If you are a tennis fan you’ve got to be pumped up about the upcoming Wimbledon Championships.
After a scintillating French Open, one where Roger Federer could have, maybe should have, beaten Rafael Nadal for his 17th Grand Slam title, it’s a crap shoot as to who will win the most coveted tennis title of them all at the All-England Club in London three weeks hence.
Fed blew his chance to upset Rafa on the red clay in Paris by somehow managing to give away the first set after he had the Spaniard on the heels of his Nikes the entire way. He wins that set and he puts some serious doubts in Rafa’s mind. As it played out, winning the first set would have given Roger a two to one lead in sets after three with the pressure squarely on Nadal. The great lefthander won the fourth set easily and may have beaten Roger anyway. But I would have liked to see what would have transpired had not Fed squandered his first set opportunity.
Those who thought Fed was washed up were clearly wrong, as his beautiful play and victory over the trendy pick Novak Djokovic in the semis at Roland Garros proved. He looked in superb physical condition and should be favored at Wimbledon, where he has dominated like few others on the slick grass. Except for perhaps losing a quarter of a step to Father Time, Fed’s game is as sharp as ever. He has learned to move in and put some pressure on Rafa’s second serve, his forehand is still stunning and his backhand has improved, especially when he has to go up high to hit Nadal’s ridiculous crosscourt topspin forehands. And, Roger’s serve is better at 29 than it was five years ago. Think about that.
Federer has been the second best clay court player in the world for the past five or six years. If it wasn’t for Rafael Nadal, the Swiss star would have another three or four Majors under his belt. But, of course, if it wasn’t for Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi would have won 14 or 15 Grand Slam titles….and on and on.
Nadal was just upset by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the Queen’s Club tournament in London on grass, so you’ve got to wonder if Rafa is wearing out. He played a ton of matches during the clay court season and the exertion he puts himself through when he plays has to take a toll on his body, strong though it may be. I don’t see Rafa winning Wimbledon. In fact, he is a possible candidate for an early or middle round upset.
Djokovic will be a serious contender at Wimbledon. Perhaps “The Streak” got to him against Federer. Maybe his head got in the way of his talent like it used to. Or maybe Fed is just better than he is on clay. Whatever the case, The Joker’s seeming invincibility this year was busted in the French Open semifinals and he’s got to regroup quickly if he wants to win Wimbledon. With his defensive skills and all-around game, he can certainly triumph there but it won’t be easy.
Maybe this is the year local hero Andy Murray finally gets it done. Robin Soderling will be a pest, as he always is at the Grand Slam events. Players like David Ferar, Tsonga and, yes, Andy Roddick will be in the mix to get into the quarterfinals. Roddick looks like he has rediscovered his form, which seemingly left him early this year. And he loves Wimbledon, as his record there indicates.
So, let’s get through these warm-up events and get on with the best tennis event of the year, Wimbledon. Is it strawberries with cream and champagne time yet?