to 17).

Some juicy first-round matches: Cilic vs. Florian Mayer; Fish vs. Bernard Tomic; Tsonga vs. Robert Kendrick; Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut.

Women's Singles:

Winner: Serena

Finalist: Henin

Serena has no equal on any surface other than clay when she’s healthy and hungry. The defending champ should be the player to beat after another disappointing Roland Garros. It won’t be a cakewalk. Serena’s quarter in the top half includes a likely date with 2004 champ Maria Sharapova, which should be a showstopper. I like last year’s semifinalist Li Na to meet Serena in the last eight from a section that features slumping Svetlana Kuznetsova and No. 7 seed Aggie Radwanska. Serena will blow by Li, who can’t match her firepower. The bottom quarter is anyone’s guess. The top seed, No. 3 Caroline Wozniacki, is still a question mark with her bum ankle. Aravane Rezai, Jie Zheng and Sam Stosur are all capable of making the quarterfinals – and just as easily bowing out in the second round. I’m going with the hot Stosur, who showed in Paris she can be a world-beater. But Serena on grass? Not this time.

The top section of the bottom half is all about Belgium. Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Yanina Wickmayer are all in this section, though No. 4 Jelena Jankovic is the highest seed. No. 8 Clijsters and No. 17 Henin should face off in the fourth round, one of the juiciest matchups of the tournament. I like two-time Wimbledon finalist Henin to advance to the quarterfinals, where she will meet Jankovic. Henin will show the Serb that good offense beats good defense on grass.

Venus Williams always comes alive on grass, and this year should be no different. She will cruise to the last eight and meet former finalist Marion Bartoli, whose flat strokes can cause havoc on grass. Bartoli will have a tough test against French Open champ Francesca Schiavone in the fourth round, but will prevail only to be dusted by Venus. In the semis, Henin’s willingness to attack the net at key moments will be the key, and she will reach her third Wimbledon final over five-time champ Venus. In a repeat of the Australian Open final, Serena will be pushed to three sets but will come up with the big serves – and fighting spirit – for a fourth Wimbledon and 13th major.

First-round match-ups worth checking out: Serena vs. Larcher de Brito, A.K.A. the “vuvuzela” special; Kuznetsova vs. Amanmuradova; Azarenka vs. Lucic; Wickmayer vs. Riske.


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