by: Tom Cochrane
Greetings and welcome to coverage of this year’s Wimbledon championships at the All England Club, courtesy of The Satellite Serve. I’ll be bringing you daily analyses, forecasts and reviews for the next fortnight. Set out below are my predictions for the men’s and women’s singles championships.
His 27 match Grand Slam winning streak snapped by Rafael Nadal in the French Open final a fortnight ago, Novak Djokovic enters the 2012 Wimbledon championships looking to remind the tennis world that he is the best player on the ATP Tour at present. Djokovic was a bit unlucky in the French Open final, coming back strongly on Sunday night before play was halted in the fourth set. But his creditable performance against Nadal on the Spaniard’s favourite surface will give the top seed plenty of confidence should the pair meet in a rematch of last year’s Wimbledon final.
Djokovic has some tricky opponents lurking in the early rounds. First up, he faces former world number one Juan Carlos Ferrero, with later contests against young talent Ryan Harrison and Czech veteran Radek Stepanek on the cards. Still, the Serb should work his way into a quarter-final against Tomas Berdych or Richard Gasquet without too much trouble. Berdych did upset Djokovic at Wimbledon in 2010, but I can’t see that happening this year.
Djokovic’s likely semi-final opponent is Roger Federer, who has a pretty smooth run through to the quarter-finals. Serve-and-volleyer Michael Llodra is likely to be Federer’s most difficult early round opponent, with the Swiss star most probably coming up against big-serving John Isner or Serb Janko Tipsarevic in the quarter-finals. Isner beat Federer on clay earlier this year, and has the serve to take down anyone, but on the big stage I think Federer’s experience will enable him to prevail if the pair square off.
In the bottom half of the draw, Rafael Nadal has a relatively easy passage through to the round of 8, where the second seed and fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are scheduled to clash. Bernard Tomic, Tommy Haas, Feliciano Lopez and Lleyton Hewitt are all dangerous floaters in this quarter of the draw, but I’m predicting that the Nadal-Tsonga quarter-final will take place and that the Spaniard will have too much class for his French opponent.
Andy Murray has the toughest draw out of the Big 4, the Scot facing Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko in the opening round. Big servers Kevin Anderson and Milos Raonic, top 10 players Juan Del Potro and David Ferrer, 3-time finalist Andy Roddick and Japan’s Kei Nishikori have all been drawn in Murray’s quarter. I can see Raonic or Del Potro making a run through to the quarters or semi-finals, but I have to back Murray to make the semi-finals on the back of his impeccable Grand Slam form in the last 12 months.
Can Federer and Murray alter the recent trend of Grand Slam finals and take down Djokovic and Nadal respectively? I think Federer has the better chance. Despite losing in straight sets to the Serb in Paris, Federer had plenty of opportunities, and knows he has a game which troubles Djokovic. Murray, on the other hand, always has to endure huge amounts of pressure in London and has struggled to challenge Nadal on grass in the past.
To my mind, it will be another Nadal – Djokovic major final, but unlike Paris, I think the world number one will prevail. Djokovic moves brilliantly on grass, has improved his defensive game immensely in the past 18 months, and can draw on his victory here last year. Nadal’s chances have improved following his win in Paris, but on the faster grass surface I think Djokovic will control proceedings should the pair meet in the final.
Champion: Novak Djokovic
Finalist: Rafael Nadal
Semi-finalists: Roger Federer, Andy Murray
Outside chances: Tsonga, Del Potro, Isner, Raonic
Having completed a career Grand Slam and regained the world number one ranking in Paris, Maria Sharapova heads to the All England Club full of confidence and as the favourite for the women’s title. The Russian has a difficult quarter of the draw to navigate, with Pironkova, Kerber, Clijsters, Zvonareva and Lisicki all prominent names in the top quarter of the draw.
The second quarter of the draw is wide open. Agnieszka Radwanksa is the highest seed in the quarter, but faces a potential second round clash with 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams. Radwanska beat Williams in Paris, but I suspect Williams will gain revenge in London. Sam Stosur is scheduled to reach the quarters, but the Aussie has a poor record at Wimbledon, and it may be that her hard-hitting compatriot Jarmila Gajdosova steals her place in the final 8.
In the bottom half of the draw, I’m predicting Victoria Azarenka to overcome the threats posed by Bartoli, Wozniacki and Ivanovic, among others, and move through to the semi-finals of the tournament. Her opponent there is likely to be either defending champion Petra Kvitova or sixth seed Serena Williams. 13-time major champion Williams has had 2 poor Grand Slam defeats in Melbourne and Paris bookend a dominant stretch of form, so it’s hard to know what to expect from the veteran. I suspect the first round exit in Paris will still be rankling Williams, and Kvitova is likely to feel the full extent of Williams’ wrath.
I predict Sharapova will have enough artillery to overcome Venus Williams in the semi-finals, but will struggle to back that up with a win over Serena Williams in the final. For Serena, it’s likely to be a redemption of sorts, after the Melbourne debacle and the Paris disaster, and would represent her fourteenth Grand Slam singles title.
Champion: Serena Williams
Finalist: Maria Sharapova
Semi-finalists: Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka
Outside chances: Kim Clijsters, Petra Kvitova, Marion Bartoli
That’s it for today. I’ll be back with another serve featuring my Day 1 tips and predictions tomorrow.