Greetings and welcome to the 2014 Wimbledon championships and the beginning of 2 weeks of coverage of the year’s most prestigious tennis tournament, courtesy of The Satellite Serve.
Coming to you daily during this year’s tournament, The Satellite Serve is back with predictions, opinions and analysis in relation to all of the action from the All England Club. As usual, the first issue showcases my overall tournament predictions as well as taking a look at the day’s feature matches.
Tournament predictions – Men’s Singles
This year’s men’s tournament feels more wide open than previous years, with a host of players entering any conversation regarding the 2014 men’s champion. Andy Murray is the defending champion and will play under far less pressure than in previous years, however the Scot has struggled in 2014 to recover from back surgery that he underwent late last year.
Rafael Nadal is the world number one and enters the tournament having just claimed a record ninth French Open, yet the Spaniard hasn’t won back-to-back matches at the All England Club since 2011. With his knees still causing him concern, I’m not convinced about Nadal’s chances, especially in the first week of the tournament when the courts are spongy and low-bouncing, forcing the Spaniard to consistently bend down low and test his knees.
Roger Federer enjoyed a fairytale run to the title in 2012, but was ousted early in the first week of last year’s tournament. 2014 has already been a far better year for Federer than 2013 was, and I think the Swiss superstar will go deep in the tournament this year.
2011 Wimbledon winner Novak Djokovic is my pick for the men’s singles, the Serb eager to make amends for his loss to Nadal at the French Open and to open his Grand Slam account for 2014. Djokovic’s agility, returning prowess and all-court game make him the favourite, and I think Murray will still be lacking enough match practice to take down the Serb should the pair meet in the semi-finals as scheduled.
Federer has the best draw of the Big Four, and I would expect him to get through to the second week without a lot of fuss. Nadal, by contrast, has a very difficult quarter and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him exit the tournament early and allow someone such as Richard Gasquet to make a run through to the semi-finals.
Winner: Novak Djokovic
Finalist: Roger Federer
Semi-finalists: Murray, Gasquet
Tournament predictions – Women’s Singles
After suffering a shock second round exit in Paris, Serena Williams vowed that she would train harder so that she wouldn’t lose so easily or early on next time around. The American top seed has had plenty of time to get accustomed to the grass-courts and I think Williams will come out all guns blazing in this tournament.
Maria Sharapova, a recent winner in Paris, is a former Wimbledon champion, but the All England Club hasn’t been such a happy hunting ground for the Russian after her well-documented shoulder problems. The conditions in London are often damp, making for heavy balls and plenty of issues for the troublesome Sharapova shoulder.
I think Williams will make it through to the semi-finals without much of a challenge, but could face her Melbourne Park conqueror, Ana Ivanovic, in the semi-finals. Ivanovic is having a superb 2014 and I think she can make it through a quarter lacking in grass-court experts.
In the bottom half of the draw, former champion Petra Kvitova and former finalist Agnieszka Radwanska stand out as players with the games to shine at the All England Club this year. Kvitova’s swinging leftie serve is very difficult to get a handle on, and the Czech star has plenty of confidence on the courts in London. Radwanska’s crafty retriever game works well on grass, where she can frustrate opponents with her wide array of spins and slices. I think Kvitova and Radwanska will meet in the semi-finals, with Kvitova’s power game seeing her through to a final against Williams.
Winner: Serena Williams
Finalist: Petra Kvitova
Semi-finalists: Ivanovic, Radwanska
Matches of the Day – Day 1
1. Novak Djokovic vs. Andrey Golubev
The top-seeded Serb kicks off his campaign against Kazakh Andrey Golubev, who is an underrated player on the ATP Tour. Golubev has had some good results, including a fighting win over Stan Wawrinka in the Davis Cup earlier this year.
Djokovic will still be disappointed after losing the final in Paris to Nadal, but as a consummate professional the world number 2 should bounce back in style at the All England Club. The seedings committee has given Djokovic the top seeding for this tournament, and rightfully so in my opinion, as I expect him to come out on top at the end of the fortnight. Djokovic in 3.
2. Andy Murray vs. David Goffin
As is the tradition at the All England Club, the defending champion will commence play at this year’s Wimbledon championships. For Andy Murray, it will be a huge honour after his drought-breaking win last year, and no doubt the Scot will be desperate to mount a strong defence of his title.
Belgian David Goffin burst onto the scene in 2012, making the Roland Garros round of 16 as a lucky loser and then making the round of 32 at Wimbledon that same year. However, Goffin hasn’t won a Grand Slam main draw match since 2012, and I can’t see that drought ending in London this year. Murray in 3.
3. Grigor Dimitrov vs. Ryan Harrison
Having been bundled out of the French Open in the first round by big Ivo Karlovic, Grigor Dimitrov responded in the best possible way, capturing his first grass-court title at the Queen’s Club event. Dimitrov has had a fantastic year to date and it was encouraging to see him shrug off his Roland Garros disappointment quickly and effectively.
Harrison has long been touted as one of the rising stars of American tennis but, to be frank, the American still has a long way to go if he is to deliver on his undoubted potential. Look for Harrison to compete strongly but for Dimitrov to ride his current bout of confidence to victory. Dimitrov in 4.
4. Jurgen Melzer vs. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
It’s been a poor season to date for the popular Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but he’s back at the site of one of his favourite tournaments and will be looking to turn around his fortunes in 2014 with a strong showing at Wimbledon.
The leftie Melzer is a tough opponent on grass, equipped with a strong serve that he can slice well and also flatten out with plenty of pace. Tsonga has struggled to recover from last season’s knee problems, but I’ll back the Frenchman to prevail over his Austrian opponent. Tsonga in 4.
5. Tomas Berdych vs. Victor Hanescu
Former finalist Tomas Berdych plays very well on the grass-courts of the All England Club, especially given his lanky frame. The Czech player will be a dangerous opponent in the second week of the tournament, when the courts dry out and are more akin to hard-courts.
Of course, Berdych needs to get through his opening few matches in order to make the second week, and Hanescu won’t be a pushover. The Romanian veteran, a former top 30 player, is nearing the end of his career and possesses a classic all-court game. That said, Berdych should have too much power in this one. Berdych in 3.
Put your house on: Agnieszka Radwanska should be on and off the court in less than an hour. The former finalist should be far too good for Romania’s Andreea Mitu.
Upset alert: Aussie qualifier Sam Groth has a huge serve and could trouble Alexandr Dolgopolov, whilst Yanina Wickmayer might upset Sam Stosur, for whom Wimbledon has never been a happy hunting ground. I also think Maria Kirilenko is a dangerous floater and could get the better of Sloane Stephens.
Likely to go the distance: The clash between Dustin Brown, who upset Nadal in Halle, and former semi-finalist Marcos Baghdatis should be a long and enjoyable feast of shotmaking and all-court tennis.
That’s it for today. Enjoy the tennis and I’ll be back with another serve tomorrow. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter: @satelliteserve.