Wimbledon Preview 2012
By Mike McIntyre
The world's most prestigious tennis tournament is set to begin at Wimbledon and with the announcement of the draw we can now debate the likelihood of Novak Djokovic repeating as champion, although some might say it is not much of a debate!
The world number one has not played any events on grass in the two week's following the French Open, so it will be interesting to see how he transitions from the clay of Roland Garros. Keep in mind however that the same preparations certainly did not hinder him a year ago in capturing his first Wimbledon crown.
In the top quarter of the draw, Djokovic opens against veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero. Ferrero has the experience to know that anything can happen, but against Djokovic he will need to play one of the best matches of his career in order to make it competitive. While we remember Ferrero for winning the French Open in 2003, he has had success on grass with two quarter-final appearances here before. At the age of 32 and with a losing record in 2012, look for Djokovic to advance in straight sets.
Djokovic's next few rounds should provide few surprises as potential opponents include the inexperienced (Ryan Harrison), the over-experienced (James Blake and Radek Stepanek) and those with experience better suited for red clay (Juan Ignacio Chela and Juan Monaco). In other words, don't expect the returning champ to bow-out early.
Players in the top quarter with a legitimate chance to face Djokovic in the final eight include Richard Gasquet, Philipp Petzschner and Tomas Berdych, the sixth seed.
Petzschner could be a darkhorse as he does play well on grass as evidenced by his appearance in the finals of s-Hertogenbosch after entering as a mere qualifier. Berdych is always a threat regardless of the surface and made his one and only Grand Slam final in 2010 here at Wimbledon where he lost to Nadal in straight sets.
Quarter One Pick: Djokovic d. Gasquet
In the second quarter, we find Roger Federer hoping to pick-up his seventh Wimbledon title and end a drought of two and a half years without hoisting a Grand Slam trophy. Still, Federer is always a huge threat and is eagerly anticipating a return to the finals at the All-England Club. He opens against sacrificial lamb Albert Ramos of Spain who will be playing in his first-ever main draw here.
Federer will likely face serve and volley expert Michael Llodra in the second round which would be entertaining for fans to watch, but likely not the type of player that Federer would like to face especially so early in the draw.
Marathon men John Isner and Nicholas Mahut could meet in this portion of the draw with a potential second round match that will clearly not live up to the hype that was set two years ago. Isner won that match in a gruelling 11 hours, 5 minutes by the unbelievable score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(3), 70-68. Isner could definitely do some damage in this section, helped by his monstrous serve.
One terrific first round match pits David Nalbandian against 8th seed Janko Tipsarevic. I'd call this one the upset special of the opening round, given Nalbandian's strong history on grass. Hopefully he can keep his feet under control after his default from Queen's a week ago in the final against Marin Cilic. Line judges beware!
Quarter Two Pick: Federer d. Isner
In the third quarter, seventh seeded David Ferrer is capable of making life miserable for just about any opponent he faces. With Ferrer the surface of play is irrelevant because he is willing to do just about anything to win a tennis match. He will not quit - ever. He also comes off a big win in the Netherlands against Petzschner and will be carrying that momentum in with him. Ferrer could have a huge match against Andy Roddick in the third round and with both coming off tournament wins you'd really have to flip a coin in this one. The winner will likely see Juan Martin Del Potro in the fourth round in another hard to pick match that will captivate audiences.
The bottom-half of this draw is stacked with big names and none bigger than fourth seed Andy Murray. Murray is always under such enormous pressure to perform in the UK but this year he is really going to be hard-pressed to deliver. He opens with a former top-ten player in Nikolay Davydenko, would potentially face Ivo Karlovic in round two and then could stack-up against Marcos Baghdatis before playing either Milos Raonic or Marin Cilic. Good luck Andy boy. Actually, good luck to whoever comes out of this quadrant because they are going to be absolutely drained from the quality of opponents they could have to face.
Quarter Three Pick: Ferrer d. Raonic
In the final section of the draw, Rafael Nadal will try to go for the French Open/Wimbledon back-to-back accomplishment for the third time in his career. He played the warm-up event in Halle two weeks ago where he lost in his second match against Philipp Kohlschreiber. I wouldn't put any stock into that result as Nadal had played plenty of tennis in the weeks leading up. He wants that Wimbledon trophy back in a bad way and will be ferocious in his attempt to make that happen. He opens against Tomaz Bellucci and should be able to get through his first two rounds without too much trouble. He could get a rematch with Kohlschreiber in round three or perhaps face 34 year old Tommy Haas who just came off one of the biggest wins of his long career over Roger Federer in Halle.
In other parts of this section look for a fun first round match between Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lleyton Hewitt. Unfortunately I don't think Lleyton has much left in the tank after all of the injury issues he's faced in recent years. This could very well be the last match of his career at Wimbledon, a place that is close to his heart after winning the event in 2002. Oddly enough Hewitt is now ranked 202 in the world and it would take a heck of an effort to get that ranking back up into the range where he would ever be considered a threat at such an event.
A long-shot in this part of the draw would be 19 year old Bernard Tomic of Australia who represents no longer the future, but the present of Australian tennis. A match against Tsonga in the fourth round could be a solid prospect.
Quarter Four Pick: Nadal d. Tomic
No sense in my picking the eventual winner because there's no glory in picking the safe bet. Well ok, here goes anyways...
Novak is going to "bounce back" from his defeat at Roland Garros and take Nadal in a five-set battle in the finals. These two players are just too solid right now to be prevented from facing one another yet again on the fourteenth day of a Grand Slam.