The whites, the grass courts, the unapologetic upper-class air to the whole event: there’s nothing quite like Wimbledon.
This year’s tournament is largely being viewed as a two-horse race, with the two greats of the modern era dominating the betting markets. Both players’ most recent memories of Centre Court are of lifting the title. Roger Federer is of course the defending champion having defeated Andy Roddick in last year’s epic final. Rafael Nadal missed out through injury last year on the chance to defend the crown he so brilliantly snatched from Federer in the 2008 final, a match that is widely considered to be the greatest tennis match of the last quarter century.
So there are plenty of interesting questions to be answered over the course of the next fortnight.
Will these two legends of the game meet in their eighth Grand Slam final? The seven they have contested thus far is already a record.
If they do meet, who will prevail? Nadal leads their overall head-to-head record 14-7, though Federer leads the series 2-1 on grass courts.
Who is most likely to upset either player before the final? Andy Murray is considered the most likely, and the draw has been favourable to Scotland’s great hope.
Will the new roof see more action than it did last year? A hope of mine is that they will introduce an evening session under lights in future years, as is currently done in Flushing Meadows, Melbourne Park and some of the Masters Series events.
There is no real reason to believe that there will be anything other than a Federer-Nadal final this year. The form of three of the players that would be considered most likely to upset them – Murray, Roddick and Novak Djokovic – has been quite patchy this year. All three lost to relatively weak opposition at the traditional warm up event at Queen’s. Other than Murray’s run to the Australian Open final back in Janurary, none of the three have achieved anything of note this season. It’s hard to see any of them finding the level of tennis that would be needed to defeat either of the top two. Twice Fench Open finalist Robin Soderling is another obvious danger. He is due to meet Nadal, his conqueror at Roland Garros this year, in the quarter final. This would undoubtedly be a tricky tie for the Spaniard, as the quality of Soderling’s play in Paris was stunning at times, particularly during his victory over Federer. However, the question remains open as to whether he will be able to reproduce that form on a grass court.
Other possible contenders must include Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Querrey, winners of the two grass court warm-up events at Halle and Queen’s respectively. Hewitt’s victory was particularly impressive, given his defeat of Federer in the final. However while Querrey might have the game to challenge Murray in a potential fourth round clash at Wimbledon, it is difficult to see either of them defeating either of the top two over five sets. One other player capable of causing an upset is Marin Cilic, who would be due to meet Federer in the semi-final if he comes out of a tough looking quarter of the draw that also includes Djokovic, Hewitt and Roddick. Cilic is a tall 21-year-old whose game looks like it should be suited to grass. His Grand Slam form is also quite decent. He defeated Murray on his way to the quarter final in New York last year, where he seriously troubled eventual champion Juan Martin del Potro (who it should be noted will miss Wimbledon and most of the rest of the 2010 season with a wrist injury). He reversed this result in the fourth round of the Australian Open this year, before defeating Roddick to reach the semis, where he lost in four to Murray.
So I predict that Federer, Murray and Nadal will come out of their quarters of the draw. Tomas Berdych looks to be the greatest danger to Federer on his side of the draw. My bet of the tournament is Cilic to win his quarter. This is available at 11/2 on Paddy Powers. The more adventurous may be tempted to back him for outright victory in the tournament, where he is currently available at 130 on Betfair.
In any case, I see nothing other than a Federer-Nadal final. It is very difficult to predict who would win such a final at this stage. Both will have to improve on their showings in the warm-up events, and the early rounds will give a better indication of where their respective grass court games are at. However, it would be foolish to completely ignore Nadal’s imperious clay court form, where he became the first player in history to win all four major clay court events of the season. So for now, Nadal gets my tentative vote.
SW19 will also host doubles and boys events over the next fortnight. There will also be some novelty events involving women.